A mine clearance specialist in Angola preparing equipment used to look for unexploded ordnance, May 2012. Photo: Eye Ubiquitous/Contributor/Getty Images.

A mine clearance specialist in Angola preparing equipment used to look for unexploded ordnance, May 2012. Photo: Eye Ubiquitous/Contributor/Getty Images.

Almost two decades after the end of its civil war, Angola remains one of the most heavily landmine-contaminated countries in the world. The Angolan government has committed to clearing its landmines by 2025, and there is constructive collaboration between the government and mine clearing agencies in this endeavour, but the target will be achievable only if a decline in funding from international donors is reversed. International funding for mine clearance in Angola fell by more than 80 per cent between 2005 and 2017, and this sharp drop in external support has compounded the impact on domestic funding for national clearance efforts as a result of the downturn in prices for Angola’s main export commodities.

The national mine action agency, the Comissão Nacional Intersectorial de Desminagem e Assistência Humanitária (CNIDAH), is supported by the Mines Advisory Group (MAG), Norwegian People’s Aid (NPA) and the HALO Trust. By 2017, 15 years after the end of the civil war, these organizations had collectively helped clear 56 per cent of known landmine-contaminated land. State-led demining has focused principally on clearing areas designated for infrastructure projects. Now, it is critical that humanitarian demining in largely agricultural and conservation areas is prioritized to bring to an end the daily threat to Angola’s rural poor – as well as to the country’s livestock and wildlife – of injury or death as a result of landmine accidents.

Angola has some of the world’s most important remaining wilderness, including the tributary system for the unique Okavango Delta, and the country has the potential to host one of the most diverse wildlife populations on the continent. However, the presence of landmines and other remnants of the civil war render large areas of the country unsafe both for wildlife and for the local people, whose ability to derive a sustainable livelihood from their natural environment is fundamental to its protection.

Wildlife and tourism provide important economic opportunities for diversification beyond an oil-dominated economy. Critically, Angola’s economic diversification and development objectives can only be achieved if the landmines that prohibit access to land for agriculture, mining, tourism and wildlife are cleared.

There are economic opportunities for released land in the most heavily mined provinces of Cuando Cubango and Moxico. Already, some new funding for mine action in Angola, if upscaled or matched by international donors, could be transformative for its people, and for the conservation of the region’s vital biodiversity.