Mr. Massoud Hassani is a young designer living in Eindhoven (The Netherlands) and a recent graduate of the Design Academy Eindhoven whose chief project, the Mine Kafon – or mine detector in the Persian dialect of Dari – aims to resolve this significant problem in his homeland of Afghanistan. “There are between 10 and 30 million landmines in Afghanistan and only 26 million people, so potentially more mines than people,” Hassani says. Despite 7,070 kilometres separating Hassani from the town where he grew up, his childhood in the outskirts of Kabul has been the life source and sole inspiration for his work.
The Mine Kafon was inspired by the toys Hassani and his brother used to make as children to entertain themselves in the nearby desert. This project has now gone through several iterations, each hopefully getting Hassani closer to reaching the official International Mine Action Standards (IMAS) and moving the Mine Kafon from a concept, to a mass produced mine sweep that will reduce the number of active mines around the world – an amount estimated by the United Nations to be more than 110 million in 70 countries.
Hassani remembers crafting small rolling objects out of paper as a child, which would serve as toys powered by the strong winds. “We used to race against the other kids on the fields around our neighbourhood. […] While we were racing against each other, our toys rolled too fast and too far. Mostly, they landed in areas where we couldn’t go rescue them because of landmines. I still remember those toys I’d made that we lost, and watching them just roll beyond safety.”
The Mine Kafon, in its most recent form, is made mostly of bamboo and biodegradable plastics and can be assembled cheaply and easily, which lends itself to the fact that Hassani would like to see these devices roaming deserts and lands in countries that are still plagued by undetonated landmines. Each protrusion or foot from the Mine Kafon is shaped like a Frisbee. This aerodynamic shape allows the object to keep moving by catching gusts of wind from underneath.
Traditional landmine removers can cost upwards of $1,200 USD whereas the Mine Kafon can be made for $40 USD and can detonate up to four landmines before it is rendered too damaged to continue roaming the desert floor.
The materials used to make the Mine Kafon were selected due to their lightweight nature, weighing only 70 kilograms for an object the diameter of almost 2 meters, this mine diffuser is light enough to be carried by the wind, but substantial enough to stir a landmine into erupting. Being propelled by the wind is one of its greatest asset, but also one of its drawbacks. Although it does not require any other power source, it is reliant on the weather. Random gusts of wind lead to un-uniform surveying of the land, which Hassani has attempted to counter with a built-in GPS system that enables the Mine Kafon’s path to be tracked, as well as tallies the number of landmines that have been destroyed in the area. The information is transmitted to both a website and a mobile app that have been developed for this purpose and determines the safest paths to walk in a given area.
The Mine Kafon has prompted interest from the Dutch Military that spent last summer conducting landmine tests in Morocco. While the military has stated that there is still work to be done before the Mine Kafon reaches the stage of mass production, it could potentially be a viable option for locals in Afghanistan, Angola and other countries where the undetonated mines have become the problem of the inhabitants and not the armed forces who planted them.
The Mine Kafon came from modest beginnings, “Almost 20 years later, I went back to Qasaba [just outside of Kabul] and made those toys again. That was my graduation project for the Design Academy Eindhoven (2011). I remade one, making it 20 times bigger as well as heavier and stronger.” Since then, what started as a graduation project has grown and gained international attention. Hassani has promoted the Mine Kafon at Lodz Design Festival 2012 in Poland, Design Indaba in South Africa, Dutch Design Week 2012 and through a TED talk. His project will continue to gain awareness as a solo exhibit at the design-art Gallery Slott in Paris in February 2013 and will join the prestigious collection at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York in March 2013.
Hassani will continue to work on the Mine Kafon until the perfect prototype is developed and a final design is ready to implement. “Every destroyed landmine means a saved life and every life counts,” concluded Hassani.
Find out more by visiting Massoud Hassani’s blog.