De-mining frees up farming land
Denis Chinyoka limps across a small river to work in his field. It is on virgin land and there are high prospects of a bumper harvest this year if good rains are received this year in Chikombedzi.
Thanks to the Zimbabwe National Army’s de-mining programme, large tracks of land along the border with Mozambique have now been cleared for farming.
The Rhodesian government planted land mines along the border to counter the influx of fighters during the liberation struggle. Long after the war ended the mines remained a threat to the Chikombedzi community. Dozens of people lost their limbs to the mines.
“I was herding cattle when I stepped on a land mine and my leg was blown off,” said Chinyoka. “The de-mining programme has brought joy to us - we are now able to farm wherever we want and our cattle have good grazing land.”
Villagers used to live like prison inmates as movement was restricted due to the land mines. One of soldiers who was part of the De-mining team said it had been a tough exercise. “It was extremely dangerous. We lost colleagues during the programme because some of the mines were very difficult to remove and identify. I come from Murehwa but i am considering relocating permanently to this area where land is abundant,” said the soldier, who declined to be identified.
Magura Mvanya, 60 of the beneficiaries of the programme said: “The biggest benefit we feel comes along with this liberty is that of farming land.” Mvanya lost two children to the mines in 2009 after they were blown up while herding cattle. “Now I am happy that this programme has not only made us safe but has given us an opportunity to utilise our precious resource which is the land”.
Villagers lost at least 100 cattle every year due to the mines, hampering efforts to rebuild their herd which was decimated during the 1991/2 great drought. A stretch of 1,000 square kilometres has now been cleared.