MINE ACTION ANGOLA: HISTORIA DA CUNHA
“Landmines are one of the big evils in the world because they continue to kill and injure people long after wars have ended. We have lived in fear for so long because of them. We cannot live our lives freely.
Before moving here to Quitexe I lived a place that did not have landmines. When I first arrived, I was shown a huge area where no one was allowed to go because it was too dangerous. It was good fertile land where we could have grown crops and collected firewood. There were many landmines scattered around, hidden. We only found out where they were when an accident hurt someone or one of our precious animals.
I remember growing up during the war. Those were terrifying times, so much violence, hatred, death, and destruction. I thought it would never end. When it was over in 2002 all we wanted was to return to normality. Instead we found we could not go home because the land was not safe. Landmines were buried by the Angolan Armed Forces to defend the village of Quitexe. Paths, roads, fields and bridges had been mined. You’d think war was painful enough, so many people lost everything. Yet we continued living in fear of injury or death from a landmine or losing crucial livestock.
One day APOPO came to Quitexe. We heard about the rats that could sniff out landmines! It was not easy to believe. I had to see it with my own two eyes! I was amazed and it changed how I think of rats completely. I still don’t fully understand how they did it but I am deeply grateful.
After the mines were cleared, I got a small farm in the area that was now free of landmines. I grow crops to feed my children, and one day when I have saved enough money I will buy a few goats to help put my children through school. I have enough land to graze a small herd too. It is exciting that we can see our dreams coming true, the same land that was riddled with mines will help my family get back on its feet.
I am thankful for the work that APOPO and the HeroRATs have done. This community is finally safe. I am really happy and excited. Children play and go to school freely without us having to worry all the time. Safe access to the village also means more traders will come, allowing us to sell produce at good prices. I know that the future will be bright for us. Life in Quitexe is returning to normal. I hope that my youngest child will grow up not even knowing what a landmine is.”
APOPO worked in Quitexe in partnership with Norwegian People’s Aid (NPA) .