APOPO and the Ministry of Defense of the Government of Zimbabwe have officially signed a historic agreement to allow APOPO to begin clearing landmines in the country.
Zimbabwe’s landmines were laid during the Liberation War of Independence (also known as The Second Chimurenga (Revolutionary War) of the 1970’s) by the army of Rhodesia (as Zimbabwe was then known). The Rhodesian military created lethal barriers along the border to Mozambique to keep liberation forces at bay.
These are some of the most mine-impacted areas in the world with about 5,500 landmines per kilometer at some border minefields. However other areas nearer to towns and villages are also suspected of low-level landmine contamination, and the mines effectively render vast tracts of their land off-limits. As well as the tragic accidents that inevitable occur, local communities are also unable to access basic needs such as prime farming land, paths and market routes, and expansion of residential and business areas, and sustaining a perpetual cycle of poverty.
This is where the HeroRATs come in. Ignoring scrap metal and only detecting the scent of explosives, they are able to check large areas of land much faster than conventional methods such as technicians with metal detectors. This saves more lives by halting further injuries, and gets people back on their productive land as fast as possible.
Tess Tewelde, Africa Head of Mine Action for APOPO signed the memorandum of understanding (MOU) alongside The Secretary of Defense Mr Martin Rushwaya (pictured) in Harare yesterday afternoon. Also in attendance were Brigadier General JC Mupande, Director General Policy, Public Relations and International Affairs, Brigadier General F Mutizhe, Director General Joint Operations and Plans, Mr Nicholas Mbara, Acting Chairman of the National Mine Action Authority of Zimbabwe (NAMAAZ), Col MB Ncube Director ZIMAC and Captain Tamanikwa ZIMAC Coordinator.
Tess Tewelde of APOPO said: “We are very enthusiastic and honored to take part in clearing the heavily mined areas along the Zimbabwe, Mozambique border to allow the communities use their land freely and without fear’.