MOU signed for 2022.
Yesterday on December 16th, APOPO Asia Regional Manager, Michael Heiman and CMAC Director-General, His Excellency Heng Ratana, met in Phnom Penh to sign the memorandum of understanding (MoU) for the continuation of APOPO’s animal detection systems being integrated into CMAC mine clearance operations in Cambodia in 2022.
More than half of Cambodia’s minefields have already been cleared and yet much work still remains to be done before every man, woman and child can walk freely. Leftover landmines and explosives from conflict are still a major hindrance to the socio-economic development of the country. They prevent access to fertile land for agriculture, sources of water, they travel routes and isolates communities preventing vital access to health services. They also impose financial and emotional burdens on families needing to care for a landmine survivor.
CMAC and APOPO have been collaborating since 2016 and the integration of animals into the survey and clearance operations has been very successful. Working alongside manual deminers and machines, mine detection animals significantly increase productivity and allow the return of much needed land back to affected communities, often more quickly and more cost-effectively. In 2021, APOPO planned to release 5 million square meters of dangerous land and return it to the kingdom for further development and have managed to surpass this target significantly.
This year brought expansion and growth for the Cambodia program despite the challenges related to the covid-19 pandemic. The rainy season was longer than expected this year, which affected the productivity of the teams during October-November. Areas were flooded, operations were suspended for several days, and teams had to move to alternative polygons and then back to the original ones after they dried out. Normally, the heavy rains end by mid-October, but this year the deluge lasted until the end of November. And yet the program surpassed its initial yearly land release objectives. In 2021, a total of 7,035,966 m2 were released, from which 3,641,011 m2 (121% of the landmine clearance target) and 3,897,284 m2 (129% of the cluster munitions clearance target).
Heavy rainfall slowed down progress for 2 months at the end of this year.
APOPO is grateful for the continuing collaboration with CMAC and is looking forward to another year of outstanding performance that will bring the Kingdom of Cambodia one step closer to achieving its goal of becoming a mine-free country.
APOPO Cambodia is deeply grateful for the support and generous contributions of its partners and donors.