Tag Archives: Mozambique

These “Hero Rats” Are Saving Countless Lives By Detecting Land-mines and Tuberculosis (Video)

As a boy, Bart Weetjens loved to play with his pet rats. One thing that always stuck in his memory was the rat’s strong sense of smell and the ease at which they could be trained.

Bart recalled these skills years later as a student at the University of Antwerp in Belgium, where he was working on an analysis of the global land-mine detection problem (ie. how to find all of the unexploded mines left over from countless wars around the world).

Bart felt that rats could provide a cheaper, more efficient and more locally available solution to the land-mine problem, so he began to do early research on this concept in 1997.

Bart Weetjen, founder of APOPO, with one of his HeroRATs. Click to enlarge (Photo: Getty Images)

Bart called his project APOPO, which stands for  Anti-Persoonsmijnen Ontmijnende Product Ontwikkeling (English translation: Anti-Personnel Landmines Detection Product Development).

The organization moved to Mozambique in 2000, where they partnered with the Tanzanian People’s Defence Force to help mine-clearing operations in that  country.

A HeroRAT sniffs out a a land-mine. Click to enlarge (Image courtesy of APOPO)

By 2006, APOPO’s HeroRATS were also fully integrated into land-mine detection programs in Tanzania. In 2010, APOPO began operations in Thailand as well.

Check out below to learn more about the HeroRAT’s mine-detection skills:

The reason that these rats are so good at detecting land-mines is that they have an extremely acute sense of smell, which allows them to easily identify the scent of TNT (after being trained to recognize it).

Early on, Bart realized that the HeroRATS’ amazing sense of smell wasn’t being fully utilized. In 2003, he entered APOPO in the Development Marketplace Global Competition sponsored by the World Bank.

His idea: using the rats to help detect tuberculosis as well as land-mines. APOPO won the competition, and in doing so received the necessary funding for their research into training TB-detecting HeroRATS.

A HeroRAT checks samples for tuberculosis. Click to enlarge (Image courtesy of APOPO)

TB is one of the deadliest diseases in the world. About 9 million new cases are reported annually, and the disease kills nearly 2 million people each year.

The HeroRATS give health workers a huge advantage over humans when it comes to detection of the disease.

A human lab tech can only process about 40 samples in a day; the HeroRATS can do that same amount of work in only seven minutes, and they often find TB-positive samples that the human technicians missed.

Check out the video below to learn more about he HeroRATS’ work in tuberculosis detection:

To learn more about the APOPO organization’s land-mine and tuberculosis detection programs, you can visit their website here.

African Boy Has No Option But to Use a Condom to Make a Soccer Ball

The header for this one is pretty accurate unfortunately… In a small village called Chicome, condoms are actually something commonly used to make a soccer ball (with an average 3 day life-span). Better then nothing if you ask me, and soccer is a fun game so I don think it really matters what the ball is made of but more how it’s used. Here is a link to some examples of homemade soccer balls from rural Africa.

I just recently came across an article that focused on this community in rural Africa and their passion for the three “F”s (Family, Farming, and Football). The small village known as Chicome is located in Mozambique, 150 kilometers off the beaten track and an eight-hour drive through the bush. The community survives entirely without any electricity or running water.

A woman named Jessica Hilltout lead a project called “Amen” which sought to explore, understand, and expose areas of rural Africa, and later directed focus towards the passion for soccer these rural areas shared. One of the main villages that stood out to her was Chicome. Chicome she said had a passion for Football (Soccer) that she could not believe. Despite how little the village had, she said the people were able to find true happiness every day at 4pm with football.  At this time the whistle would sound and players of all ages would compete in a daily game of football. Family members and other villagers would come to watch and share in equal excitement. The village also has a team of their best that often competes with near by villages, traveling to and from neighboring villages by bare feet.

Naturally she said the experience was eye opening, that seeing people with so little material items that could still manage to find happiness each day really gave her a new perspective. Im sure a lot of people have had similar experiences while visiting rural areas in Africa, or even other underdeveloped parts of the world. Her experience was unique because it specifically gave insight into the love for football these villages have.

It is not new news that Africa has a true passion for soccer. In fact, quite a few players have emerged from villages similar to Chicome in Africa to play at the highest levels. Check the link below for an example of an African boy who made it big: