The vereda of San Miguel in Nariño, Antioquia, was once home to 12 families. As with many rural Colombian communities, the families depended on each other for casual labour opportunities on their neighbours' farms. But as the armed conflict raged, nine of the families left the vereda leaving the remaining few facing drastic reductions in their income.
For William Otalvaro, a 30 year old farm labourer with a wife and two children, the vereda's demise left the family approximately $75 a month worse off. But their misfortunes were exacerbated by William suffering a mine accident while herding cattle on land adjacent to the familiy home. He suffered burns all over his body, with his co-worker losing his sight in one eye in the explosion.
But the vereda's fortunes have turned of late, thanks to HALO's teams completing clearance of the Camino San Pedro minefield which will ensure the future safety of the vereda's residents and also allow easier access to the neighbouring vereda of San Pedro Arriba. Now William can cultivate the land safely,
HALO has done great work here, we have complete peace of mind now.
Meanwhile according to the mayor's office in Nariño, the veredas of San Miguel and San Pedro Arriba are to be among the first in Nariño where land restitution will commence. HALO clearance will therefore allow the return of the families who left San Miguel during the conflict. Their return will be a welcome relief after years in protracted displacement, while creating greater employment opportunities for those who stayed behind, such as William.