Spanish rebuild the earth's lifeline
By Cpl. Diego Bunuel
First published in
SFOR Informer #98, October 11, 2000
Gorica - Rocks seem to be earth's only fruit in the area around Mostar.
But before the war ravaged this land, the small agricultural village of
Gorica was an oasis of abundance where grapes, watermelons, cucumbers
and tomatoes, sprang from the black earth in this small valley tucked
between two mountain ridges.
Gorica fed most of the countryside. But today, its intricate maze of narrow
water canals, the lifeline of this fertile land, that span 18 km over
100 hectares, has been shattered by grenade explosions. The ground is
barren, and the earth is cracked and dusty.
water from the river Bregava bleeds out of the broken concrete canals
and at the same time dries up the hard-earned resources of the 160 families
of the town's agricultural cooperative, that depend on the land to make
For that reason, the Spanish Battle Group sent a team of 14 of their combat
engineers to help the farmers rebuild.
"The locals didn't want to start rebuilding unless SFOR took part
in the project, said Maj. Rafael Alvarez. They felt that if
we didn't help their work would be sabotaged. It's a very important job
because with such a large co-op it can feed everyone and teach them to
Unlike some other SFOR-sponsored projects, the locals provide the engineers
with all the material necessary to rebuild, while they clear the canals
of branches, weeds and dirt.
job is a gruelling one. Built in 1947, the canals, which are shattered
in various places, are also riddled with holes, forcing the engineers
to build casings of various sizes.
"It would be easier if we just had to rebuild everything, said
Staff Sgt. Pablo Sanchez Ruiz. Doing separate casings takes a lot
There is no time frame set for this project, but Ruiz said he believed
that before the winter is in the first 6 km should be completed.
"The good thing about this project is that it's helping hundreds
of people from all ethnic backgrounds and not just a few," said Lt.
Ehver Zele, the co-operative's director, said this help came at a crucial
moment as the town tries to pull out from years of economic depression.
"This is the best earth in the region and we have a lot of projects
for the future and right now with SFOR all the conditions are reunited
to make this land fertile again," Zele said. And we all work
together, Croats, Muslims and Serbs because nothing brings us together
like making money."
But when the engineers started their work they soon realised that a full
time interpreter needed to be with them.
"When the people in the region saw us working in the fields they
all came down and started asking us if we could fix their driveway or
their roof, but that's not our job and we couldn't do it anyway we're
combat engineers, said Ruiz, laughing. But we have a great
relationship with the people we work with and we know that our job is
really making a difference."
Nations of SFOR: Spain