Gola Brda is an area in the ancient Stolac municipality of Bosnia and Herzegovina noted for its beautiful scenery and proximity to the Adriatic.

The region has the potential to be a tourist hotspot. The land is also a vital source of income for the local communities in the nearby towns and villages.

But it is a region still suffering the impact of the conflict that ripped through its heart in the 1990s.

"I used to feel safe back home in Gola Brda before the war," remembers Hasim Festić, who fled his village to move to Denmark. "I still remember long walks with elders who would teach us about the land."

"Now, when I visit my homeland with my friends from Denmark, we never take long and beautiful walks. It is too risky."

The fighting left the area littered with landmines. MAG has been working to clear this deadly legacy across Bosnia and Herzegovina since 2017.

Hasim and Izet with MAG Community Liaison Manager Marina

This year, MAG's teams of deminers have cleared and supported the Bosnia and Herzegovina Mine Action Center to declare safe over 1.4 million square metres of land in Gola Brda, the equivalent of almost 200 football pitches. 

Teams found and safely destroyed over 30 anti-personnel landmines — including 18 particularly vicious PROM-1 bounding fragmentation mines — and four other explosive items.

MAG's work in Gola Brda would not have been possible without support from the US government and US Embassy in Sarajevo. 

The safe land will support the local communities who have returned home after the war, those who are yet to return and those that never left.

Marić Dragan and his family returned after the war to rebuild his home in Gola Brda, and he acted as a community focal point for MAG's demining teams and was vital to the clearance effort.

Dragan's daughter Ana on the family farm

Before MAG arrived, Marić had felt forced to tend his fields to graze his cattle and provide for his family, including his four-year-old daughter Ana.

"I had no choice," he says. Marić suspected the fields were contaminated but never knew the scale of the deadly threats that surrounded his family.

"I was not expecting the risk to be so high and only realized that I was taking such big risks once MAG completed the job here."

The Dragan family makes their money from cattle farming, owning more than 20 cows, over 100 sheep and more than 30 goats and horses.

With the land around Gola Brda now safe, Marić can now graze his animals freely without the fear that one wrong step could cost him his livelihood — or even his life.

Dragan talks to MAG's community liaison team

For Hasim Festić, who was visiting his village with his brother Izet, the clearance gives him the security to start planning his retirement back in his homeland and sharing it with his friends.

"This area is gorgeous, and I would love my friends to be able to visit it," he says. "I own the freshwater springs that were trapped in the minefields of the Gola Brda. They are breathtaking. I am so happy the area is clear now, I will soon be able to enjoy them again. I look forward to sharing this beauty with my friends from Denmark as well."

Hašim is now renovating the home he fled decades ago. And others will now be able to do the same, paving the way for more families to return home safely finally, decades after the conflict ended.

Landmine clearance in Gola Brda is the foundation on which communities can rebuild and thrive. Families are now free to live, work and play without fear.

MAG's work across Bosnia and Herzegovina is supported by the US Government, German Federal Foreign Office and Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency.