The Malhazine complex, in Maputo, Mozambique, has been used as a military ammunition storage depot for decades. It has suffered two major ammunition explosions and a number of smaller ones, which have killed and injured many civilians and resulted in ammunition left scattered across the complex. The entire Park’s area is about 600 hectares in size and APOPO is tasked to clear about 300 hectares with another demining operator tasked to clear the other areas.
APOPO and the HeroRATs will clear the former site of all explosives to prepare the site for its transformation into a stunning nature reserve.
APOPO's vision is to solve pressing humanitarian and development challenges through local solutions for local problems. Clearing explosive remnants of war (ERW) and dangerous items of ammunitions removes a critical structural barrier and a precondition for development.
The aim in Mozambique has been to facilitate the clearance of ERW and landmines, reduce the number of accident victims, enhance national development and speed up full recovery from war at the lowest possible costs. To do so APOPO is engaged in the development of a low-cost and efficient mine detection methodology. This methodology consists of APOPO’s integrated system of manual clearance, mechanical assets and mine detection rats (HeroRATs!) for low-cost and effective land release.
The ammunitions clearance and disposal is on behalf of the Ministry of the Environment at the request of the National Institute of Demining, in the Malhazine Ecological Park, formerly known as the Malhazine Ammunition Depot, located in Maputo Province.
SUPPORTING LOCAL COMMUNITIES:
APOPO supports national capacity building by training hundreds of Mozambicans from the ground up thus relying on national staff for nearly all roles.
To efficiently complete clearance and ammunition disposal of the site APOPO will employ 60 staff drawn from communities across Mozambique. These will include:
- Three sections of manual deminers (humans with metal detectors)
- Two mine detection rat sections and ten accredited mine detection rats (HeroRATs!)
- Two mechanical teams and ground preparation/demining machine(s)
- Necessary support and management personnel
APOPO will deploy ten accredited Mine Detection Rats, also known as HeroRATs, to speed up clearance activities by sniffing out landmines and explosive remnants of war.
- HeroRATs are African Giant Pouched Rats (Cricetomys gambianus)
- can live up to 6-8 years
- have an incredible sense of smell
- are calm, docile, and easy to handle and train
- are cheap to source, feed, breed and maintain
- are endemic to sub-Saharan Africa, used to a tropical climate and resilient to many tropical diseases
- are fast, accurate, and efficient in their tasks.
Mozambique’s Ministry of the Environment plans to transform the Malhazine site into a nature reserve for the public. The site will feature:
- Recreational area with campsite, children’s area, zoo, veterinary clinic and restaurants (49 ha)
- Research area (6 ha) and botanical garden
- Fenced animal/ bird/ botanical sanctuary (about 489 ha)
- Military museum (about 22 ha)
- Fenced footpaths through the sanctuary
- Non-technical survey
- Technical survey
- Ground preparation and vegetation removal
- Manual clearance using high tech bomb locators and detectors
- Utilization of mine detection rats (HeroRATs!)
- Explosive ordinance disposal (EOD) tasks
- Community Liaison, discussion and education
- District and Provincial government liaison and cooperation
- GIS based mapping and reporting
- Handover of released/cleared land to National Institute of Demining/Ministry of Environment
APOPO’S HISTORY IN MOZAMBIQUE
In September 2015, Mozambique was officially declared free of all known landmines after twenty two years of demining activities across the country.
Mozambique is the first heavily mined country in the world to be declared free of all known landmines. The country evolved from being one of the most mine-infested countries in the world to being landmine-free in only 22 years, thanks to the commitment of the people and government of Mozambique and the hqrd work of demining operators and their deminers. "Many people thought Mozambique would take a hundred years to demine the whole country. We ended up demining in less than 30", said Albert Augusto, director of Mozambique's National Demining Institute during the ceremony.
Following completion of remaining landmine sites in Manica and Sofala provinces in early 2015, APOPO proudly and safely finalized all their humanitarian tasks in Mozambique, in the process destroying a total of 13,274 landmines and returning 11,124,446 square metres of land for safe and productive use. APOPO has helped rid five (5) provinces of landmines, returning safe land back to local communities to live, work, farm and play without fear. Most households in these areas are headed by smallholder farmers who have not been able to use the land to grow crops and sustain their livestock for decades, until APOPO arrived to clear and release the area.
HELP US TO TRANSFORM A NIGHTMARE INTO A PLACE OF WONDER
With your help, we can transform a former restricted military area – once home to vast array of weapons and ammunition consequently suffering huge explosions - into a nature reserve that will demonstrate how Mozambique overcame the scourge of war.