APOPO's mission is to develop detection rats technology to provide solutions for global problems and inspire positive social change. APOPO's vision is to solve pressing humanitarian challenges with detection rats technology. Our core values are: Quality - Demonstrating and promoting high standards in research, design, training and implementation of detection rats technology. Social Transformation - Developing skills, creating jobs, improving socio-economic and environmental conditions, releasing land for development, and combating public health issues. Innovation - Pioneering creative research and innovative solutions within a participatory learning culture. Diversity - Embracing diversity...
Apr 4, 2012

International Day for Mine Awareness

Handler Usseni Ussi, with rat Garvey
Handler Usseni Ussi, with rat Garvey

April 4th marks International Day for Mine Awareness, and APOPO remains dedicated to our mission of seeing a mine-free world.

In 2011, APOPO’s Mozambique Mine Action team found and destroyed 792 landmines, 227 Explosive Remnants of War, 2,683 Small Arms and Ammunition, and released 2,632,608  of land in the Gaza Province.

But our work in Mozambique goes beyond these numbers. It is defined by our most valuable asset: the people who make up our incredible team.

Usseni Ussi, an inhabitant of Gaza, knows what it is like to live in fear of the explosive remnants of war that lie hidden in the earth.

“During the time I grew up, there was no demining activity at all. No one could use our land. We could not even walk freely. And the community was very static as a result. There was no growth,” he recalls. 

In 2006, Ussi heard about APOPO’s demining work on the radio. When APOPO arrived in Gaza he went to the camp to see the rats he had heard about, and found employment with APOPO’s Mine Detection Rat team.
“I knew that the work would involve taking out landmines," he says. "And that was important to me.”

Now in his fifth year as a Mine Detection Rat handler, Ussi is proud of his work, proud of the rats, and proud of his place on APOPO’s team. “I believe in this approach because I can see it,” he says. “We can already see the benefits. Now, we have access to things we didn’t have access to. We can build. We can grow.”

On International Day for Mine Awareness, help us see a world free of mines.

Mar 1, 2012

HeroRAT Newsletter - February 2012

Dr. Goodall, Bart Weetjens, and SUA
Dr. Goodall, Bart Weetjens, and SUA's Prof. Ngaga

Dr. Jane Goodall pays a visit to APOPO

Internationally renowned primatologist and conservationist Dr. Jane Goodall recently spent a morning with the APOPO team – human and rat alike – as part of her larger visit to Sokoine University of Agriculture this February.

After being introduced to our work through our founder, Bart Weetjens, Dr. Goodall visited our Tanzanian headquarters for the first time in 2003. This month she was warmly welcomed back to our training facilities, where she spent a morning touring APOPO’s landmine detection training field, viewing the rats in action, and speaking with our HeroRAT trainers and staff.

Following a break at APOPO’s Tuberculosis Detection facility for tea and coffee, Dr. Goodall, along with her team,  representatives from Sokoine University, and members of the University's Roots and Shoots club, commenced the planting of 20 fruit trees to brighten the garden of our TB Detection facility.

“I admire the work APOPO is doing with their HeroRATs, on behalf of the thousands of people whose lives have been saved, and for changing the reputation of the rats for the better,” said Dr. Goodall, after completing her visit of APOPO. The entire APOPO staff was proud to present our training headquarters to Dr. Goodall and her team, and we invite her again to Morogoro anytime!

A life affected by APOPO’s work

Azarias is one of many people affected by landmines in Mozambique. In 1981, he lost his right leg after stepping on a landmine in the Pfukwe Corridor of the Mabalane District. Since then he has lost his brother, uncle and cousin, all to landmines. His livelihood, livestock, was also at risk. 

When asked about the mines, Azarias looked down and said, “When I heard the loud noise of a mine, I felt sad and thought of my past years. I knew it was either the life of a human being, or of a livestock that had been taken away.”

APOPO has since been clearing mines in the Mabalane District, which was one of the largest minefields in Mozambique. APOPO’s Mine Action Program in the Gaza Province has so far positively affected the lives of over 117,500 people.

Azarias smiles, “There is happiness, our land has been returned to us, freedom of grazing for livestock, no restrictions on where we walk. The mines have been a serious problem and we have already seen a reduction in people losing their lives. We are very happy.”


Surveying the Thai-Cambodian border

Along the Thai-Cambodian border, the APOPO-PRO survey teams have now detailed more than 50 million square meters of Suspected Hazardous Areas (SHA). As a result, the surveyed land was reclassified as follows:

• 5% Cancelled Land
• 25% Confirmed Hazardous Areas (CHA)
• 70% SHA or Area With Restriction (ARW), pending further technical survey.  

Alongside the four non-technical survey (NTS) teams, APOPO-PRO had two small technical survey (TS) teams, whose role was to verify information being collected. Through this verification process, 476 mines were found along with 876 explosive remnants of war (ERW). These finds confirm that the NTS methodology is correctly identifying areas containing mines.

With such a promising start for the survey program, APOPO hopes to secure further funding to ensure that we continue to play a significant role in helping the Thailand Mine Action Center (TMAC) achieve their goal of a mine-free nation. 

Lieutenant GeneraI Chatree Changrian, Director General of TMAC, fully supports APOPO’s efforts: “APOPO has made a substantial contribution, and has become one of the most important partners of TMAC…we believe that APOPO’s efforts can contribute to a much more efficient survey to facilitate the land release process, which will bring Thailand as well as other countries in this region many steps closer to full compliance with the APMBC.” 


A Day in the Life of a HeroRAT-in-training

HeroRATs put their best paws forward for the camera in their latest cinematic effort, “A Day in the Life of a HeroRAT-in-training,” specially filmed for GlobalGiving’s 2012 Video Contest. Even though the HeroRATs were not declared winners this time around, the three-minute video remains featured on our GlobalGiving project page, Train HeroRATs for life-saving detection missions.

The video follows a typical morning in the lives of future landmine detection HeroRATs, as they train hard inTanzania to fulfill their dreams of one day saving lives in Mozambique or another mine-affected country.

All GlobalGiving Video Contest entrants were judged by Laura Knudson, Education Program Manager for the Green Living Project, a film production company that documents global stories of sustainability. Although the HeroRATs were not chosen among the final five, the rats are still proud of their effort and invite you to view the video: either right here on GlobalGiving, or here on APOPO’s Youtube Channel.

Stay tuned for more films in the future as the HeroRATs shake, rattle, and roll for the camera!


Help us improve our communications by taking our survey!

APOPO’s HeroRAT team is interested in improving our communications with you, our donors and supporters! We would greatly appreciate your feedback in one or both of these brief surveys:

APOPO’s Online Communications Survey
APOPO’s Adopt-a-Rat Program Survey



Thanks for reading, and until next time,

The HeroRAT team

Feb 1, 2012

HeroRAT Newsletter - January 2012

Attendees to APOPO
Attendees to APOPO's TB Workshop

APOPO ranks 24 in Global Top 100 Best NGOs list!

This month, The Global Journal published its inaugural “Top 100 Best NGOs” list, the first international ranking of its kind. An initial group of 2,000 non-governmental organizations was researched, edited, and eventually cut to 400, before the final group of 100 was selected – and APOPO came in at No. 24

The Global Journal is a print and online publication based in Geneva and New York that covers the issues and players shaping global governance today. All organizations considered for the Top 100 were assessed based on five key criteria in relation to their humanitarian efforts: impact, innovation, transparency, sustainability and efficiency.

Recognizing the role we play as influential agents of large-scale change, “The Global Journal has sought to move beyond outdated clichés and narrow conceptions about what an NGO is and does. From humanitarian relief to the environment, public health to education, microfinance to intellectual property, NGOs are increasingly at the forefront of developments shaping the lives of millions of people around the world.”

APOPO is excited to have made the list, among an incredible group of worthy organizations. With this validation, we will continue to strengthen our impact and further our efforts to provide solutions to global humanitarian detection challenges. You can take a look at the full list of Top 100 Best NGOs here


Wrapping up 2011 with a Win

For creatures that live and work so close the ground, the HeroRATs definitely finished their year on a high note with the news that we had been declared Second Winner in McKinsey’s Social Innovation Video Contest! Thanks to the tireless voting and promoting of our friends and fans (that means you!), the good news came as an early holiday gift to APOPO’s HeroRATs, when the contest winners were announced on December 13th, 2011.

Our video entry, “Training HeroRATs to sniff out TB,” received 709 votes throughout the ten-day voting period and placed us Second out of 11 Finalists. We were honored to be included with First Winner, “Embrace,” and Third Winner, “The sOccket,” whose videos (along with the Fan Favorite Winner submitted by “Duto:IRIS”) can be watched here.

The top three winners will be included in a print edition of McKinsey’s publication What Matters (out this month!), will be featured in a special TV program co-produced by Link TV and Viewchange.org, and will be honored at a networking reception in New York City. Winners have also already been featured on the Huffington Post’s Impact Blog!

We’d like to send our gRATitude to everyone who voted for our video in the contest. Thanks for your support! 

TB Workshop a Top Success

In December, APOPO held a successful TB workshop at our headquarters in Tanzania. Representatives of the National Tuberculosis and Leprosy Program (NTLP) were invited to take a behind-the-scenes look at our TB Detection Rats, in order to better understand the processes and importance of our collaborative efforts to increase the rate of new case findings in Tanzania. 

There were 27 in attendance, including Regional TB and Leprosy Coordinators (RTLCs), District TB and Leprosy Coordinators (DTLCs), and lab technicians from collaborating DOTS Centers. Professor Kazwala, from Sokoine University of Agriculture, was also present, along with members of APOPO’s TB Detection team. 

The workshop started with a demonstration of the TB Detection HeroRATs, followed by a video clip explaining how detection rats technology works as a diagnostic tool. The 2011 data was then presented, showing the total number of samples screened by rats during second-line screening, the total number of patients screened, and the additional cases identified by rats, from each of the DOTS centers APOPO partners with. The floor was then opened for discussion. 

A newly developed reporting system was adopted, which is designed to assist the DOTS Centers in calling back patients with new cases identified by the rats. A consensus was reached for all involved to continue working closely to ensure diligent patient follow up. With the new system in place, it is hoped that the NTLP will gather strong evidence that highlights APOPO's contribution to the TB control effort in Tanzania. 

HeroRATs hit the newsstands in Germany

Extra, extra! The HeroRATs found their way onto newsstands in Germany on the first day of the new year, when popular women’s magazine Brigitte published an ode to our heroes in their opening issue of 2012.

Beginning with the encouragement to “Forget everything you know about rats. One day they will save the world,” the article paid homage to the human-and-rat-team of APOPO through its detailed description of our work, and by spreading the word about our furry heroes throughout the country. Its publication resulted in new adoptions and donations from over 130 German supporters, all of whom referenced the article as how they heard about APOPO – now that’s some influential liteRATure!

The HeroRATs thoroughly enjoyed their moment in the journalistic spotlight of writer Claudia Münster (an adopter of HeroRAT, Tyson!) and under the flashing lights of photographer Ulla Lohmann. We would like to send many squeaks of thanks their way – and of course, to the adopters and donors who took an interest in our work after reading the magazine. If you haven’t had a chance to catch the article yet, be sure to download a PDF of it here.

APOPO in attendance at the 11MSP in Cambodia

From November 28 to December 2, the 11th Meeting of States Parties to the Mine Ban Treaty convened in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. The annual meeting – also known as the MSP – not only includes the 159 States Parties, but also representatives from States Not Party, civilians, landmine survivors, and delegations of experts from organizations such as the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL). In attendance were Håvard Bach, APOPO’s Head of Mine Action, and Andrew Sully, Program Manager for APOPO’s Thailand Mine Action Program.

Attendees were greeted with a keynote address by Song Kosal, a Cambodian ICBL Youth Ambassador and landmine survivor. Her address implored attendees to follow the theme of this year’s meeting and “Push For Progress” by accelerating mine clearance, sustaining funding and cooperation, destroying existing stockpiles of landmines, and ensuring the rights of survivors, among many other crucial goals.

Cambodia’s well-known struggle with landmines – deadly reminders of past civil war – causes many to feel that, as Ms. Kosal stated, “the heart of the mine ban movement is in Cambodia.” Bringing the 11MSP to Phnom Penh allowed visitors to take note of the progress that has been made, but also to take stock of the remaining work to be done in a country that lives daily with landmines.

In 2010, APOPO found our way to the region when we launched our Thailand Mine Action program with the help of a grant from the Lien Foundation. The team is currently at work in the Thai province of Trat, surveying land along the Cambodian border. To learn more about our work in the Southeast Asia, visit our Thailand Mine Action page.

KKNH Sponsors “Elvis” the HeroRAT

The mission of German NGO Kriegskindernothilfe (KKNH) is to provide emergency aid for child victims of war, and for many years, the organization has supported Elvis, a young landmine survivor from Sarajevo. KKNH have paid for Elvis’ operations, financed his new prostheses, and supported his social and professional development. 

Now, in a fitting and heartfelt gesture, the team of KKNH has connected with APOPO to fund the full training program of one landmine detection HeroRAT, named – you guessed it – Elvis! In doing so, they endeavor to provide support not only for victims of war, but also for preventative measures which aim to reduce the landmine impact in other affected regions. 

The work of the HeroRATs was first introduced to Kurt Amert of KKNH through a friend and fundraiser, Luise Zempel. Luise, together with her knitting group, had initially raised funds for APOPO in order to support Ziko the HeroRAT as part of our shared adoption program.“This commitment, which we now begin with APOPO, strengthens our work, because with you we now can also act preventively,” says Luise. “And – we think this is an important emergency aid, which is deeply rooted in the name Kriegskindernothilfe.”

APOPO is grateful to Kurt, Luise, Elvis & the KKNH organization for their important advocacy work, raising awareness and support for landmine survivors. We have no doubt the young trainee rat, Elvis, will carry his name with pride as he goes about his daily detection missions, sniffing out mines and preventing the loss of lives and limbs. 

Elvis shared his story and his thoughts on his HeroRAT namesake with APOPO! If you would like to read it in his own words, please click here


The HeroRATs thank you for your interest in our work, and wish you a prosperous start to 2012!

Best wishes,

The HeroRAT team


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