The HALO Trust has welcomed an important study on the impact of landmines on conservation and sustainable development in Angola presented to the Illegal Wildlife Trade Conference (IWT18) in London.
A paper by Chatham House, The Royal Institute of International Affairs, describes how the threat of landmines prevents Angola from developing a wildlife-focused tourism trade that could brings jobs and promote conservation in remote regions of the country.
The report says: "Angola has the potential to host one of the most diverse mammal populations on the continent and could be an important destination for large mammals to move from areas with pressure on their carrying capacity. But a lack of infrastructure and human security threats from remnants of war, have prohibited the country from fully benefitting from this important natural capital resource."
Large mammals have returned to Angola following the end of the country’s 27-year-long civil war in 2002. The HALO Trust has been collaborating to assist the National Geographic Society's study of the wildlife in the headwaters that feed the globally-significant Okavango Delta. Minefields litter south eastern Angola's Kuando Kubango province which was the site of the Battle of Cuito Cuanavale during the Angolan civil war.
Andrew Moore, a HALO director, attended the IWT conference and welcomed the research: "I’d like to thank Chatham House for an excellent research paper and for the inclusion of the issue of landmines in Angola. Conservation-driven development models are not possible in Angola’s Kuando Kubango province as much of it is essentially cut off due to the presence of landmines. This makes it difficult to protect wildlife and enforce related laws and we agree that as a consequence high-risk, high-reward illegal activities become attractive."
The report continues: "Minefields cause animal deaths and cut off migratory routes. They prevent the development of agriculture and ecotourism by denying local people access to the land."
Mr Moore continued: "We welcome the suggestion in the paper that mine risk education and conservation education could be combined to great effect and we are seeking conservation partners to work with us.
However, teaching people, especially children, about the dangers of landmines is vital work but it is mitigation. Only clearing the mines will permanently protect people and wildlife from harm, give people opportunities to pursue sustainable livelihoods, open the province to tourism and allow Angola and its international partners to protect the environment.
Landmine clearance in Angola, and in Kuando Kubango especially, has been marginalised in recent years by declining donor funding, but successful regional conservation will be possible only if this is reversed.
I would like to thank the UK Government for major new funding that is clearing minefields across Angola and which has allowed HALO to resume our work in Kuando Kubango. Much more needs to be done, though, and others now need to follow this example and recognise the wider impacts, including on wildlife and the illegal trade in it, of landmines in Angola."