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Non-Profit Organization Seeks to Clear Landmines in Southern Africa

Roots of Peace, a non-profit organization that removes landmines around the world, has an ambitious project in southern Africa. As Sabina Castelfranco reports for VOA from Rome, the organization plans to clear landmines from a wildlife sanctuary in the region.

On a visit to Rome last week to get support for her projects, Heidi Kuhn, founder of Roots of Peace, says she hopes to make a difference in Angola.

"Angola is the most heavily mined country on the most heavily mined continent in the world. There's an estimated 10 million landmines in Angola alone," said Kuhn. "So to get the mines out and to open the roads to allow transportation from this beautiful area of Huambo to the port cities could feed not only sub-Saharan Africa but could really put Africa back on its feet again. Landmines hold the land hostage and prevent people from eating."

Kuhn says her organization recently raised $20,000 to clear mines in the rich agricultural area of Huambo.

She added that what really shocked her was the silent suffering of the animals in the southeast of Angola. She found that elephants are trapped and no longer able to follow their historic migration trails due to the scourge of landmines, sown during Angola's 27-year civil war, which ended in 2002

"One hundred thirty-five thousand elephants are trapped in northern Botswana by landmines," she said. "They're smart creatures, they know that there's thunder in the ground and they warn the other herds. So they stay in a concentrated area."

Kuhn added that the elephants are growing at a five percent rate and they're infringing upon the food sources of the neighbouring villagers. Local villagers, she said, are considering killing 60,000 elephants.

Roots of Peace has launched a project to avoid just that. Working with a number of partners, including Conservation International and five African presidents, it is working to create a trans-frontier conservation area and re-open the ancient migration routes linking Botswana, Namibia, Angola, Zimbabwe and Zambia.