Angola has some of the world’s most important remaining wilderness, including the headwaters for the unique Okavango Delta, part of the five-country Kavango-Zambezi Trans Frontier Conservation Area (KAZA). But the presence of landmines makes large areas a lethal habitat for both animals and people. In June 2019, Prince Harry pledged his support to HALO’s ground-breaking project to clear the landmines and protect the Okavango headwaters so that wildlife can return.
Rising in the southeast of Angola, the headwaters flow down to feed the World Heritage site of the Okavango Delta. It is the main source of water for a million people and one of Africa’s richest places for biodiversity.
In 2015, National Geographic launched the Okavango Wilderness Project, recognising the urgent need to protect the river basin for future generations. But to reach the headwaters meant crossing through the minefields of southeast Angola.
HALO was able to step in and provide safe passage, opening up the region to scientific exploration for the very first time.
“We have made some incredible discoveries, including 30 new species to science. None of this would have been possible without the help of The HALO Trust.”
The presence of landmines, a legacy of Angola’s civil war, makes it almost impossible to apply the conservation measures needed to protect this vital resource. Poaching and illegal logging are rife.
The Angolan government has committed $60 million over five years, which will fund the clearance of 153 minefields. HALO estimates it will take a further $60 million to clear the surrounding region.Explore the minefields
By clearing the landmines, HALO can lay the foundation for life, agriculture and eco-tourism to return and thrive, bringing many benefits to over half a million people in Cuando-Cubango Province alone.
The KAZA is home to over 50 per cent of the world’s elephant population, but currently Angola is the achilles heel of this precious habitat. Once the land is safe and conservation measures can be introduced, there is potential for a wildlife corridor to be opened up so the elephants can return.
In the short term, landmine clearance has the potential to be a significant employer in a region that currently offers few stable jobs. Following that, unrestricted access and increased safety will generate further economic opportunities, such as eco-tourism, in what are currently no-go areas.
“The elephants might not speak Portuguese or carry passports, but they want to come home.”