Thanks to a grant from the US government, a new project to demine seven million square metres of land is underway, including a sensitive region within the world’s largest contiguous wildlife area.

Removing landmines planted four decades ago would assist in the protection of African species including elephants, pangolins, and lions in a wildlife corridor that runs across South Africa, Mozambique, and Zimbabwe.

The Zimbabwean government has tasked the Dutch organisation APOPO (Anti-Personnel Landmines Detection Product Development) with clearing the dense minefield that includes the vast wildlife corridor within the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park, an initiative that will also promote eco-tourism opportunities.

APOPO will be able to protect not just the species in the Sengwe Wildlife Corridor, but also the local human population and livestock, thanks to the grant. With additional funds, APOPO hopes to complete the minefield clearance by Zimbabwe’s landmine-free deadline of 2025.

APOPO is a global non-profit organisation best known for training African giant pouched rats to detect landmines for over 20 years—but in this endeavour, they’re using manual deminers, which are better suited to the thick minefields of the Sengwe frontier.

“We are very enthusiastic and honored to take part in clearing the heavily mined areas along the Zimbabwe, Mozambique border to allow not only local communities use their land freely and without fear, but to allow safe movement for endangered wildlife and support overall conservation efforts,” said the Zimbabwe Program Manager for Anti-Persoonsmijnen Ontmijnende Product Ontwikkeling.

The group has already cleared 45,000 square metres and expects to locate and destroy about 15,300 anti-personnel landmines planted by the Rhodesian Army to defend their border during the Zimbabwe Liberation War in the 1970s—laying about 2,500 mines per kilometre.

Thousands of people live in close proximity to landmines, which prevent them from accessing resources like water, grazing areas, and roads. Up to 100 cattle are lost on this minefield each year, driving some families into poverty in one of Zimbabwe’s poorest and driest regions.

The wildlife corridor runs through South Africa’s popular Kruger National Park and Zimbabwe’s Gonarezhou National Park.

Kruger receives a large influx of tourists per year (over 1.8 million), who could theoretically migrate up the Sengwe Corridor and into Gonarezhou, which currently receives almost no foreign tourists. The economic benefits to Zimbabwe would be important if even a small percentage of Kruger tourists made it to Gonarezhou.

Zimbabwe is a USAID Resilience Focus nation, which means the American government agency helps communities that are vulnerable to climate change and severe economic stress while also conserving natural resources for long-term survival.

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