Graduated in Antwerp, Belgium, product designer Bart Weetjens has a focus on appropriate technologies for developing countries. After a couple of years of industrial experience in Europe, Bart initiated the use of trained giant African pouched rats as an alternative and sustainable landmine detector, in response to the global landmine challenge.
With support from Antwerp University, Bart created the social profit organisation APOPO in 1998, and with a team of researchers he developed detection rats technology (HeroRATS). Since 2000 APOPO’s headquarters are situated at the Sokoine University of Agriculture in Tanzania. In 2003 HeroRATS were firstly tested in the real minefields in Mozambique, and in 2004 they were accredited according to International Mine Action Standards (IMAS). In 2006, the heads of state of 11 African Great Lakes Region Countries (ICGLR) have endorsed HeroRATS for replication in the region.
Bart also initiated HeroRATS for the early detection of pulmonary tuberculosis. While detection rats technology is being standardized in operational R&D phase, HeroRATs have saved already more than 1.600 lives and prevented over 16,000 healthy people from contracting TB. HeroRATS received multiple international recognitions, including the 2003 World Bank’s Development Marketplace global competition.
Bart has been elected an ASHOKA fellow and a SCHWAB fellow to the World Economic Forum. He won the Skoll Awards for social Entrepreneurship in 2009. Bart is a Zen Buddhist priest who lives with his wife and two daughters in Tanzania.