The centre is situated more than 3000 metres above sea level. The altitude is ideal for making the dogs noses used to find the scent of explosives, because the cold weather on top of the mountain reduces the smell of the explosives, so if a dog can find them here, they are well prepared to smell for mines in warmer areas, both in the Sudan and Ethiopia, where the smell gets stronger from the heat. The centre also has training components for manual mine detection and for mine clearing machines.
The centre has been expanded since late 2007. As per November 2010, it has a number of classrooms, kennel and workshop facilities, as well as dormitories for close to a hundred people. Water and electricity has been installed, and necessary infrastructure set up. The centre has been financed with support from the Embassy of Norway in Addis Abeba, as well as the Finnish and Dutch MFAs, plus a contribution from the Ethiopian government itself. The Ethiopian Mine Action Office (EMAO) is the implementing partner, and the NGO Norwegian People’s Aid has been contributing with capacity building on the use of mine detection dogs, and with the establishment of the centre.
Photo: Kjell Ivar Breili,NPA
Now, the centre is taken one step further in a “regional direction”; there is a plan to deploy mine detection dogs in Southern Sudan, and Sudanese staff is being trained in Ethiopia for this purpose. In June, a first batch consisting on nine staff members from SSDA and NPA received a Mine Detection Dog Introduction Course on Entoto. The second batch is now undergoing the same training, as part of a partnership agreement NPA has facilitated to be signed between EMAO and SSDA, on behalf of the two governments. In the agreement the two authorities agrees in principle to assist each other, both in the capacity building and in specific mine action projects in the border region. EMAO has since it started mine action operations gained much experience. Today EMAO consist of skilled and experienced staff committed to their work. With the structure and commitment, EMAO is an example for South Sudan Demining Authority, and can be used as a model in how to quickly take over national ownership. With the opening of the Entoto Training Centre, EMAO can facilitate for capacity building of SSDA and national operational staff from South Sudan.
Also, 12 Mine detection dogs will be sent from the centre two Southern Sudan, and be operated by Ethiopian dog handlers, at first. When the Sudanese trainees get their accreditation as Mine Detection Dog handlers according to International Mine Action standards (IMAS), they will take over the responsibility. This is scheduled to take place in June.
EMAO is well underway when it comes to clearing Ethiopia for landmines; per November 2010, most of Tigray and Afar region has been cleared, whereas the bulk of the work to be completed is taking place in the Somali Region.