Colombian village is mine free

14 displaced families have returned to their homes in the vereda (village administrative area) of La Honda in the municipality of Antioquia following landmine clearance by The HALO Trust.

18 years ago La Honda was greatly affected by armed conflict because of its strategic position as a transit route for illegal armed groups. The community suffered from the presence of the guerrillas, paramilitaries and the army. As a local inhabitant, simply speaking with one of these groups was enough to have you killed or tortured. Additionally cattle rustling, hostage taking and extortion were commonplace. As a consequence many families decided to flee to neighbouring towns or head north to Medellin, the nearest city. Those that remained were forcibly recruited, displaced or killed. By 2001 the entire civilian population of La Honda had left the vereda and their homes were taken by the armed groups or burned to the ground.

Since the guerillas were forced out in 2007 and the paramilitaries in 2009, the community has wanted to return to the village to rebuild their lives and reclaim their land and homes. The current local government is working hard to meet this demand. Its development plan involves restoring and re-laying the road leading to La Honda, building 14 houses for displaced families, renovating the school, and the sports center and generally creating suitable conditions for the population to return.

In August 2014, The HALO Trust received a request from Mayor Néstor Martínez Jiménez to start demining in La Honda, because the IDP return project was hindered by the suspicion of mines.

In October 2014 The HALO Trust surveyed two minefields n La Honda: "La Chusmarina" and “El Gorgojo“ and started clearing them in November 2014. Clearance was completed at La Chusmarina in April and El Gorgojo in July and both minefields were formally handed back to the local community in a ceremony on 28th August 2015.

HALO destroyed a total of 10 mines on the two minefields and the area handed back to the local community for safe and productive use totalled 4,366 square meters. HALO’s work has enabled the return of 14 displaced families and allowed the restoration of the road and the school to go ahead. Further development projects in the vereda are expected to start next year.

Mayor Néstor Martínez Jiménez commented:

The community of La Honda thanks the support received from the organization The HALO Trust for its support in generating tranquillity and happiness to enable families to make a dignified and safe return.

Watch this report from Al Jazeera