Clearing a deadly legacy for a new beginning

CAT_7432 Group picture@2x

Land handover ceremony in Siem Reap province.

On February 14th, APOPO held a handover ceremony in Siem Reap province with partner CMAC. The ceremony took place at the cleared minefield and the villagers from Khnar Phtuol village were invited to attend the celebration. Special guests were representatives from local partner PPCBank who support APOPO’s mine action program in Cambodia.

It began with a group of saffron-robed Buddhist monks performing a blessing ceremony to mark the occasion. A monk blessing is a tradition that dates back hundreds of years in Cambodia.

Then APOPO took the opportunity to share about the work that was done, namely clearing 290,385 square meters of ovr 70 landmines and other explosives that lay hidden. This land was returned to the community and will directly benefit over 70 people living right next to it as well as 1400 people in the wider area and neighboring villages. Now that all the landmines have been cleared, the land can be used by the village of Khnar Phtuol to live and farm, enabling economic growth and rebuilding livelihoods.

PPCBank. Mr. Nhak Kimsroy, Senior Vice President accompanied by Ms. Kim Katerina, Director at PPCBank Cambodia and their team were thrilled to see the continued effects that their support has in Varin district. PPCBank brought additional donations of food and school supplies for the villagers to celebrate the release of the land and the beginning of their new journey in safety. As a special tribute APOPO invited the guests to plant young seedlings around the former minefield, as a symbol of prosperity and growth for the village.

In Cambodia APOPO integrates a mix of scent detection animals to speed things up: landmine detection rats to speed up landmine clearance, technical survey dogs (TSD) to release large areas ahead of clearance when there is no evidence of landmines and finally manual deminers and machines to support the animals. The program currently has over 40 rats and 5 technical survey dogs working in 3 provinces – Siem Reap, Preah Vihear and Battambang.

With their powerful noses, HeroRATs and HeroDOGs continue to make APOPO reliable and much more cost-efficient compared to traditional manual landmine clearance techniques. Our animals only go for the scent of hidden explosives whilst ignoring any scrap metal lying around. Last year APOPO achieved considerably more than its yearly target, having released over 7 million square meters over the course of 2021 despite the pandemic and the challenges it created. APOPO has high hopes for the year ahead and the in-person handover ceremony sets a positive tone, yet there is still much to do to realize a Mine-Free Cambodia.

APOPO Mine Action Cambodia is incredibly grateful to all our dedicated partners and donors, with their help and continued focus we want to ensure we finish the job in the shortest possible timeframe.