A grandfather-headed family who can safely work and play on land previously contaminated with landmines.
My name is Kol, I am 65 years old and I am a farmer in Srae Noy Commune, Siem Reap Province. I grow cassava and rice to support my family. My farm is about 4 kilometers from here, a long walk each way. I work on the farm while my wife stays home. She’s been very sick. Earlier this year she was diagnosed with Leukemia, so she’s unable to work. Before she got sick, she took care of the family and helped to support us by walking around and selling snacks in the morning and pickled vegetables from our home in the afternoons.
We have 7 children, 4 of whom still live with me and my wife. Some of my children got divorced from their spouses and left their kids to us, to look after them. Unfortunately, we could not provide education to all of our children, the school was very far from our home at that time, too far for them to go there every day. As a result, some of my sons and daughters are illiterate, therefore unable to find a good job.
All my grandchildren are going to school to get an education, I really hope that they will continue their studies and find well-paid jobs to live easier lives. Farming alone is not enough to support the whole family. The harvests that we’re getting fluctuate and depend on the rain and soil. Some years we harvest more than other years and can sell some of the surplus to pay off our debts. I wish I could farm more, so I could get enough food for everyone, it’s still a struggle.
We came to live here around 1993, the road was still very bad. The war had just ended, and my family was one of the first to arrive and settle in this area. Life was hard at that time. This area around our home was supposed to already have been ‘cleared’ in the 90’s, but leftover landmines remained and caused accidents for people and animals especially along roads.
I remember many accidents happening to children playing and running around, or to grazing cattle that wandered off and to people that commuted for work. We were always scared, wondering when our time would come. Yet desperate to make ends meet. We always warned our children and now grandchildren about the threat of landmines, and we never allowed them to go to play too far from our home. But accidents still happened to others.
We were greatly relieved when we heard the APOPO team was coming to clear the area and make it safe for all of us living here. This will change our lives; we are safe and have access to fertile land where nobody could go before. I look forward to a time I will be able to farm more land and support my big family. I am grateful that my grandchildren can grow up not knowing the threat of landmines, to grow up playing and going to school without fear. Thank you APOPO.”