Foley Hoag Assists Humanitarian De-mining Organization in Securing $750,000 in funding from the US Department of State

September 22, 2020

Foley Hoag LLP has played an instrumental role in helping APOPO, a Brussels-based humanitarian de-mining organization, recently secure a $750,000 grant from the U.S. State Department’s Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement (WRA) to clear mines in a dense minefield laid four decades ago inside the Sengwe Wildlife Corridor (SWC) on the border of Zimbabwe and Mozambique. The SWC is a narrow strip of land that also connects conservation parks in Zimbabwe and South Africa, and is included in the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park (GLTP), the largest conservation area in the world, spanning South Africa, Mozambique, and Zimbabwe. 

APOPO is best known for training African Giant Pouch Rats to detect landmines and is also developing the use of innovative long range GPS-linked dogs for mine detection. 

A mined SWC is particularly damaging to the global African Elephant population, 7 percent of which is located within the GTLP.  In addition, there are 28,000 people living near the SWC in Zimbabwe and Mozambique. The mined SWC forces villagers, many of whom are pastoralists, to travel hours around the minefield to find safe border crossings. This increases the costs of cross border commerce and separates families living on both sides. In addition, the mines have killed village livestock, which they rely on as their main source of income. 

Senior advisor Isa Mirza and of counsel Janis Brennan developed a strategic government engagement plan for APOPO and represented the organization’s leadership over the past several years in high-level advocacy meetings with senior officials at WRA and senior staff on the U.S. House and Senate Appropriations Committees. Partner Gare Smith also provided critical support and advice regarding engagement with the State Department. 

The grant award for APOPO’s de-mining projects in Zimbabwe represents the first time the organization has ever received funding from the U.S. Government. The Foley team also collaborated with APOPO on advocacy efforts that were being spearheaded by other key leaders in the mine action community, resulting in an increase of over $30 million in U.S. humanitarian de-mining assistance, as part of Congress’s federal spending bill for fiscal year 2020.

The team will continue to work with APOPO to support the mine action community’s goal of completely demine Zimbabwe by 2025. Foley, APOPO, and APOPO’s partners will also work together to prioritize funding for other heavily mined countries, such as Cambodia and Angola.

In an effort to advance important humanitarian causes, Foley Hoag’s work for APOPO is being conducted entirely on a pro bono basis. APOPO was referred to the firm by the Lex Mundi Pro Bono Foundation.

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