APOPO has recently registered as an NGO in the country and has requested the Colombian government to consider the use of APOPO's innovative landmine detection rats as effective detectors of minimal-metal landmines.
Colombia's landmine and Explosive Remnants of War (ERW) problem is the result of more than five decades of conflict with non-state armed groups. The full extent of contamination remains vague, although the national database contains information that at least 30 of the 32 departments of the country have landmine contamination. Up until December 2016, the official government record states there have been a total of 11,460 landmine casualties, of which, 2,266 people died and 9,194 were injured. This places Colombia second in the world only to Afghanistan in terms of landmine casualties.
The landmine problem throughout the country consists of improvised mines. These homemade killers are predominately made of plastic and glass bottles filled with explosives, and contain very little metal. They are extremely difficult to detect for a manual deminer with a metal detector, which is the standard and most wide-scale means of detection used in the sector. Further due to the ineffectiveness of metal detectors with minimum metal mines, Colombian mine action consists of digging 6 inch deep, 1-meter-wide trenches slowly across mine contaminated land resulting in a maximum productivity for a manual deminer of about 8 square meters per day.
In 2017 APOPO began training mine detection dogs (MDD) as well as specialized Technical Survey Dogs (TSD) for technical survey operations at a new training center in Cambodia. Due to Colombia`s familiarity with dogs for explosive detection, APOPO seeks to provide capacity building of the Colombian Military and Colombian National Police with MDD and TSD. The APOPO MDD do not encounter this the minimum-metal landmine problem as they ignore metal and search only for the scent of explosives. This makes them particularly efficient for Colombian landmine detection. MDD can to a large extent mitigate vegetation and terrain obstacles, making expensive brush cutting almost redundant. Use of MDD in Colombia could be as much as 20 times more cost effective than using manual deminers alone.
APOPO in Colombia
APOPO began in the country by supporting Campaña Colombiana Contra Minas (CCCM), a Colombian NGO working to eradicate landmines. APOPO is providing mine detection training to their demining staff, as well as support capacity building in the form of technical assistance.