APOPO cambodia

APOPO alongside local partner the Cambodian Mine Action Centre (CMAC) is conducting a humanitarian landmine clearance project in the northern Siem Reap and Preah Vihear provinces. The APOPO/CMAC teams are targeting the most mine-affected villages in order to return safe, productive land back to communities where it makes the biggest impact. 

Joint APOPO - CMAC Project

In April 2015, APOPO sent its mine detection rats (MDR) to Cambodia following successful mine clearance projects in Angola and Mozambique. This was the first time the MDR were assigned to a country outside of the African continent. The MDR teams are implemented to support existing conventional demining CMAC teams in order to speed up clearance operations in Cambodia.



According to the Landmine Monitor, Cambodia is one of the most mine-affected countries in the world with over 1, 030 km² of land surface still contaminated by landmines. It is estimated that many hundreds of thousands of landmines and other explosives continue to litter the countryside, presenting a major humanitarian and socioeconomic challenge. With over 40,000 amputees Cambodia has the highest ratio of mine amputees per capita in the world.



Joint APOPO/CMAC operations are being carried out in the Srey Nui area of Siem Reap, where suspect land along roads and farmland has not been safe to use for almost 30 years. The surrounding rural population is dependent on agriculture. Clearance of the area will return much-needed safe land back to the communities as quickly and cost-effectively as possible. This in turn will allow them to improve their livelihoods by increasing their livestock and expanding their farms.

As of November 2018 APOPO/CMAC teams are also working in Preah Vihear province not only returning safe land to the local communities and allowing for resettlement - but clearing land near the Preah Vihear Temple area which was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2008. An area that is riddled with landmines, cluster munitions and other deadly legacies of past conflict.

APOPO now clears landmines in threee northern Siem Reap, Preah Vihear and Oddar Meanchey provinces. APOPO has a holistic understanding of the most important areas to target because of a proactive communication strategy with communities, the National Mine Action Authority (CMAA) and our partner Cambodia Mine Action Center (CMAC).


Previous Tasks

APOPO first began joint operations with CMAC in 2014. During this initial phase APOPO’s capacity was made up of manual demining teams, technical survey and clearance teams, mechanical armored brush cutters as well as explosive ordnance disposal teams. The project focused on Siem Reap province in northern Cambodia.



When the MDR first arrived they went through a period of acclimatization followed by performance tests, which they all passed. The MDR teams then continued onto trials for 3 months on live minefields and were quality controlled for a further 3 months by CMAC who checked the zones after the MDR using metal detectors.  The shadowing CMAC manual teams found that the MDR did not miss a single mine and fully approved them allowing them to proceed to standrad operations.

As of November 2018 APOPO/CMAC teams are also working in Preah Vihear province not only returning safe land to the local communities and allowing for resettlement - but clearing land near the Preah Vihear Temple area which was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2008. An area that is riddled with landmines, cluster munitions and other deadly legacies of past conflict.

The program effectively doubled its capacity in 2019. Operations in Siem Reap Province expanded further to the north, into the Province of Oddar Menchey lying alongside the Cambodia-Thailand border.  In February, newly trained Technical Survey Dogs (TSD) were also integrated into the project to further accelerate the land release process. Never before have there been Technical Survey dogs used in this way and this marks a first milestone in the industry. APOPO is proud of the fact that in the last three years the Cambodia program managed to increase cost-efficiency by five-fold!

Since the start of the project, APOPO Cambodia has contributed to the release of over 19 million square meters of land, and safely located and destroyed over 47,000 hazardous items.



Since 1997 APOPO has developed and improved the use of rats for speeding up landmine detection. The toolbox was further expanded in 2017 with the inclusion of technical survey dogs (TSD) when APOPO opened a dog training center in Cambodia. Mine Detection rats and Technical Survey dogs play complementary roles. Detection rats are excellent for clearance of wide mine contaminated areas. Technical Survey dogs are used prior to clearance, together with the initial historical and geographical surveys that have been carried out to assess the probability of landmines. The use of dogs in technical survey will pave the way for more effective use of APOPO’s mine detection rats for clearance. Due to their speed, mine detection rats significantly lessen the time needed to clear a mine affected land and eventually deliver it back to the use of people.

The first detection dog service delivery was under a UN managed contract to South Sudan in 2018 providing an ongoing source of income that supports APOPO’s own operations. These dogs are doing well, and with additional partners, APOPO could further expand into more mine-affected countries and territories.


What next?

At the end of 2021, APOPO and CMAC signed several new agreements that will keep the partnership going for another year. Both sides are extremely pleased with the growing capacity and the advantage of integrating animals that accelerates mine clearance in Cambodia. Today the program has 9 teams working in parallel with Mine Detection Rats, Technical Survey Dogs, Machines and Manual Deminers. Planning is made according to the 2030 UN Sustainable Development Goals, the Strategy of the Cambodian Mine Action and Victim Assistance Authority and after a comprehensive survey made by CMAC on the Village, Commune and District level.

APOPO also began carrying out trials in 2019 in partnership with one of the worlds’ leading demining NGO’s. As a result we saw increased cost-efficiency results in 2020 and 2021.

We're very proud of the confidence CMAC have shown in the APOPO mine detection rats by choosing us as their operational partner.

Michael Heiman | Program Manager Cambodia

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