Colombia: territories freed from mines, lives freed from fear
Since 2016, HI has conducted demining operations in the department of Cauca. Today, the region of Inzá is free of mines, the communities resume their activities with peace of mind.
Between 1990 and September 2022, 12,200 people were victims of explosive devices in Colombia. Colombia has the second highest number of mine victims in the world, after Afghanistan. Mine clearance and victim assistance are vital activities for the population. They are also part of the Ottawa Mine Ban Treaty, whose 25th anniversary we are celebrating this year. They allow people to reclaim their land, revive the local economy and rebuild the social fabric.
The municipality of Inzá free of mines
In July 2022, HI declared the municipality of Inzá in the Cauca as free of any contamination by antipersonnel mines, explosive devices and unexploded ordnance. Over a two-year period, the organization conducted demining operations in eight areas and secured more than 13,600 square meters. In all, HI investigated the potential presence of contamination on nearly 900 km². The return of this land benefits the 27,000 inhabitants of the area.
"We hope that the 870 km² of land we investigated will contribute to the construction of a more equal society, to social development and to We hope that the 870 km² of land we have investigated will contribute to the construction of a more equal society, to social development and to ecotourism in the region", explains Arturo Bureo, HI's director of operations in Colombia, during the event organized for the handing over of the land to the communities. "And above all, we hope that the decontamination of Inzá will benefit the indigenous and peasant communities that live there. "
In addition, 45 mine risk education workshops were held during the two years of work. During the survey and field analysis phase, 5,944 families received mine risk education sessions.
Building confidence in the people
In Inzá, indigenous and campesino communities have had to face the threat of mines and improvised explosive devices left over from the armed conflict.
Diana Milena Pacho, a member of the indigenous community of San José, is a non-technical demining survey assistant at HI. For two years, she has worked hand in hand with the people, investigating more than 14 areas suspected of harboring explosive devices. Thanks to her work, she has contributed to give back confidence to the inhabitants of Inzá. Today, they can return to their land with peace of mind.
"My work has taught me a lot. I was able to pass on these lessons to my community: to explain that they should not touch the explosives and to teach my family to take care of themselves. With the end of the threat of explosive devices, we will be able to walk around with peace of mind, work with peace of mind, and visit the tourist sites without fear," says Diana.
Thanks to the operations of humanitarian civil demining led by HI, the local economy can be relaunched. Justiniano Pencué, a farmer from the indigenous community of Nasa in Inzá, has waited ten years to plant and cultivate his land with peace of mind. During this time, the threat of explosive devices on his land has prevented him from expanding his coffee crops.
Thanks to HI's demining work, Justiniano can now return to his land with peace of mind. He has a nursery of 5,000 coffee plants, ready to be planted on these now mine-free areas to make them productive again.
"I am already redesigning the land to plant coffee. These crops will allow us to live, they will allow us to feed ourselves," says Justiniano.
A region of great natural and cultural wealth
Inzá is a municipality located southeast of the capital Bogotá. The city has a great archaeological, architectural and natural wealth. However, as in many regions of the country, the marks left by the armed conflict have prevented the population from fully enjoying it.
Among the most important places is the National Archaeological Park of Tierradentro, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Due to the suspected presence of explosive devices, it has never been explored in its entirety. The municipality is also home to the public library "La Casa del Pueblo", which has received the national award for Colombian libraries. Thanks to HI's demining work, these natural and cultural riches will once again contribute to the development of the region.