Itai worries for her life as she tries to make ends meet.
Itai wakes up to plough her field almost every day during the Zimbabwean farming season when temperatures are extremely high with sporadic rainfall. She got married into the Matimise family in 2011, and since 1994 has lived and farmed in Chilotlela. When she first arrived, Itai heard about the landmines and the danger they pose, from her husband´s grandmother who settled in Chilotlela, during the Liberation Struggle.
“In our culture once you get married you are given your own piece of land for farming; I think it’s just a measure of how you hard you work and how capable you are to take care of a family. I got my piece just close to the minefield. I had only a sketchy knowledge of landmines, all I had heard is they kill cattle, take lives and can leave others injured after stepping on them. I only really understood the danger when a neighbor stepped on one just by the edge of my field, then I knew – next time it could be me or my family!”
Itai’s field stretches parallel to the service road cleared by APOPO’s road clearance team in Chikukutsi clearance sector. The minefield red markings (red pickets) are placed along the edge of the field, and they are a sight not to be missed. An old rusty fence also stands between the road and the field, demarcating the beginning of the minefield.
Itai leaves a 10 meter lane of her land around her crops unploughed, as she is uncertain where the minefield begins and her farm ends. “Hina a ho tiva ku a mansimu a swimbambaila mo va ka ma mitasi ma tsununu kusuka ka linhlapfu“, the 27 year old Itai tells in the vernacular Shangaan language: “All we know is that the minefield is just some few meters away from the fence.”
It is sad that landmines are a dangerous and life-threatening legacy of the war which still affects the Chilotlela community. Taking lives and the causing loss of their vital livestock. Fellow community farmers like Itai, whose fields are near the minefield need access to more land so they can provide a better life for their families.
”After being told that the landmines were just beyond the fence on my field, I made it a point not to cross further than that. Besides, ploughing with cattle is so difficult, sometimes they just stray and run around the field while on the yoke and plough. I leave an idle piece of land around my crops so that if they stray, I will still be able to control them and get them back on the safe part of the field”.
The arrival of APOPO’s demining team has brought great relief to Itai and the entire Chilotlela community. They look forward to regaining their unused land and improving their livelihoods.