MAG's work in Colombia is reducing the risk for people living in areas contaminated by mines and unexploded ordnance, by improving the quality of Risk Education.
Colombia has suffered more than 50 years of ongoing internal conflict, which originated in disputes over land use, but is now centred upon the control of illegal drugs production.
The conflict has displaced at least 3.4 million people1 and has resulted in widespread contamination by landmines and unexploded ordnance (UXO), which have been laid to generate insecurity and to protect illicit drugs plantations.
Around 60 per cent of Colombia’s municipalities remain contaminated by mines and UXO, and landmine use has resulted in a high number of victims – between 1990 and 2011 an estimated 8,988 people were killed or maimed by mines2.
The presence of UXO is also a threat, as Internally Displaced People (IDPs) begin to return to former battle zones, and army statistics indicate that there have been 10,000 UXO-related accidents3.
As well as the immediate danger, there can be serious consequences for communities if they reveal the presence of explosive devices or aid the Government in their clearance.
This contamination also hinders post-conflict reconstruction and restricts livelihood activities. The economic growth of rural communities is constrained by reduced access to safe land for agriculture, hunting and fishing, as well as access to basic services.
Many indigenous communities are unable to carry out traditional practices and economic activities due to lack of access to sacred land, and the activities of development non-governmental organisations are impeded.
Your donation to MAG helps us to move into current and former conflict zones to clear the remnants of conflict, enabling recovery and assisting the development of affected populations.
How MAG is helping
MAG has been operation in Colombia since August 2009, when we began Community Liaison (CL) and Risk Reduction Education activities in the department of Antioquia. These assessed the needs and priorities of local communities, and alerted residents to the dangers of mines and UXO.
This work was extended to 23 municipalities in Antioquia and Chocó in May 2010. And from November 2010 two Non-Technical Survey (NTS) teams were trained and deployed to assess Suspected Hazardous Areas (SHAs) and to better record information on the size and impact of contaminated areas.
This process returns suspected contaminated land to communities and provides information to mine action stakeholders in order to assist with planning, coordination and prioritisation.
In 2011, MAG has also focused on the training of 30 members of the Cauca indigenous guard in risk reduction and CL activities, to be followed up in the future with Rapid Response action.
This project will facilitate the safe use of land for hunting, fishing, agricultural and social activities, thereby promoting the sustainable reconstruction of traditional ways of life in indigenous reserves.
Through its CL work, MAG has been able to establish trust with local communities, which is essential for the collection of data, particularly in a context where there has historically been a lack of confidence in outsiders on the part of local populations. This approach will be vital for future projects, and will be a key component of MAG’s activities in Colombia.
The long-term impact of MAG’s work is significant, and directly supports Colombia’s national priorities4 of consolidating peace, supporting displaced and conflict-affected populations, reducing poverty, and sustainable development.
Through NTS and CL activities, MAG is able to release productive land, providing income generation opportunities for rural and indigenous communities, and facilitate access to basic services such as water, health and education.
MAG’s activities feed directly into the IDP return process, and lay the foundations for reconstruction and development projects in zones of return. This supports long-term peacebuilding initiatives in Colombia, and will enable thousands of displaced people to rebuild their lives and livelihoods.
Find out more
- Alertnet country profile - Colombia [external link]
- Campaña Colombiana Contra Las Minas (Colombian Campaign Against Landmines) [external link]
- Helping communities help themselves
MAG is not responsible for the content of external sites
3 Information presented at MAG Working Breakfast on Community Liaison, Bogota, September 2010
4 Departamento Nacional de Planeación (2005) Visión Colombia II Centenario: 2019, Bogotá D.C.: Colombia Departamento Nacional de Plantación (2007) Plan Nacional de Desarrollo 2006-2010 – Estado Comunitario: desarrollo para todas, Bogotá D.C: Columbia
Photo (top): Children in Antioquia receive Risk Reduction Education from one of MAG’s Community Liaison Officers.
MAG would like to express its thanks to the following donor to its Colombia operations: Belgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.