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Leaders Push Demining Strategies That Need Less Government Funding

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.

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