Bart JC Weetjens
Fellow Since 2006
This profile was prepared when Bart JC Weetjens was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2006.
The New Idea
Bart’s cheaper, quicker, more scalable, yet efficient technology relies on the high olfactory sense of the African Giant Pouched rat that is endemic to sub-Saharan Africa. Bart forms teams of three trained human deminers and one trained rat to detect mines. Relying on local populations to form the human resource base, the technology not only provides jobs for an economically disadvantaged group, it also reduces the risk of death and to a certain extent the costs of demining. Current demining techniques have failed to keep up with the demand for more cost-effective and scalable demining services in Africa, largely because they are expert- based and expensive. By relying on locally available resources Bart’s model permits locally-driven solutions in landmine-affected areas making it efficient, scalable, and in the long run promoting competitiveness in humanitarian demining. His work therefore represents a significant shift in the field from landmine-affected countries depending on foreign expertise to having the power to control the demining process. With a growing global movement to ban the use of landmines, the International Mines Action Standards (IMAS) for the use of Rats that he has helped set up almost formalized and which eleven African Great Lakes Region countries have adopted, Bart's model is replicable in Africa and other continents affected by landmines.