Following Mozambique’s Mine-Free declaration in 2015, APOPO remains present in the country to carry-out residual risk and ammunitions clearance tasks such as the detection and clearance of explosive items in the Malhazine Complex in Maputo City.
Mozambique’s landmine problem was once one of the most severe in the world, with a legacy of landmines and explosive remnants of war from 16 years of conflict. Tens of thousands of landmines were laid in the country during its 1964-1975 fight for independence and throughout the civil war that followed. All factions used landmines to defend provincial and district towns, roads, airstrips, key bridges, power supply infrastructure, and military posts. Although the fighting stopped in 1992, landmines and unexploded ordnance have continued to claim lives and hinder development.
Mine Free Mozambique
On the 17th of September in 2015, at a ceremony in Maputo, His Excellency Oldemiro Júlio Margues Baloi Minister of Foreign Affairs, declared the country ‘Free of all known landmines’.
In early 2015, APOPO proudly and safely finalized all humanitarian mine clearance tasks in Mozambique.
The impact of APOPO’s work is felt from the most rural communities in central Mozambique to cities like Maputo. APOPO returned the land to smallholder farmers and their families who had not been able to use their land to grow crops or sustain their livestock for decades. They can now live, work, farm, and play without fear.
APOPO remained in the country at the request of the National Institute of Demining (IND), to continue providing technical expertise and support capacity for any residual or remaining clearance work such as in the former ammunitions store now known as the Malhazine Ecological Park, which Mozambique’s government is planning to transform into a nature reserve and educational and tourism center. The Malhazine weapons depot suffered a series of uncontrolled explosions in 1986 and 2007 that killed and wounded hundreds of people from surrounding communities and scattered bombs, rockets and other explosive items over a huge radius.
On the 13th of December in 2016, APOPO proudly handed back to the Mozambican government, one of the main priority areas within the complex. The area, a set of bunkers that formerly housed tens of thousands of dangerous weapons, will become an integral part of the ecopark and nature reserve located just a few kilometers from Maputo’s vibrant city center. Clearing Malhazine is significant in terms of sustainable development, the environment, ecotourism, and the local economy.
Fully integrated mine clearance
As well as traditional approaches to mine clearance such as manual deminers with metals detectors and ground preparation with demining machines, APOPO deployed its unique mine detection rats (MDR) in Mozambique to help speed up operations as they detect only explosive material (TNT) and ignore harmless scrap metal. One MDR can check an area of a tennis court in about 30 minutes – a task that would take a deminer with a metal detector up to four days. In 2012 the speed of the mine detection rats helped APOPO clear the Gaza Province (one of the most mine-affected areas in the Mozambique) one year ahead of schedule.
In total since the start of the project, APOPO Mozambique contributed to the release of over 5.8 million square meters of land, and safely located and destroyed over 83,000 hazardous items.
From 2019 the APOPO Mozambique program has been supporting opening a new mine action program in neighbouring Zimbabwe and has successfully negotiated with the Government of Mozambique to allow transfer of selected demining assets and equipment across the border.
APOPO was honored to be selected to support the ongoing peace process in Mozambique in 2019 which set out to Disarm, Demobilize and Reintegrate (DDR) RENAMO combatants. The Peace Process Secretariat contracted APOPO for the collection, storage, safe transport and disposal of Small Arms and Light Weapons, munitions and explosives. The end of July 2019 captured a historic moment for Mozambique’s Peace Process with the first RENAMO weapons symbolically surrendered to the Joint Technical Group for DDR. Thereafter the Government and RENAMO signed final ceasefire and peace agreements. The destruction process will continue in 2020.