MAG’s approach to landmine clearance is far more advanced than simply getting mines out of the ground.
The real measure of MAG’s success is not based on the number of mines or square metres cleared, but rather on the real impact that this clearance will have on people’s lives and their ability to recovery from conflict.
Making an impact
It is clear that by removing obstacles to emergency aid, social services, agriculture and trade, both the social and economic potential of a community is improved. MAG strategically concentrates its activities where the impact will be the greatest by:
• Providing safe access to water, shelter and food for at-risk communities
• Assisting the safer movement of refugees and internally displaced people
• Opening up access routes between villages and creating the potential for new or renewed trade
• Creating safe land for wide-scale agricultural development and farming
• Providing safe land for construction or reconstruction of housing, schools, health centers and other parts of a community's infrastructure
Talking to communities
In order to develop a clear understanding of the problems faced by conflict-affected communities, MAG goes directly to the source. Through liaison with villagers, authorities, hospitals, governments, aid agencies and other partners, MAG is able to prioritize its work based on the needs of affected communities.
For this, MAG utilises a capacity of its own invention: what we call Community Liaison (CL) teams. CL teams map the need for and anticipated impact of landmine clearance in close participation with the beneficiaries and, after conveying the data to MAG’s technical teams, the appropriate response can then take shape.
Providing the appropriate solution
What is clear today is there is no 'silver bullet' approach to landmine clearance – it often combines a set of tools working in unison. MAG has adopted a multi-faceted "toolbox" approach to conflict clearance, which includes manual clearance, mechanical methods and the use of mine detection dogs.
MAG's landmine clearance work is a structured process for returning safe land to the local community. Mines are found and destroyed within an environment organised to provide safety for the deminers and a clear record of which land is now safe and which is still dangerous.
Manual clearance is carried out by deminers in clearance lanes usually measuring one metre wide. Deminers can use metal detectors to detect mines below the surface, or they can use hand tools such as prodders and trowels to manually excavate, usually to a depth of 20 centimetres.
Once a mine has been discovered by a deminer, it can be disarmed and taken to a safe place or destroyed in situ, depending on the type of mine and its fusing mechanism.
MAG uses a wide range of mechanical equipment, which has improved both safety and productivity.
Machines need to be simple and easy to operate. Some have been purposely built for mine action and others adapted from commercial plant machinery, such as the Tempest vegetation cutter (which MAG helped to develop), Minecat and Bozena mini flails, excavators, sifters and screeners.
Mine detection dogs
Currently used by MAG in Iraq, Cambodia and Sri Lanka, mine detection dogs are capable of indicating the location of buried landmines and other explosives.
Handling live animals does not come without its problems – wet or windy and temperature conditions affect this method, and the cost of handlers and kennels is also a consideration.
But dogs are a useful tool in the land release process, able to identify that only a small portion of a large area of land that was initially suspected of being dangerous is actually contaminated with mines. The resulting area can then be released back to the community.
As with other methods employed by MAG, the use of dogs forms just one part of our overall approach in clearing conflict-affected countries.