Landmine Removal Frees Land for Agriculture
[Montréal, Québec, Canada -2°C] In a previous post from Juba, Southern Sudan, I wrote about a UNICEF managed and CIDA-funded Mine Risk Education (MRE) programs. I visited program sites where local NGOs taught children and their elders about landmines that remain hidden near their villages. At the time, there were still more known minefields to clear than there were teams trained to clear them so the clearing process would take time. In the meantime, villagers are taught how to recognize landmines or unexploded ordnances and avoid them to remain safe until the dangers are cleared by the United Nations Mine Action Office (UNMAO).
A few days after an MRE visit, Mark Argent (UNMAO) brought me to a different site outside of Juba in E. Rejaf where landmines were actively being cleared by a team of trained mine-removal personnel and a MineWolf machine that, to me, resembles a snow blower. We drove 100 metres past the minefield to a demarkated area adjacent to where landmines were being cleared. This safe area is outlined by a boundary of white-tipped sticks, within which the mine-removal teams prepare their equipment before entering the minefield, take breaks, debrief and where the UN ambulance vehicle parkes at the ready in case of injury.
After my debriefing, I was given protection gear to wear (see above photo) that I put on before heading toward the minefield where a team of de-miners were at work. In the back of the minefield, there was a MineWolf actively pounding at the earth, destroying the landmines hidden below the surface.
With minefields still dotting the landscape, farmers are afraid to cultivate the land. When the MineWolf passes over a minefield, it crushes the mines rendering them obsolete. Rarely do the mines explode during this process and when they do, the machine’s driver is rarely hurt due to its design but the machine gets damaged. Once it has passed over an entire field, the MineWolf is transferred to another minefield. At this point, mine-removal teams begin their meticulous work often accompanied with dogs trained to smell explosives.
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