Over 50 million land mines remain unaccounted for in countries such as Angola, Cambodia, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Mozambique. People still regularly lose their limbs or even their lives to these hidden killers. Disarming even one mine is estimated to cost around $1,200, and considering that Angola alone has over 20 million of them, the total required to rid the country of this terrible plight could be over $24 billion.

Massoud Hassani, an Afghan designer and former refugee, has built his own low-cost detonation device. Weighing in at 70 kilograms (150 lb), it’s heavy enough to trigger a mine but light enough to be propelled by the wind alone. It looks like a dandelion and moves like a tumbleweed. Made out of bamboo and biodegradable plastic, this device can detonate three or four charges before it is completely destroyed. The cost of producing one Mine Kafon is just $40.

The Mine Kafon also has a built-in GPS tracking system that can detect the movements of each individual device and shows where a detonation has taken place. This helps people map out which areas are mine-free and which aren’t.

Nevertheless, the Mine Kafon is still in early stages of development and has drawbacks. It is possible for one such device to not trigger every mine it rolls over, especially if it has already detonated a few times. Another hiccup involves the terrain. No matter how hard the wind is blowing, chances are that it will not be able to push the Mine Kafon up a steep hill, out of a ditch, or through a heavily wooded area.

Hassani is aware of these issues and says that future generations of the device will be equipped with electric motors for increased mobility and metal detectors to map out every metal object, in case of a failed detonation. Even if this is not the perfect device, it’s a step in the right direction.


Ethiopia has the least access to clean drinking water among all African countries. Women and children from most villages have to travel many hours a day to collect water, which is oftentimes dirty and contaminated from being shared with livestock and other animals.

“Warka Water” is a solution designed by two Italian engineers and is based on a very simple principle. It traps water vapor from the air through condensation. Standing 9 meters (30 ft) tall, the framework is made out of bamboo and a special polyethylene fabric that collects water droplets. It weighs around 60 kilograms (130 lb) and can be put together by four people in a couple of hours without scaffolding. Each pillar can produce around 100 liters (26 gallons) of clean, fresh water a day from thin air with no effort at all.

The Ethiopian word warka refers to a wild fig tree native to the country. The warka tree symbolizes fertility and generosity and is commonly used for public gatherings and school classes.

The Warka Water project aims to be up and running in 2015 in some villages across the country. It stands as a simple, cheap, and elegant solution to solve a small part of a great problem.

2014 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 16,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 6 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.


How did a stray dog end up competing in a six day race across the Amazon with a team of Swedish extreme athletes? Well, it all started with a meatball…
The Adventure Racing World Championship is a 430-mile race that takes place in the Ecuadorian rainforest. Combining hiking, trekking, mountain biking, and kayaking, this competition is certainly not for the faint of heart. Mikael Lindnord and his team, composed of three other extreme athletes, had made it all the way to the final stages of the competition when they were unexpectedly joined by a fifth team member!
Lindnord and the team had stopped for a meal break when a skinny stray dog wandered up. Doing what any animal lover would, Lindnord offered the pup some of his meal and like that made a new friend. After this short pause, the team carried on in their adventure, trudging for hours through mud and steep terrain and the dog followed them the whole time!

Stray Dog Joins Swedish Trekkers on an Endurance Race in the Amazon
“Maybe he felt that he wanted an adventure,” Lindnord told TODAY. “He took a chance and [found] us friendly.”
The team named this pooch, Arthur, after the courageous King, and he came with them through the rest of the race. When the team stopped for a meal, they shared part of the food they had with Arthur. This sort of competition is exhausting for people who have been training for years, but to a dog who is new to this sort of intense exercise, it is even more exhausting.


We checked our backpacks for more food and we found these two cans of soft food,” Lindnord tells PRI. “We took one bite each and we just gave the rest to Arthur, because he was really exhausted.”

Arthur completed a 20-mile hike with the team and 36-mile kayaking journey. Race organizers warned Lindnord and his team that taking Arthur in a kayak posed a threat to the safety of all parties involved. Thinking this might be where their paths diverted, the team set out in their kayaks, but Arthur followed and tried to doggy paddle alongside. Seeing his desperation, Lindnord gave in and hoisted Arthur into his boat.

Lindnord tells PRI, “You can’t reject a dog that had put in so much energy into you. It felt like he was one of the team members, and we didn’t want to let him down.”
Lindnord even shared his Gore-Tex jacket with Arthur to help him endure the cold after being soaked in the river. As the race organizers predicting, kayaking with a dog wasn’t the easiest feat. Arthur kept jumping into the river to try and catch fish! But every time he did, Lindnord was there to get him back on the boat. No man … or dog, left behind.

After the team completed the race, they took Arthur for a vet check-up. He had sustained a few injuries during the trek and spent a couple days recovering with the help of the specialized vet team. There was no way that Lindnord could leave such a valiant companion behind and decided he would adopt Arthur and take him back to Sweden.


The team may have come in at 12th place, but they came back with the best prize of all … a new, loving friend. Enjoy resting in your new forever home, Arthur!