2018 To Walk the Earth in Safety: One Task, Three Stories in Laos
Mrs. Boua Li, Mr. Xue Mai, and Mr. Kham Si, all from Xieng Di Village, Xieng Khouang Province, Laos, met with MAG representatives to discuss how the removal of UXO from their farmland has improved their lives. Over 0.122 square kilometers (30 acres) have been cleared so far, with 20 cluster submunitions and 10 rifle grenades removed. Their stories below provide a glimpse into the profound impact that clearance operations have had on local people’s livelihood and future.
In 2002, fragmentation from a UXO explosion wounded Mrs. Boua Li’s husband while he was working on their farm. Ever since, Boua Li and her family had been reluctant to farm their land. “I was afraid to use the land. I am so happy now that it has been cleared. Here is the cassava we planted after clearance,” she says pointing at her plot of land. “And you can see MAG teams are clearing my paddy field now.”
Mr. Xue Mai, a farmer and father of three, owns a paddy and small vegetable plot which MAG cleared of UXO in 2017. “We are normally barefoot when working in the paddy. But our paddy was full of sharp pieces of metal from the bombing and we kept cutting our feet.” MAG subsequently removed many of these bomb fragments with the aid of metal detectors. This meant that Xue Mai and his family can now work their land free from fear of UXO and without risk of injuring their feet.
Mr. Kham Si is a math teacher who participated in MAG’s mine risk education teacher training program and now delivers safety messages every month. He admits that until the training, he did not fully understand the UXO risks. MAG also cleared Mr. Kham Si and his wife’s land where they can now work free from fear of UXO. Now that they have a deeper appreciation of the dangers posed by UXO, Mr. Kham Si and his wife are happy to see MAG is continuing to clear land in their village. “We hear the demolitions every day so we know that MAG is still clearing the land in this area.”