Cambodia program hits land release milestone in record time.
Today, APOPO held a handover ceremony with partner CMAC in Siem Reap province. This ceremony was to hand over the last minefield cleared in 2020, releasing 126,560 m2 of recently cleared land back to the community living in and around the former minefield.
In this minefield, APOPO and CMAC found and destroyed 11 anti-personnel landmines, 1 anti-tank landmine and 14 items of unexploded ordnance (UXO). The land was safely returned back to the village of Trapeang Krasang, in Siem Reap Province benefitting over 20 families living on the land directly but indirectly benefitting over 1600 people in the wider area and neighboring villages. Now that all the landmines have been cleared, the land can be used for more families to live and farm, enabling economic growth and prosperity.
The ceremony was held at the cleared minefield and the villagers, were invited to attend the celebration. Special guests were representatives from local partner PPCBank who recently began supporting APOPO’s mine action program in Cambodia. 24 ha of the total area was funded by the PPCBank. Mr. Kimsroy Nhak, Senior Vice President accompanied by *Ms. Katerina Kim, Senior Manager *of the PPCBank and their team were thrilled to see what effect support has on the community. Earlier that morning, the PPCBank team were inspired by their visit to another minefield that APOPO is clearing and to see the HeroRATs in action.
PPCBank brought additional donations of rice and school supplies for the villagers to celebrate the release of the land and begin a new chapter with hope. As is customary at APOPO’s handover ceremonies, Buddhist monks were invited to bless the project and the participants and as a special tribute APOPO planted young seedlings around the former minefield, as a symbol of prosperity and growth for the local community.
APOPO’s Cambodia program began in 2016 and now clears more land each year than any other APOPO program. In Cambodia APOPO integrates a mix of scent detection animals to get the job done: mine detection rats (MDR) to speed up landmine clearance, technical survey dogs (TSD) and manual deminers and machines to support the animals. The program currently has 43 rats and 4 technical survey dogs working in 3 provinces – Siem Reap, Preah Vihear and Battambang. Both our HeroRATs and HeroDOGs are faster than manual deminers with metal detectors when searching for landmines because their powerful noses allow them to pick up the scent of hidden explosives whilst completely ignoring all the scrap metal lying around. Over the last 5 years APOPO’s innovative working methods in Cambodia have proven to be reliable and much more cost-efficient compared to traditional manual landmine clearance techniques.
Targeting clearance of 3,500,000 m2 in 2020, APOPO achieved an additional 25% on top of its yearly target, having cleared and released 4,389,935m2 over the course of last year. Whilst the achievements in Cambodia are wonderful and refreshing news, there is still lots of work to do. Cambodia has some of the world’s highest mine and UXO casualty rates and still contains some of the world’s highest impact minefields.