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Cultivating peace in a village freed from the threat of mines

Explosive weapons

In April 2023, Humanity & Inclusion declared the village of Santander de Quilichao in Colombia free of mines. After living in fear for 20 years, its residents are now getting on with their lives.

A deminer crouches on a steep slope, clearing the ground ahead of him. Around him, a lush forest. A U.S. flag stands beside him.

An HI deminer working on the land around Santander de Quilichao in May 2022 | © J. M. Vargas / HI

Fifteen people, including two children, had already fallen victim to landmines in the municipality of Santander de Quilichao when Humanity & Inclusion started demining operations there. HI's teams eventually cleared more than 2,500 m² of land. Santander de Quilichao is the first village to be declared mine-free in the north of Cauca, a department in southwest Colombia.

112,000 people can again live in peace

A deminer working in the Santander de Quilichao area, May 2022. © J. M. Vargas / HIWhen HI was assigned the demining of the Santander de Quilichao area in 2019, the teams began by conducting an assessment of more than 125 acres to identify hazardous areas. They met with local residents to find out about the history of the area and determine which areas were contaminated. Four sectors were identified as presenting risks. HI then carried out mine clearance operations in these areas, finding and destroying 12 explosive devices.

Four years later, more than 2,500 m² of land have been made safe in Santander de Quilichao, making the area much safer for its 112,000 residents. The villagers can now freely use their land and go about their daily business without fear of landmines. Agriculture, the mainstay of the local economy, has taken off again, with the cultivation of coffee, sugar cane, pineapple, cassava (yuca) and banana crops.

Promoting integration in the area

Land release ceremony in Santander de Quilichao, in the presence of the Vice-President of Colombia, Francia Marquez. © J. M. Vargas / HIThe municipality of Santander de Quilichao is multicultural and multi-ethnic, home to Afro-Colombian and indigenous populations. To take into account the needs of all the communities, HI worked with local partner organizations, such as Tierra de Paz, as well as with community liaison officers – women and men recognized as leaders by their peers.

To help reduce armed violence, HI also conducted 30 mine risk education workshops. These workshops enabled more than 1,500 people to broaden their knowledge of explosive devices and learn the safety measures to adopt in the event of a risky situation, In order to support the economic integration of the region's inhabitants, HI also supported 10 agricultural and commercial projects launched by the communities, such as the development of poultry farms and the creation of a handmade soap business.

In Colombia, Humanity & Inclusion is currently carrying out demining operations in the departments of Antioquia, Chocó, Tolima, Meta and Cauca. These operations are made possible thanks to the support of the Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement in the U.S. State Department's Bureau of Political-Military Affairs (PM/WRA).

Date published: 08/11/23


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