The Cambodian Mine Action Centre (CMAC) and APOPO Cambodia have signed a cooperation and partnership agreement on the integration of mine detecting rats and dogs. The agreement will be funded by grants of almost $400,000.

A signing ceremony for the agreement was held on December 13, with CMAC director-general Heng Ratana and APOPO Cambodia programme manager Michael Raine in attendance.

According to a social media statement from CMAC, project grants worth $387,167 will be implemented from January to December 2024. The project plans to clear a total area of 98,000,000sqm of land in Siem Reap, Preah Vihear and Mondulkiri provinces.

Ratana explained that the government of Belgium has provided assistance to APOPO, which is itself a Belgian organisation.

“We have worked together to ask the Belgian government to support demining in Cambodia from 2021 to 2026, to the tune of around half a million US dollars a year. The Belgian government joined in with this partnership, along with other donors to APOPO. APOPO then collaborate with CMAC,” he said.

He added that CMAC and APOPO have been working together for almost a decade with mine-sniffing rats. During that time, they have cleared more than 3,000ha of land. More than 51,000 pieces of unexploded ordnance (UXO) were destroyed, with an area of 300ha cleared annually.

“In cooperation with APOPO, not only are we working on demining in Cambodia. We are also cooperating with other partners, and sending our trained dogs to Turkey and several central African countries. We have deployed our human specialists overseas as well,” he said.

In addition, a number of demining operators have received training in Cambodia through APOPO, including those from mine-affected countries like Ukraine, Jordan and Senegal. Deminers from all three countries have trained at the Technical Institute of Mine Action (TIMA) in Kampong Chhnang province, according to Ratana.

“APOPO is an important partner in our work to accelerate demining in Cambodia, as well as technical work with other demining countries,” he said.