APOPO remains present in Mozambique after the 2015 Mine-Free announcement to carry out residual risk tasks such as the detection and clearance of explosive material at the Malhazine site in Maputo.
Mozambique’s landmine problem was once one of the most severe in the world, with a legacy of landmines and explosive remnants of war from 16 years of conflict. Tens of thousands of landmines were laid in the country during its 1964-1975 fight for independence and throughout the civil war that followed. All factions used landmines to defend provincial and district towns, roads, airstrips, key bridges, power supply infrastructure and military posts. Although the fighting stopped in 1992, landmines and unexploded ordnance have continued to claim lives and hinder development.
Mine Free Mozambique
On the 17th of September 2015, at a ceremony in Maputo, His Excellency Oldemiro Júlio Margues Baloi Minister of Foreign Affairs, declared the country ‘Free of all known landmines’.
APOPO in Mozambique
Since 2003, APOPO has helped rid five provinces from the scourge of these insidious weapons. In the process APOPO has destroyed a total of 13,826 landmines and returned 11,463,861 square meters of safe land for productive use back to communities. In early 2015, APOPO proudly and safely finalized all humanitarian mine clearance tasks in Mozambique.
The impact of APOPO’s work is felt from the most rural communities to cities like Maputo. APOPO returned the land to smallholder farmers who have not been able to use their land to grow crops or sustain their livestock for decades. They can now live, work, farm and play without fear.
APOPO remains in the country at the request of the National Institute of Demining (IND), to continue providing technical expertise and support capacity for any residual or remaining clearance work such as the former ammunitions store now known as the Malhazine Ecological Park, which Mozambique’s Ministry of Environment is transforming into a nature reserve and educational and tourism center. The Malhazine weapons depot suffered a series of uncontrolled explosions in 2007 that killed and wounded hundreds of people from surrounding communities and scattered bombs, rockets and other explosive material over a large area.
On Tuesday, 13 December 2016, APOPO proudly handed back to the Mozambican government, an explosive-free site that will now become an eco-park and nature reserve in the heart of the city. Clearing Malhazine is significant in terms of sustainable development, the environment, ecotourism and the local economy.
Fully integrated mine clearance
As well as traditional approaches to mine clearance such as manual deminers with metals detectors and ground preparation with demining machines, APOPO also deploys its unique mine detection rats (MDR) in Mozambique to help speed up operations as they detect only explosive material (TNT) and ignore harmless scrap metal. One MDR can check an area of a tennis court in about 30 minutes – a task that would take a deminer with a metal detector up to four days. In 2012 the speed of the mine detection rats helped APOPO clear the Gaza Province (one of the most mine-affected areas in the Mozambique) one year ahead of schedule.
The completion of the task is an important milestone toward resolving the ammunitions contamination in the Malhazine Complex. At this time, APOPO is actively fundraising to secure funds to continue ammunitions clearance activities.