“The presence of mines and explosive remnants of war created many problems for us during the past decades civil war. At that time we were not able to graze our animals and collect firewood from the nearby hills and mountains,” said Najibullah, resident of Sare – Tunnel village of Khinjan district, Baghlan province.
The main income for the area comes from animal husbandry and collecting firewood, so mine clearance helps villagers earn a higher income and lead safer lives.
From the time HALO Trust, one of MACCA’s implementing partners, finished clearing the area at the end of August 2011, villagers could work and walk freely without any fear of mines or other explosives.
Najibullah added, “When the area is cleared from mines and other explosives, we can use the cleared land for grazing and collecting firewood.”
Gul Pasha, a resident from Sare – Tunnel village, said, “Most of the villagers are using the cleared area as grazing land and for collection of firewood. Collecting firewood as winter fuel is now safe and we can make more money. We are very grateful for this clearance. For example, 7 kg of firewood costs 100 Afghanis but we now bring firewood for free from the cleared area, so it saves more money for us,” he added. (Afghanis are the local currency; 100 Afghanis equal to around 2 USD.)
Villagers hope that the Mine Action Programme of Afghanistan, known as MAPA, will be able to clear the rest of the surrounding areas that are contaminated by mines and other explosive remnants of war.
The difference before and after the clearance is stark. Before Halo Trust started activities, villagers were not able to move a few steps from their homes for fear of mines, but now every villager can work, walk and collect firewood with confidence.
“The clearance of mines will bring huge benefits to our community and as you see, I am carrying a bunch of firewood on my back which shows the difference between now and then,” said Baktash, a 16 year old from the Salang Shomali village of Khinjan district. “Our lives and livelihoods will return to normal and we will be able to earn more money and generally have a better life too.”
He added:” After mine clearance, I want to be able to walk freely, collect firewood for winter fuel and also be able to graze my sheep and goats in the cleared hills and come up with my friends here for picnic and sightseeing.”