JOINT APOPO - NPA PROJECT
Angola, following 27 years of civil war, is the third most mine affected country in the world after Afghanistan and Cambodia, according to the Landmine Monitor. Despite some regional development, Angola still has regions in the east that remain heavily mine-ridden, undeveloped and amongst the poorest in the world. Landmines kill and maim people on a daily basis and are a major obstacle to rural development and the reestablishment of normal life. It is estimated that one fifth of Angola's population is affected by landmines and explosive remnants of war (ERW).
APOPO´s partner organization in Angola is Norwegian People´s Aid (NPA), one of the leading humanitarian mine clearance operators in Angola. NPA has worked with mines in the country since 1994 and has a comprehensive mine action capacity that consists of combined non-technical and technical survey teams, explosive ordnance disposal and clearance teams. NPA is operational in the provinces of Malanje, Kwansa Norte, Uige and Zaire - an area of more than 200,000 square kilometers and with almost 2,400,000 inhabitants. The organization utilizes APOPO´s Mine Detection Rats (MDRs) that are expected to speed up work and consequently the land release process.
APOPO´s specially trained Giant Pouched Rats for landmine detection complement NPA´s survey and clearance capacities. One MDR can clear up to 200 square meters in less than an hour. This would take 50 operational hours using metal detectors. The MDR sniffs out the explosives in both metal and plastic mines and ignore scrap metal. When a rat discovers a mine or an ERW, it indicates the presence of these explosives by scratching on the soil. Rat handlers then mark the spot which is later investigated by manual deminers. Since the rats weigh only up to 1.5 kg they are too light to set off the mines and offer a safe yet effective way to detect deadly landmines and ERW.
Early 2014 APOPO received authorisation from the national mine authority to deploy its MDRs in the minefields. APOPO Angola has a capacity of 27 rats and 13 rats are still being trained at the Morogoro training center. Approximately half of this capacity will be clearing mines and releasing land in APOPO-dedicated areas while the other half will besupporting NPA’s mechanical clearance capacity in areas where the organization has already prepared the ground for detection activities.
The MDR are currently deployed to a previously prepared area of about 190.000 m2 of land that was used as a military position during the war. The Kamatende task site is located about 10 km on the outskirts of Malanje. About 30 families, mostly farmers, are living in the vicinities of the area and use the area to grow crops.
Over the next three years NPA and APOPO´s joint efforts are expected to considerably reduce the impact from landmines in Angola, thereby freeing arable land for the local communities.