Skoll Foundation



Skoll Awardee(s): Bart Weetjens
Award Year: 2009
Issue Area(s) Addressed: Health

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As a boy, Bart Weetjens loved all kinds of rodents. He kept them as pets and bred them to earn extra spending money. It was early 1990s and the landmine issue was being addressed in the media. While searching for an alternative detector, Bart remembered his youth pets with their logistic conveniences and easy trainability. Bart’s proposals to investigate using trained rats as landmine detectors were laughed at for a few years; but with persistence, he secured a research grant from the Belgian Government in 1997 and APOPO was launched. Since then, Bart and his colleagues developed and deployed the HeroRATS’ technology to become Africa’s preferred landmine countermeasure technology in 2006.


  • APOPO’s HeroRATS have returned 10,978,927 million square meters of suspected minefields to original populations in Mozambique, impacting more than 1.4 million individuals. In doing so, the team found and destroyed 13,262 landmines, 1,107 bombs and 26,940 Small Arms and Ammunitions (SAA). In all the countries where it works, 45,209 land mines and UXO have been destroyed.
  • In 2008 APOPO pioneered a fast and accurate TB diagnostic method based on Giant African Pouched rats’ incredible abilities to smell. It has been featured in major media around the world.
  • The total number of TB patients identified by APOPO rats is 7,356. These patients would have died if it were not for APOPO. The disease, when not discovered, is transmitted to up to 10-15 people, so APOPO saved thousands of lives.
  • Its programs in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania and Maputo, Mozambique have resulted in an increase of more than 40 percent extra case detections on samples that the clinics originally diagnosed as TB negative. The government clinic method was using microscopes, which are not nearly as effective in diagnosis.
  • In 2009, the year of the Skoll award, their annual operating budget was 1.2 million Euros. It is now 8.3 million Euros.
  • APOPO’s mine action capacity has continued to grow over the last couple of years and they have 7 manual demining teams, 54 MDRs and 3 mechanical ground preparation machines.
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© 2015 Skoll Foundation.