Community-Based Demining Links Development and Counterinsurgency in Afghanistan

Posted by Peter Villano
June 23, 2009
Landmine Removal in Afghanistan

About the Author: Peter Villano is a Program Manager in the Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement in the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs.

In a small village in Afghanistan’s Kunar Province, a young Afghan man works to remove landmines in his village. Several weeks ago, he was unemployed and worried about supporting his family. He would travel long distances looking for work. Now, he is employed locally as a deminer by an Afghan non-governmental organization (NGO), and returns home every afternoon to see his wife and children.

The Kunar project is a community-based initiative, which centers on the removal of landmines and other unexploded bombs that threaten the local population. In Afghanistan and in other post-conflict countries around the world, mines and other unexploded munitions ─ what we call “explosive remnants of war” (ERW) ─ have denied locals access to arable land, and limited their ability to gather firewood to cook, stones to build their houses, and, ultimately, the prospect of rebuilding their communities. In 2008, mines and ERW killed or injured over 445 Afghans, an average of 37 per month.

This project is managed by a small core staff from the Organization for Mine Action and Afghan Rehabilitation (OMAR), based in Kabul. The United States Department of State has partnered with OMAR in this community-based demining initiative. Unlike most mine action projects in Afghanistan where trained deminers come from elsewhere to remove landmines and unexploded ordnance, community-based demining utilizes a local workforce that is recruited, trained, and employed by an Afghan NGO that oversees all aspects of the operation. In Afghanistan, which has suffered decades of conflict, these projects can last for several months, providing income and economic opportunity to hundreds of families.

Community-based demining in Kunar furnishes jobs that keep young men employed, and perhaps most importantly, establishes trust with local leaders by removing one of the one of largest hidden killers in Afghanistan: ERW. What’s more, the project is not just outsiders coming in to conduct mine clearance; it is owned by the population, thereby reinforcing local governance and reducing insurgent influence.

When this community-based demining project ends, follow-on agricultural and vocational training as well as immediate development projects can commence, allowing locals to capitalize on their cleared land and an available labor force with new job skills. Since these demining projects are planned, coordinated, and run in conjunction with local tribal leadership from the beginning, community priorities are taken into account even before a project is initiated.

Since 1993, the United States has been the world’s leading contributor to post-conflict efforts to remove landmines and ERW around the globe. In 2009, the Department of State will provide over $22 million to Afghanistan alone, enabling the Afghan government and a constellation of local and international NGOs to continue the essential tasks of clearing mines and ERW, caring for survivors of ERW accidents, and destroying or securing recovered munitions to prevent their use by insurgents in future attacks.

Community-based demining represents an opportunity to effectively link Afghan and U.S. humanitarian, development, and counterinsurgency objectives like never before. It offers an Afghan-led solution they stand ready to implement.

Comments

Comments

Ron
|
New York, USA
June 24, 2009

Ron in New York writes:

NGO's Dig up Mines: Insult Added to Injury.....

USG should lead the world in getting out of the war-weapons business....then, we won't need to fund NGO's in unexploded ordnance jobs...or fund NGO's to get rid of them....if you want to invest in business in Afghanistan and deal a blow to AQ....finance the mining and agri-businesses.

Ron
|
New York, USA
June 23, 2009

Ron in New York writes:

A Bad idea.....There are so many other jobs for Afghans to do.....One de-mining mishap will outweigh any possible benefit.

Alternatives:

Mining or agriculture or schools or hospitals or roads or clean water projects.....

Get out of the war business....

Anna
|
District Of Columbia, USA
June 24, 2009

Anna in Washington DC writes:

@ Ron in NY -- Yes, agriculture or mining, schools or hospitals, roads or clean water projects, all would be preferable to demining. But the fact of the matter is that there are landmines and they must be removed, or whole areas of land will not be usable or safe.

I wish there were not landmines in Afghanistan, or anywhere. But we must be practical.

I applaud the brave men who are removing the landmines in Afghanistan, because it is a vote of confidence in the future of their country.

Ron
|
New York, USA
June 24, 2009

Ron in New York writes:

Security First...then Development...

Paying Afghanis to demine?: Dead Wrong....

Wait for the Headline on this mistake.....

Injury added to Insult...

Radosav
June 25, 2009

Radosav writes:

Interesting concept.

In mine clearance generally the most important issue is confidence to deminer's work. By employing local people that is achieved.

Jim
June 26, 2009

Jim writes:

excellent work being done

Eric
|
New Mexico, USA
June 27, 2009

Eric in New Mexico writes:

@ Ron in New York,

Maybe you should put yourself in the Afghan fellow's shoes, besides earning a paycheck to feed his family, he's making sure his kids don't step on a landmine.

I think it's fair to say it's probably a "dad thing" when all is taken in context.

Why else would someone take the job, eh?

ron
|
New York, USA
June 28, 2009

Ron in New York writes:

Bad Policy; Bad Program: Afghanis should not be mine-fodder.

If you really wnat to empathize...don't put "Afghani shoes" near unexploded ordnance...I really think there is a romantic and fantastic approach to development and counter-insurgency.

Farid
|
Afghanistan
June 28, 2009

Farid in Afghanistan writes:

We also implement community-based demining projects in our NGO. It is more effective, safer and sustainable approach. It promotes security in remote districts and creates job opportunities for the mine impacted communities.

Eric
|
New Mexico, USA
June 28, 2009

Eric in New Mexico writes:

@Farid in Afghanistan,

Friend of mine from your country told me once that he thought there were over 10 million landmines left over from the time of the Soviet invasion and civil war after.

He also told me that folks would throw rocks in fields to find them.

Which gave me an idea that I put to a former c-130 pilot I met on the feasability of loading up an aircraft with rocks and chunks of metal ( as some tank mines are magneticly triggered) and spread-dumping the load out the back of the plane from low altitude (1000-1500 ft) over a known minefield to clear it of the majority of mines.

Then followed up by regular methods, it may help speed up the removal process in a safe manner.

Pilot said it was possible to do it with such an aircraft, but had no idea whether it would be effective ( never having been tried ).

Do you think the idea is worth a test run?

Ron
|
New York, USA
June 29, 2009

Ron in New York writes:

What's Mine is Mine, What's yours is Mine Removal....?

Demining should be done by experts...it should be funded by the nations who built and placed the mines....no Afghan should risk life removing ordnance meant to kill him.

Eric
|
New Mexico, USA
June 29, 2009

Eric in New Mexico writes:

@Ron in New York--

In a perfect world Ron, there would be no landmines to dispose of.

But we don't live in a perfect world, now do we?

I don't think you get it, the Afghan people are as knowledgable about landmines as any expert, having had to deal with them for decades.

You seem to think , judging by what you wrote, that they are simply given the equipment and sent out to get blown up.

Again, put yourself in their shoes. If it was your community, your kids, and a paycheck on the line, what would you do?

I'm pretty sure you'd say, "It's not my problem." until you realized it was.

But that's you, not the Afghan people.

Most of the people who placed them in the ground are dead. No one knows who's country manufactured them until they are individually found and destroyed, but its also true that the funding for removal comes from nations who have taken responsibility for removing them, whether they had a role in them being placed there or not.

Reality being what it is Ron, the Afghans are more concerned with getting rid of them than how they got there at this point in time.

So who are you to preach that they shouldn't get involved in safeguarding their children and creating safer living conditions for their communites, eh?

You don't have that right to determine what's best for them.

(End of lecture.)

Ron
|
New York, USA
June 29, 2009

Ron in New York writes:

Reality Bites: (or in the case of Mine Removal; it blows)

Contracting with NGO's to employ Afghans to remove mines is totally irresponsible (and quite wacky from a PR stance).

Where do we get off paying them for this task? Sure they will go for the money.....what are the employment alternatives in Afghanistan right now? talk about "let's get real"...USG has spent billions to have Afghanis conduct surrogate wars...now we will spend more to put them at risk of blowing themselves up.....Sorry, no sale.

Ron
|
New York, USA
June 30, 2009

Ron in New York writes:

The Real World of WMD....

Mines and Unexploded Ordnance should be tagged, identified, traced and tracked back to manufacturers,sellers/buyers...they should be named, shamed and made to clean up their mess. Afterward, they should pay penalties, and monetary damages. Later, they should pay for development projects....In the real world; nothing changes without consequences....The way it works now, you can spend billions on WMD and a few million to do the clean-up.

Ron
|
New York, USA
July 1, 2009

Ron in New York writes:

Definitions: "Community-based Demining"....

1- Demining in the community where the mines are.

2- Creating the impression that Demining is a community activity.

3- Absolving USG of mine removal responsibilities.

4- Creating a cottage industry in demining.

Johnson
|
Australia
July 13, 2009

Johnson writes:

Afghan non-governmental organization doing good job,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

doug
|
Utah, USA
August 9, 2009

Doug in Utah writes:

Please provide an email address where I might be able to contact Mr Villano.

Norrie P.
|
United Kingdom
August 12, 2009

Norrie in the United Kingdom writes:

Can we be of help? we train canines for REST, Explosive and mine detection!

.

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