MINE ACTION MOZAMBIQUE – TCHAKUMALA BETCHANE
My name is Tchakumala Betchane and I am 43 years old. I am the Community Leader of Milole village in Moatize District, Tete Province in western Mozambique.
There are 184 families in my community. Life has been very tough because for 30 years we lived with the fear of hidden landmines near our houses and on our land. The nearby power lines were mined in the war to protect them from sabotage. It was a lot of good productive land that we were unable to use and that was hard because it was land for our crops and livestock, and for our children to play on.
The landmines we usually quite close to pylons, but they could sometimes be anywhere. They blocked paths and shortcuts and people collecting firewood in the forest were in danger. Sometimes though, we just had to take our chances. We had to live our lives. But there have been accidents. People have been badly injured, livestock have died and a while ago a child was killed. After that accident no one went to that area for a long time.
APOPO arrived in 2013 to clear the mines. They visited our village council and me so that we could explain what land is important to us and they could ask questions about our local knowledge. We knew where the mines were because it was us who were the victims. APOPO also had old records and were accompanied by the landmine authority staff who had some old information on the location of mines. Once they had gathered all this together and had inspected some of the land, APOPO were able to make a more accurate assessment on what land had more mines, what land was important to us to begin with, and how they should go about clearing it as fast as possible.
Then they sent in machines, people with metal detectors and rats that could smell where the mines were. When a mine was found, a brave APOPO deminer would go and set a charge to blow it up. When we heard one explode we cheered. After a very short time APOPO informed us that all the mines were cleared and they carried out a handover ceremony. We celebrated. Finally, after over 30 years, we could get safely back on our land and carry out our lives again.