Goto main content

Colombia: land freed of mines, lives freed of fear

Explosive weapons
Colombia

Since 2016, HI has been running demining operations in the department of Cauca. Today, the region around the municipality of Inzá is mine-free. The communities are resuming their activities in safety.

In the humid region of the Inzá Mountains, a deminer carries out mine clearance operations in a contaminated area. Cauca Department, Colombia.

In the humid region of the Inzá Mountains, a deminer carries out mine clearance operations in a contaminated area. Cauca Department, Colombia. | © J.M. Vargas / HI

Between 1990 and September 2022, 12,200 people fell victim to explosive devices in Colombia. After Afghanistan, Colombia has the second highest number of mine victims in the world. Mine clearance and victim assistance are therefore vital activities, allowing the population to reclaim the land, boosting the local economy and helping to rebuild the social fabric. They are also enshrined in the Ottawa Mine Ban Treaty, which marks its 25th anniversary this year.

The municipality of Inzá is now mine-free

Three HI deminers on their way to their base camp in the Inzá region, Cauca department, Colombia © J.M. Vargas / HIIn July 2022, HI declared the municipality of Inzá in the department of Cauca free of landmines, explosive devices and unexploded ordnance. Over a period of two years, the organisation conducted demining operations in eight locations and made safe more than 13,600 square metres of land – land that has now been released back to the region’s 27,000 inhabitants. In total, HI has surveyed almost 900 km² for the potential presence of contamination.

"We hope that the 870 km² of land we surveyed will contribute to the construction of a more equal society, to social development and to the development of ecotourism in the region," explained Arturo Bureo, HI's Director of Operations in Colombia, at an event organised to mark the land’s release back to the communities. "And above all, we hope that the decontamination of Inzá will benefit the indigenous and peasant communities that live there."

In addition to clearance operations, 45 mine-risk education workshops were organised over these two years. During the survey and field analysis phase, 5,944 families attended mine risk education sessions.

Restoring the confidence of the inhabitants

In Inzá, indigenous and peasant communities have long had to contend with the threat of mines and improvised explosive devices left over from the armed conflict.

Diana Milena Pacho, a member of the indigenous community of San José, is a non-technical demining survey assistant at HI. For two years, she worked hand in hand with the people, surveying more than 14 areas suspected of harbouring explosive devices. Thanks to her work, she has helped restore the confidence of the people of Inzá. They can now return to their land in complete safety. 

“My work has taught me a lot. And I have been able to pass on what I've learnt to my community, explaining to people not to touch explosives and teaching my family how to take care. With the threat of explosive devices gone, we can now walk around without worrying, work in safety and visit the tourist sites without fear,” says Diana.

Agriculture starting up again

Justiniano Pencué holding one of the coffee plants in his nursery in the Inzá region, Cauca department, Colombia © J.M. Vargas / HIThe humanitarian civilian demining operations carried out by HI will help to revive the local economy. Justiniano Pencué, a farmer from the indigenous community of Nasa, in Inzá, has waited ten years to plant and cultivate his land safely. During all this time, the danger posed by explosive devices on his land prevented him from extending his coffee plantations.

Thanks to HI's demining work, Justiniano can return to his land without fear. He has a nursery of 5,000 coffee plants, ready to be planted in areas that are now free of mines and ready to be made productive again.

"I am already preparing the land to plant my coffee. With these crops we’ll be able to make a living, to feed ourselves," says Justiniano.

A region of great natural and cultural wealth

Justiniano Pencué in his coffee plant nursery in the Inzá region, Cauca department, Colombia © J.M. Vargas / HIInzá is a municipality located southeast of the capital Bogotá. The city has great archaeological, architectural and natural wealth. But, as in many parts of the country, the legacy of explosive devices left by the armed conflict has prevented people from enjoying it.

Among the most important places is the Tierradentro National Archaeological Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Because of the suspected presence of explosive devices, it has never been fully explored. The municipality is also home to the "La Casa del Pueblo" public library, which has received a national award for Colombian libraries. Thanks to HI's demining work, these natural and cultural treasures will again be able to contribute to the region’s development

Where your
support
helps

PRESS CONTACT

CANADA

Fatou Thiam

USA

Mica BEVINGTON

 

Help them
concretely

To go further

 Increase of use of landmines driven by Russia, Myanmar and non-state armed groups Explosive weapons

Increase of use of landmines driven by Russia, Myanmar and non-state armed groups

The Landmine Monitor 2022 reports a high number of casualties caused by landmines - including improvised mines and explosive remnants of war - for the seventh year in a row. The Monitor recorded 5,544 casualties in 2021. 75% of them were civilians. This high figure is mainly the result of increased armed conflicts and contamination with improvised mines since 2015. The use of landmines by the Russian and Myanmar armies, as well as by non-state armed groups in five countries, are the main factors of a sharp global increase of the use of these weapons in 2022.

States will gather in Geneva from November 21th to 25th for the 20th annual Mine Ban Treaty conference. As we celebrate the 25 years of the Ottawa Treaty, HI urges States to pressure parties to conflict to end the use of these barbaric weapons and to support the funding of victims assistance that is shrinking despite growing needs and high casualty rates in recent years.

Read the full report.

80 States have made history by endorsing the international agreement against bombing on towns and cities
© G. Lordet / HI
Explosive weapons

80 States have made history by endorsing the international agreement against bombing on towns and cities

Acknowledging the devastating humanitarian consequences of bombing and shelling of towns and cities, 80 States adopted an international agreement to better protect civilians from the use of explosive weapons in populated areas, at the Dublin Conference on November 18, 2022.

The day I stepped on a mine, my fate was sealed
© J. M. Vargas / HI
Explosive weapons

The day I stepped on a mine, my fate was sealed

Marta Quintero has been part of HI’s demining operations in Colombia for seven years. She is working for the future of her country with an unerring determination born out of personal experience.