APOPO: 100 Million Square Meters Cleared of Landmines

APOPO rat handler and deminer Alfredo showing the hills APOPO already cleared.

In December 2023, APOPO, with over two decades of history in humanitarian mine action, reached an extraordinary milestone. Our clearance efforts over the years reached a total of 100 million square meters of land released since our humanitarian demining work began. To put this into perspective, that’s an area roughly the size of the city of Paris. This released land was previously identified as being contaminated with antipersonnel landmines and other explosive remnants of war (ERW), which threatened both the lives and livelihoods of the people living nearby.

By the end of 2023 APOPO’s efforts had led to the removal of a total of 31,739 landmines, 90,140 explosive remnants of war (ERW), 36,205 small arms and ammunition and 2,731 cluster munitions. We estimate this has directly and indirectly benefited over 2 million people in the countries where we work. Beyond clearing landmines our programs also focus on mine risk education, victim assistance and additional community support. This shows our continued commitment to community safety, mitigating the number of annual casualties, and to social and economic development in each and every country where we have mine action programs.

Our Global Landmine Clearance Journey

From the beginning, APOPO’s journey has been about more than landmine removal statistics. It’s also focused on addressing the hidden human cost of landmines and making the clearance of landmines more efficient. 

Using our unique scent detection technology, including our trained African giant pouched rats (aka HeroRATs), technical survey dogs (aka HeroDOGs) and manual demining processes, we’ve tackled some of the most mine-affected regions in the world. Our operations have not only removed immediate dangers but also restored land for productive use, contributing to community rebuilding and development.

Detailed Country Contributions

Angola – 8,198,287 sqm of land released

Angola, Ponte Filomena HeroRAT Papa Wemba at work

APOPO’s demining program in Angola has been a critical component of the nation’s recovery from a prolonged civil war that left a deadly legacy of landmines and unexploded ordnance (UXO). Our work to clear and release contaminated land has played a vital role in transforming hazardous areas into safe and productive land that allows freedom of movement. This work is vital for Angola’s recovery and development, as it enables the return of land for agriculture, housing, and infrastructure, crucial for the nation’s post-conflict rehabilitation.

APOPO’s operations in Angola combine the unique capabilities of landmine detection rats, known as ‘HeroRATs’, with the thorough work of manual deminers and vegetation cutting machines. This integrated approach leverages the agility and acute scent detection skills of the rats alongside the meticulous and careful work of human deminers.

APOPO maintains an operational partnership with Centro Nacional de Desminagem (CND) a national mine action institute and public demining operator. And two agricultural partners, Samuel Base Cole Association (ASBC) and the Institute for Agriculture Development (IDA). As APOPO returns cleared and safe land, ASBC, and IDA assess the agricultural development opportunities in beneficiary communities and link farmers to higher-value crop and agricultural product development initiatives that help meet Angola’s national goals, including food security

Azerbaijan – 1,303,191 sqm of land released

APOPO’s demining program in Azerbaijan addresses the landmine and UXO problem resulting from the 2020 Karabakh conflict, impacting resident safety and hindering the return of displaced families. The Azerbaijani government, via the national mine action agency ANAMA and partners like APOPO, is focused on large-scale demining. APOPO contributes using both HeroRAT and HeroDOG teams alongside traditional demining teams, which enhance the efficiency of landmine and UXO detection, speeding up the clearing process.

Supported significantly by the European Union, this collaborative project also emphasizes gender balance and inclusivity in demining. APOPO’s integration of animal detection systems with human expertise is vital for clearing landmines in affected areas, crucial for community safety and regional development, leading towards a mine-free future in Azerbaijan.

Cambodia – 49,986,416.3 sqm of land released

APOPO MA Angola trainers walking the HeroRATs in a line

APOPO’s demining program in Cambodia, in collaboration with the Cambodian Mine Action Center (CMAC) since 2014, addresses the severe issue of landmines in one of the most mine-affected countries in the world. Using a combination of mine detection rats (MDR), technical survey dogs (TSD), and manual deminers, APOPO has been instrumental in clearing and releasing large areas of land back to communities

The program’s focus has included several provinces, including Siem Reap, Preah Vihear, Battambang, and Ratanakiri, targeting areas that have been unsafe for decades. Significant efforts have been made in Preah Vihear province, near the Preah Vihear Temple UNESCO World Heritage Site, to clear landmines and other deadly legacies of past conflicts. APOPO’s work in Cambodia not only contributes to the safety and livelihood of local communities but also plays a vital role in protecting the country’s cultural heritage.

Laos – 22,358,870 sqm of land released

APOPO’s project in Laos, concluded in August 2014 due to funding constraints, focused on addressing the severe unexploded ordnance (UXO) contamination left over from the Vietnam War. Laos, one of the most heavily bombarded countries during the war, faced extensive UXO contamination affecting many regions and posing significant risks to its population.

APOPO, supported by the German Federal Foreign Office, conducted humanitarian UXO clearance and capacity development projects in Khamkeut District of Bolikhamxay Province. The project’s aim was not only UXO clearance but also to contribute to food security, poverty alleviation, and socio-economic development in heavily impacted areas. Although the program ended, APOPO’s contributions during its operation were substantial in making significant regions in Laos safer for the local population.

Mozambique – 11,490,082 sqm of land released

APOPO’s demining work in Mozambique played a key role in the country’s progress towards being declared mine-free. By using mine detection rats, known as HeroRATs, along with traditional demining methods, APOPO helped clear and release over 11 million square meters of land. This cleared land, heavily affected by landmines and unexploded remnants of war from past conflicts, was crucial for the safety of local communities and for turning the land back to productive use, changing the lives of those impacted by landmines.

The announcement on September 17, 2015, that Mozambique was free of known landmines was a major step forward for the country. APOPO’s involvement in clearing mines across five provinces was a key part of this achievement, showing our commitment to humanitarian demining and its effect on the socio-economic development of Mozambique.

South Sudan – 1,680,743 sqm of land released

APOPO Dogs pass UNMAS Accreditation in South Sudan.

APOPO’s involvement in South Sudan since 2018 has been crucial in assisting the country’s efforts to create safer environments, particularly in regions with a challenging history of conflict and landmine contamination. Since the beginning of its operations, APOPO has worked in partnership with The Development Initiative (TDI), and later G4S, and supported it’s partners with technical survey dog teams in South Sudan. This approach has enabled the effective and safe clearance of 1,680,743 square meters of land, significantly contributing to the country’s overall safety and development.

Türkiye – 641,029 sqm of land released

APOPO’s project in Türkiye, launched in 2021 in partnership with The Development Initiative (TDI), focused on mine clearance activities along the borders with Armenia and Iran. As part of the UNDP Eastern Border Mine Clearance Project, this operation has successfully cleared 641,029 square meters of land.

The integration of technical survey dog teams into traditional demining methods has been pivotal in this achievement. These dogs, known for their speed and accuracy in detecting explosives, complement the thorough efforts of manual deminers to ensure effective clearance. APOPO’s work in Türkiye, significantly enhancing safety and land usability, demonstrates the organization’s ability to adapt to various geographical and political challenges in its mission to combat global landmine contamination and includes Türkiye’s first two female civilian mine detection dog handlers.

APOPO’s Global Impact and Future Goals

As we continue our mission, our focus remains on protecting people and eliminating the threat of landmines and other explosive remnants of war globally. Every area we clear contributes to the safety and well-being of a unique community, advancing our goal towards a world free of these dangers. 

Our dedication to this cause is unwavering, and we are committed to continuing our efforts to make a lasting impact in the fight against landmines and unexploded ordnance. We want to thank our tireless mine action team members and our donors and supporters all over the world, without whom our vital work would not be possible.

APOPO Mine Actipon is deeply grateful to all its generous donors and partners that make our work possible.