“Landmines are among the most barbaric weapons of war, because they continue to kill and maim innocent people long after the war itself has ended. Also, fear of them keeps people off the land, and thus prevents them from growing food.” – Kofi Annan. It is estimated that there are still about 30 million undetonated landmines buried in Afghanistan, waiting for a poor soul to step upon. An Afghan artist has thought of a new, low-cost and wind powered piece of art to counter this problem.
A classic example of thinking outside-the-box: once started off as a graduation project for at the Design Academy Eindhoven, the Mine Kafon project now is on its way to radically change minesweeping worldwide. So what is it exactly? As shown on the picture, the Mine Kafon consist of a metal core, lots of bamboo sticks with footpads made of biodegradable plastic attached to it. The core is equipped with a GPS chip, making it able to check its whereabouts and the paths covered. The Frisbee-like design of the footpads catch the wind, making the 17 kilogram weighting object move forward.
Propelled by the wind, the Mine Kafon will roll down the deserts of Afghanistan until one of its footpads hit a landmine. The current prototype can take on four mines until the loss of footpads makes it unable to move any longer. With the core remaining undamaged, it can easily be tracked, reequipped with new footpads and released hurtling down the Afghan plains again, until it runs on another landmine.
It is calculated that the conventional way to track and clear one single mine costs almost 900 euro. One Mine Kafon costs 40 euro and thus can in theory clear a mine for only 10 euro. Surely it is cost-efficient, but it is to doubt whether it will be really effective to clear minefields. The Dutch military, who helped testing the prototype in the Moroccan dessert, noted the Mine Kafon in its current version not effective enough to be used as minesweeper. The GPS tracking makes it possible to map the routes covered, but some Mine Kafons crisscrossing a field is not enough to declare it ‘free of landmines’. Also, the Mine Kafon can only be used on flat, windy terrain for it will not climb hills, cross rivers or move when the wind doesn’t blow.
Personally however, I don’t believe the Mine Kafon should be compared with other minesweeping techniques. It should be perceived the way it is, as a piece of art. It costs little to produce, will move as the wind pleases and can be followed by GPS. That it will clear the occasional landmine on its path is only a blessing. After all, to quote the inventor Massoud Hassani: “One less landmine means one saved life.”