Launched in 2011, the six-year mine action project in Casamance, has freed more than 160,000 sq.m of land – equivalent to 26 football fields! The threat from mines and explosive remnants of war–the legacy of a pro-independence conflict in the region in the 1980s and 1990s–has now been lifted for more than 1.5 million people across 12 villages.
“Mine clearance has restored the confidence of local people, and enabled them to farm their land again and to work with peace of mind,” explains Faly Keita, head of HI’s mine action base in Casamance. “People living in the village of Kanico have even been able to build a church in an area cleared of mines by HI in January.”
For this project, HI used several techniques including manual mine clearance with metal detectors, demining dogs in 2015 and 2016, and a Digger (a minesweeper that is similar to a combine harvester), which made operations considerably faster. The Digger was particularly useful to HI’s teams due to the presence of PRBM 35 mines, which cannot be identified by detectors. In comparison, on an average working day, demining dogs cover between 300 and 400 sq.m., whereas, the Digger covers between 24,000 and 30,000 sq.m.
Since the start of operations in 2011, 27 mines have been secured. “Some are destroyed in the field, while others are neutralized and stored for use in mine clearance training or for training dogs to identify mines,” Faly adds.
Senegal signed the Ottawa mine ban convention in 1998 and expects to be mine-free by 2021.