WASHINGTON, March 29, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- As the US struggles with its own domestic and military budget reductions, sector leaders met to outline strategies that will help them increase their demining efforts in conflict and post-conflict regions through more in-country involvement and market-based incentives while receiving less direct funding from the US and western governments.
An estimated 70 million landmines/UXOs exist in 70 countries (source: ICBL) from years of conflict, and removing them and converting the land into usable and productive space remains a daunting financial and logistical challenge.
"War's not over if people are wounded and killed every time they venture into mine fields," said Gary Kuhn, executive director of Roots of Peace, a US demining and humanitarian non-governmental organization headquartered in California. "Mines to Vines® is our strategy of removing these weapons through local involvement and reclaiming the ground for peaceful commercial agricultural purposes – it's the only way to stabilize the region and restore prosperity for the local people."
Outlining successes and failures of various non-profit and government projects, the roundtable participants reinforced the importance of implementing market-based strategies for reclamation that harness the same approaches, incentives and discipline used in private sector projects."Local solutions often have the best outcomes," said James 'Spike' Stephenson of Creative Associates, a leading private sector contractor for USAID. "Humanitarian projects end when the funding ends if there's no local buy-in; market-based approaches increase sustainability and help reduce the amount of funding needed from donors." Roots of Peace founder and chairman, Heidi Kuhn, explained how their Demine-Replant-Rebuild® model has enabled over a million farmers over the last 15 years to bring high value cash crops to market in Afghanistan, Vietnam and other countries. Hosted by Roots of Peace and co-hosted by League for Hope, a US NGO, the roundtable session brought together non-profit, private sector and government leaders in foreign aid and international development to identify the lessons learned that can form a foundation for policies promoting a market-based approach to demining and reclamation to achieve stability in conflict and post-conflict zones. Additional organizations represented at the roundtable included ACDI/VOCA, Afghanistan Council, Creative Associates, General Dynamics Information Technology, League for Hope, Millennium Challenge Corporation, Public/Private Initiatives Division at the Pentagon, Roots of Peace, USAID, US Institute of Peace, and Wyatt Consulting Group International.