A new project to demolish seven million square meters of land, including a critical area within the world’s largest contiguous wildlife area, is underway, thanks to a grant from the United States government.
The removal of landmines laid four decades ago will help protect African species such as elephants, pangolins and lions in a wildlife corridor that stretches across South Africa, Mozambique and Zimbabwe.
The Dutch organization called APOPO (translated into English as Anti-Personnel Landmines Detection Product Development) was tasked with the Zimbabwe government to clear the dense minefield that includes the huge wildlife corridor within the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park, an effort that it will also support openness. increase ecotourism opportunities.
The grant enables APOPO to protect not only the animals in the Sengwe Wildlife Corridor, but also local human populations and their livestock. With additional funding, APOPO aims to finish clearing the minefield before Zimbabwe’s landmine-free 2025 deadline.
APOPO is the global non-profit organization best known for having African giant rats trained to detect landmines for more than 20 years, but in this effort they are using manual deminers more appropriate for the dense minefields on the Sengwe border.
“We are very excited and honored to participate in the clean-up of the heavily mined areas along the Zimbabwe-Mozambique border to allow not only local communities to use their lands freely and without fear, but also to enable the safe movement of endangered wildlife and supporting general conservation efforts, ”said the Zimbabwe Program Manager for Development of antipersonnel demining products.
The group has already cleared 45,000 square meters and estimates that it will find and destroy some 15,300 antipersonnel landmines planted during the Zimbabwean Liberation War in the 1970s by the Rhodesian army, which wanted to protect its border, laying about 2,500 mines per kilometer. .
Tens of thousands of people live in close proximity to these landmines, limiting their access to resources such as water, grazing areas and roads. In one of the poorest and driest areas of Zimbabwe, up to 100 head of cattle are lost to this minefield each year, driving some households into poverty.
The wildlife corridor extends to the famous Kruger National Park in South Africa and the Gonarezhou National Park in Zimbabwe.
Kruger receives a massive influx of tourists (more than 1.8 million visitors each year), who could potentially travel through the Sengwe Corridor towards Gonarezhou, which currently receives virtually no international tourists. If even a small fraction of Kruger tourists came to Gonarezhou, the positive economic implications for Zimbabwe would be significant.
Zimbabwe is a USAID Resilience Focus country where the US government agency provides economic opportunities for communities that are susceptible to climate change and significant economic stresses, while conserving natural resources for sustainable livelihoods.
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