APOPO IN ANGOLA
Joint APOPO - NPA Project
Since 2012, APOPO has been working under the umbrella of its partner Norwegian People’s Aid (NPA), one of the leading humanitarian mine clearance operators in Angola and globally. NPA has been surveying and clearing minefields in Angola since 1995 and has a comprehensive mine action capacity within which APOPO's mine detection rats (MDR) are a highly effective component as a fast and low-cost response. APOPO completed the Malele site in Zaire province one year in advance due to the highly effective speed of the MDR.
The landmines in Angola are a legacy of decades of fighting during the war of independence against its former colonial ruler Portugal and the following civil war. In 2002 Angola entered a period of peace and restoration unprecedented in its history.
Despite some regional development, Angola still has vast areas that remain heavily mine-ridden, undeveloped and amongst the poorest in the world. It is estimated that one fifth of Angola’s population is affected by landmines and ERW. Landmines not only kill and maim innocent people, but also cut communities off from basic needs such as water sources and travel routes, and productive land crucial for growing crops or grazing livestock.
APOPO’s operations are focused on the northwestern provinces of Malanje, Zaire and Uíge, all of which border the Democratic Republic of Congo. But despite APOPO being committed to helping Angola meet the objective of becoming mine-free by 2025, the current mine clearance capacity in the country is considerably less than it was just a few years ago.
APOPO and NPA have been clearing areas Ngola Luige 1, 2 and 4 in Malanje, in order to allow villages, schools and businesses to expand. These are typical Angolan rural townships thathave been boxed in by dngerous minefields, leaving them unable to expand and develop. The Malele site along the Congo border has been an off-limits landmine suspected area for many years but is becoming a vibrant trading post.
APOPO carried out an important study to accurately assess the impact of the MDR on conventional mine action methods (the detection and disposal of explosive materials on suspect land). This study looked at records of site clearance that used both traditional mine action methods as well as the MDR. This was repeated in other countries with and without the rats to get a balanced result.
In June 2016, the Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining (GICHD) published a report on this study that praises the capabilities of the APOPO MDR and clearly highlights their advantage over conventional methods in certain settings. Read the full report here.
APOPO’s work in Angola has saved hundreds of lives and allowed people to return home and farm their land safely. Development and expansion of the villages can now begin because there is both the safety and confidence to plan for homes, hospitals, schools, small businesses and support infrastructure.
The current task for APOPO’s HeroRATs is in Uíge Province, a first task in the province for APOPO. The combined teams are working in a high impact residential and agricultural area near Quitexe village.