A grandmother-headed family next to a minefield can live safely again.
“My name is Sreymom and I live in Stueng Kheav, Preah Vihear. I have lived in this village for eight years now. My son, daughter and grandchildren also live with me. I look after the whole family at home. Both of my children are soldiers, so they are not able to help me on the farm. They have given me 5 grandchildren between them, 1 grandson and 4 granddaughters. Their ages range from 2 to 7 years old. So, you can imagine how lively our home is!
I was very happy when APOPO arrived, and we heard what they had come to do here. I always felt afraid of the landmines that were here. So I tried to stop my grandchildren from venturing too close to the suspected minefields or straying too far from the house. We used to see landmines partially exposed or hear stories of accidents because they were laid everywhere around here. I farm to provide for the family and once I found an unexploded bomb in my field. Which I handed it over to CMAC. We didn’t know any better and I have many mouths to feed. There are so many of them here, both mines and other explosives from past wars in this part of Cambodia. We would hear about people who drove over anti-tank mines quite often. One of the incidents I recall clearly was Grandfather Yaen, a man from our village. He died when an anti-tank mine exploded as he was ploughing his farm and it triggered an anti-tank mine. This was very recent; soon after that APOPO came here to clear the landmines.
Now, I live and work without feeling scared anymore. Since APOPO started to clear the land, I don’t feel as anxious or worry about my grandchildren as much anymore. The whole village feels relieved. We are very thankful. I was one of the first to help spread the news that APOPO was coming. We were able to see the progress as I live right next to the minefield and where they set up the checkpoint. I am so amazed by the rats – how can they find landmines so quickly!
Everyone, here, wanted to see these life-saving rats. We had to see for ourselves. In the beginning they were working so close to us we could see the rats using their noses to find landmines and other explosives. We would then see the deminers coming later and digging them up and defusing them. Every day we see dangers being removed and taken away to be destroyed. This really brings us peace. And makes us realize how lucky we were to still be alive.
After the land has fully been cleared and returned to us, I will continue farming to provide for my family. It is the way of life I know. Maybe if I am allowed to extend my farm, I will farm a bit more. I will plant rice for the family and plant cassava and cashew nuts to sell for extra income. Then I plan on investing in a tractor to plow the land safely. In the past I was too afraid before because of all the casualties. The roads to neighboring villages are safe again because before they began, APOPO checked them to make sure access was safe. I cannot thank APOPO and the HeroRATs enough. I will never see a rat in the same way again!”