Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Turn Your Swords into.....Espresso Machines

One of my favorite books is Donovan Webster's Aftermath which chronicles the after affects of war. The opening chapter discusses the work of the French demineurs -- men whose occupation is to scour the countryside of France searching for unexploded ordnance -- from World War One. They collect tons of the stuff and store it. Then, a couple times a year, they take the stuff to a beach, wait for the tide to go out, and then dig a hole with a backhoe. They ease the ordnance along with fresh explosives into the sand pit, sandwiching the shells that contain the dread mustard gas in the middle. They cover the hole, wait for the tide to come back in and then blow it all up. I guess the most mind boggling thing is that so much ordnance is around almost 90 years after it was dropped.

A fellow in Ethiopia, the birth place of coffee, has found a more ingenious use for the exploded mortar shells which litter the Ethiopian country side.

From the BBC with a hat tip to BoingBoing:

In his workshop in Mekele, just 120 km from Ethiopia's border with Eritrea, Azmeraw Zeleke is turning burnt-out shells into cylinders used in coffee machines.

Most of the shells are left over from the 1998-2000 war between the two countries.


He uses old mortar shells, which stand about one metre high, to make his coffee machines.

He cuts off the pointed ends, seals them and puts holes into the aluminium cylinder. The cylinder channels the water, coffee and milk.


Coffee is a major export from Ethiopia and plays a big role in life.

After meals, the traditional coffee ceremony allows family and friends to get together to share news and discuss the issues of the day.


Cafe owner Haile Abraha bought one of Mr Azmeraw's machines a few months ago.

"I had one other imported machine but this one is much better. It is relatively cheap. The price is fair. The machine is good and it makes good coffee."

But Mr Azmeraw says it can be difficult to convince people to buy because of the mortar shell.

"These shells have all been used. We all need peace and we don't want war but once these shells have been used, we should use our skills to do something with them.

"Sometimes I think about the fact they were used for war but I want to change them to do something good. They could be a symbol of war but I am doing something good out of the bad."

Since he started production five or six years ago, Mr Azmeraw has sold hundreds of machines - he cannot remember exactly how many.

Each one costs about $1,300. Most of them have been sold to people in the Mekele area.