APOPO returns mine-free land back to communities as quickly as possible. To do this we use an internationally recognized process called Land Release. The APOPO Mine Detection Rats (aka HeroRATs) speed up land release because they quickly check land for explosive items faster than metal detectors. This results in the swift return of safe land to disadvantaged communities.
War – Laying of landmines
During conflicts, landmines are laid to protect military posts or important infrastructure. Mines are also used to block enemy access to water sources, key travel routes or tactical positions. These important geographical features are often why communities chose the area to be their home in the first place.
War – Battle zones
Full-scale battles were often carried out in close proximity to villages.
Post conflict – Explosive Remnants of War (ERW)
After the conflict is over, landmines, bombs, bullets and grenades are left behind. Access to agriculture, water, wood gathering, village expansion, and important routes are blocked for decades. The livelihoods of nearby communities are severely restricted and tragic accidents occur.
Land release – Non technical survey
First of all, APOPO examines old records and discusses historic landmine accidents with local communities. This helps to assess the level of explosives in the area.
When no credible evidence of landmines exists the land can be declared safe and given back immediately to communities at no further expense. Before the land release process was developed, all land had to be checked with metal detectors. This was slow and very expensive
Land release – technical survey
If landmines are suspected APOPO deploys an integrated approach of vegetation cutting machines, HeroRATs, and ‘deminers’ with metal detectors to search for them.
Fast landmine detection by HeroRATs
The HeroRATs systematically search large areas much faster than deminers with metal detectors. Once they indicate the presence of explosives (by scratching at the ground surface), the handler makes a note of where the rat indicated and once the rat finishes the box, a deminer arrives to carefully investigate.
A deminer works outwards from the safe lane to carefully identify the landmine and checks to see if it’s safe to move or not. If the item is safe to move then it will be destroyed as a bulk demolition at the end of the day. Any that are not safe to move are destroyed in place.
The fast work of the HeroRATs results in the swift return of safe land by APOPO back to communities, enabling them to live, work, and play without fear.