BY HARRIET CHIKANDIWA
A BELGIAN non-governmental organisation Apopo will begin clearing landmines along the Cordon Sanitaire minefields in the Sengwe Wildlife Corridor this month.
The organisation will demine in conjunction with the Swiss embassy.
Apopo’s goal is to clear the assigned area by Zimbabwe’s 2025 landmine-free deadline, freeing the local population and wildlife from the threat of landmines and opening up eco-tourism opportunities.
Apopo Zimbabwe programme manager Tess Tewelde said they were privileged to be taking part in clearing mined areas to allow safe movement of humans and wildlife.
“We are very enthusiastic and honoured to take part in clearing the heavily mined areas along the Zimbabwe, Mozambique border to allow not only local communities to use their land freely and without fear, but also safe movement for endangered wildlife and support overall conservation efforts,” Tewelde said.
In addition to posing a threat to people and impeding free movement, the landmines prevent the safe migration of the large elephant herds between Gonarezhou and Kruger National Parks, which threatens the viability of the elephant population and can lead to wildlife-human conflicts.
The landmines have remained in place for over four decades, endangering elephants, lions and wild dogs as well as local communities who desperately need the land for grazing and agriculture.
Switzerland ambassador to Zimbabwe Niculin Jäger said: “My government is happy to support Apopo’s demining activities as this will help the local community regain its economic footing through accessing previously contaminated land for agricultural production — something that they have not been able to do for the past 40 years.”