"Women's Work is Never Done"
Gathering Fuel in the Borderland Minefields of Mozambique along the Limbombo Mountain Border with Swaziland

There are mountains along the border between Swaziland and Mozambique, the "Libombos." I felt compelled to get out and explore this remarkably unpopulated part of the fertile countryside which is abandoned to the leopards and Nyala, a pretty bush antelope I was interested in seeing. This area was a very hotly contested bit of real estate during the long civil war inside Mozambique to which South Africa was a supplier of arms and training and through which Swaziland was a not-always-willing or unwitting conduit. I knew one of the reasons that this area had not opened up to business as usual after the slow resolution of the Mozambican Civil War. Because I knew, I was cautious; because I was cautious, I saw them before they found me. I gingerly stepped around the trip wires and marked several of the canisters of the residual mines with which this infiltration route is laced. If the current teams of well-trained de-mining experts are quadrupled, and their efficiency doubles, it would still be the middle of the next century before half the mines are cleared from Mozambique alone.

On my return from climbing to the ridge of the Libombo mountains that marks the MZ/SW border, I encountered these women walking along the road with the perpetual fuel-gathering obligation that occupies many of the hours of every day and results in a continuing deforestation of Africa and increasing desertification, even in hazardous areas such as this one. I made myself known to them and my concern for their safety prowling through this heavily mined area of the border land bush country in the Libombo Mountains. They shrugged: "What's a person to do? My babies need to eat tonight, and this area will not be any safer in your lifetime or mine!" "Fado"--fate.

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