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 (HeroRATs) speed up land release because they quickly check land for explosive items much faster than metal detectors. This results in the swift return of safe land to disadvantaged communities.
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.
Full-scale battles were often carried out nearby villages.
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.
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
If landmines are suspected APOPO deploys an integrated approach of machines, HeroRATs and ‘deminers’ with metal detectors to search for them.
The HeroRATs systematically search large areas much faster than deminers with metal detectors. Once they indicate the presence of explosives, the rats are removed and a deminer arrives to carefully investigate.
If a landmine is present, it is usually one of a pattern. A deminer works outwards to carefully identify and destroy any other landmines present. When no more explosive items are found, the HeroRAT returns to continue its speedy detection process.
The fast work of the HeroRATs results in the swift return of safe land back to communities, enabling them to live, work, and play without fear.