Mine clearance enabling economic recovery and development
HI has launched new mine clearance operations in Casamance to enable communities to regain access to their villages, schools and medical centres.
A deminer at work in Casamance, Senegal 2010. | © J-J. Bernard / HI
100,000m² of land to be released back to the communities
In May 2022, HI began mine clearance activities in Casamance, in the south of Senegal, where the organisation has already cleared almost 470,000 m² of land since 2008. The operations, which will last until March 2023, concern the communes of Kaour and Adéane, in the regions of Ziguinchor and Sédhiou.
A total of 100,000 m² of land need to be released back to the communities. The aim is to clear areas contaminated by mines and other explosive devices and investigate suspected hazardous areas. It is estimated that these latest operations will clear 30,000 m².
Manual and mechanical mine clearance
HI has set up its operational base about 50 km from Ziguinchor. The teams stay there for 10 days while they carry out operations, then have a 3-day rest in town. The demining staff recruited for the project have more than ten years' field experience. The teams are made up of a project manager, an operations manager, two team leaders, six deminers, two nurses, two community liaison officers, a mechanic, two development officers and three drivers. In total, 10 deminers work for HI in Casamance, including two women.
Adapting operations to the realities of the field
The scheduling of operations will have to be adjusted to the rainy season, which runs from July to October. Casamance is the rainiest region in Senegal. Torrential rains would slow down demining activities and for safety reasons neither deminers nor the Digger can work on flooded ground.
Supporting land release and economic recovery
HI will also accompany communities once they start returning to the cleared areas and contribute to economic recovery. In particular, the organisation will provide the people returning to live on the newly released land with construction materials. HI will also support the development of income-generating activities by offering training, for example.
A conflict that still threatens civilians today
Senegal has until 2025 to achieve its goal of becoming "mine-free". In Casamance, nearly 1.2 million square metres of land are still suspected of being contaminated and need to be made safe. Armed independence groups and government forces have been in conflict for almost 40 years. Anti-personnel mines and anti-tank mines, which were used on a massive scale in the region between 1990 and 2000, still threaten civilians today. Between 1988 and 2017, almost 850 people fell victim to mines or explosive remnants of war.
This threat prevents populations from returning to the region. But Casamance has substantial natural resources and strong agricultural, mining and fishing potential, so clearing this land is a humanitarian and development priority.