Bicycles as Sustainable Development Aid [Kornmann]

Bicycles as Sustainable Development Aid [Kornmann]

Newsgroups: bit.listserv.devel-l Message-ID: <> Date: Tue, 22 Feb 1994 19:18:17 -0800 Reply-To: Chip Benowitz Subject: Fwd: Bicycles As Sustainable Developement Aid [Posted here per request of --chipb]



Transport and Development-Aid

In the so-called "third-world-countries", major part of transport is based on human- or animal-driven means.These means don't consume fuel, are no hazard to environment and can be maintained by local means. Today's Development-Aid mainly focuses on the propagation of fuel-based transport-systems, which lead to dependence of imports of machinery, fuel, and spares.

Besides this dependency, forced on a country, tractors, cars and lorries are not affordable for most people in the poorer countries in this world.So,use of big machinery must lead to centralisation-processes in farming. Larger farming-units often leave the grassroot-people behind and increase the armies of the unemployed. Also,with time,heavy tractors can ruin the soil, some scientists now favor smaller units and the use of ox-plows instead.


In some way, the south of Uganda is a blessed country, it's soil is fertile, crops grow at any time in the year. With a small piece of land, a family won't starve there, if the rain is enough.But the Country has not yet recovered from the terror of Idi Amin and the wars, People die of Measles,Polio,Thetanus,Tuberculosis or Wooping Cough. Malaria and Aids are a constant threat.All these diseases are somehow preventable, besides Aids and Polio also treatable.But al medical treatments cost, and in this time, short after the wars, there is virtually no social system. So a family needs money for immunizations of their children and also for school-fees.

So even the self-sustainig farmers in Uganda have to get some money, by selling their crops on the markets.

Bicycles for transport of food and water.

A bicycle in a farmers family means, that food can be brought to a market in larger quantities. In effect, a man on a bicycle can transport seven times as much bananas to the market than a woman. In Uganda and most African countries women are the "traditional means of transport" for food and water. Men don't transport water, if there is no technical means .(As a proof,a readers letter to the Ugandan newspaper NEW VISION of 9.April is included). Springs with good water are often far distant from a home. A woman can carry about 20 l of water on her head. On a bicycle, 40 - 80 l of water can be transported over a much longer distance in the same time. So for small-scale farmers in Uganda, a bicycle is very helpful to improve the standard of living for the whole family.

Bicycles as taxis

For short-distance transport of people, there exist bicycle-taxis, which consist of a bicycle with a cushion on the (reinforced) carrier. These so-called "border-borders" really beat the asian rickshaws in speed and efficiency. They can pass any road and are by no means humilating for driver and passenger, as there's no shouting necessary to communicate and the passenger immediately sees, when the driver is getting problems, when the goings get rough on the hills. So both can walk up the hill,in a democratic way..Anyway, having a bicycle for a person can mean, to have a basis for earning a living.

The bicycle-Project

Two years ago, Emeram and Hannes of Germany have started a small project at St.Moses ,an orphanage near Jinja. First, they wanted just to build up a bicycle-workshop for improving the technical skills of the children. With private means, they bought some boxes of bicycles of a local general merchant. They taught the elder children, how to assemble the bicycles.

Selling these bicycles was not really a problem, but unfortunately, even a bicycle can be not affordable for somebody. At the moment, in Uganda a bicycle costs a minimum of 85.000 to 100.000 Ugandan shillings. A minimum salary can be as low as 10.000 a month, so some people never can afford that.

So , they decided, to sell the bicycles for a more symbolic price of 30.000 shillings to people in need. The rest of the money they collected of some friends in Germany. That was, how the "bicycle-fosterships" started.

Some people suggested, to export used bicycles from Europe, but our "modern" european bicycles are really not "tough" enough for african conditions. Also, the availability of spares excluded that idea. It showed out, that the only adapted type of bicycle is the old "heavy" english type, how it is still common and produced in India and China.

Distribution of the bicycles

The selection of receivers, that where really in need, was a certain difficulty, everybody needed a bicycle. Hannes and Emeram therefore decided, to leave that cruel task to somebody more familiar with people and country. By delegating the choice to NGO's (Non governmental organizations), that have existed in Uganda for some years, they solved the problem.

In Jinja is the headquarters of the Gonzaga Gonza youth association. This association consists of 250 groups. Every group consists of 5 to 9 people, that plant vegetables, breed animals, or produce bricks. To bring the produced goods to the local markets, is one of the major problems of these groups. So our "sponsored" bicycles where quite helpful. The choice of the groups, that received bicycles, was made by a committee, headed by father Kees, the chief of the association. About 90 bicycles have been distributed up to now. Ekikkoza Alima Women's group is one of the selected groups. These women work together a field and use the bicycle for transportation of their crops. When they got their bicycle, they made a big feast for Adelheid and Emeram (see picture).

Last year, many of our friends visited St. Moses, to work with the project. Accomodation for these visitors got a problem, so a roudhut was build.Mr. Richard Kissamadu, who grew up at St.Moses, the boss of the bicycle-workshop, was architekt. He is now our coordinator at Jinja. He is doing a great job for us- "mwewale njo" to Richard, and also "dankesch n" to the Partnerschaftsb rse dritte Welt (partnership third world,Karlsruhe), who sponsored part of that really very nice roundhouse (with straw-roof). Our favorite sponsor, Mr. "Mzee" Segali of the village Kiriowa, gave us the plot. We are his neighbors now.

By chance, several years ago, Hannes visited the "Salem health-colony" at Mbale, next to Mount Elgon. At Mbale, health workers are trained. These health-workers visit people on the countryside and give them council about immunization for children, Aids-prevention,about basic hygienics like using boiled water, when no clean water is available, going to doctors, before it's too late.., they even can give first aid. Each health-worker has to visit several 100 houses, which can be quite distant from each other.A health-worker does this for a certificate and the hope, that , in future, there will be some recognition for their necessary Job. To improve the mobility of these health-workers, we supplied a number of bicycles. Mr. Jobson Namulego is one of the 7 health-workers of the Nankusi-zone. I met him, when he came back from Salem, his wife and child on the (sponsored) bicycle. At Nankusi, the major problem is the distance to a good water- supply, as the zone is really up-hill. So people have to be convinced, not to use the water of the near creek. Jobson has to share the bicycle with the other healthworkers of his zone, as there are 12 zones around salem, and many more bicycles are be needed.

Among the health-workers of Mbale are also nurses and midwifes. For the nurses, we needed the special "female" type of bicycle.

Last year, it seemed to be very difficult, to get bicycles for females in Uganda. Adelheid reported, that there are virtually no bicycles adapted for women (with traditional skirts) available in Uganda. But, fortunately, the situation has changed a bit this year.

In April, Hannes found a source for bicycles for women (maybe it was an error of the importer?), and he could get some boxes with 60 bicycles, witch are now assembled in Mbale.So, at least there, things are changing for women.

One of the females ,that got a bicycle, is Margret Namojja. She is mobilising people for Imunisations. She has to cover a big area and has to visit as many people as possible. UWESO (Uganda Women's Effort to Save Orphans),Kumi branch(near Mbale) tries to provide and coordinate all possible assistance to orphans in the district . That group also got a bicycle, as a means of transport was necessary.

In Mai, 35 bicycles had been distributed at Mbale, 18 of these for women.

Another project is the "Rukararwe Partnership for rural development". It is situated in the highlands of west Ankole some km's far of the small cities Bushenyi and Ishasha.

This organization makes seminars for improved farming, they teach agroforestery (alley-cropping). Trees in the middle of the crops can be useful in different ways. They provide shade for the crops, some fix Nitrogen of the atmosphere, some can be used for firewood or timberwood, some even deliver fruit.They have a tree-nursery with 28 different species of trees. The use of ox-plows is encouraged instead of the traditional means of working a field ,the hoe, operated by a women.

For reducing the amount of consumed firewood, improved stoves are constructed. The same goal has the development of solar cookers. The organization also covers different social aspects. They have a medical service, where a "western doctor" and a "traditional healer" sit together at one table with a sick person/patient, and together they diagnose and treat the sick person. The treatment mainly bases on herb- medicines, which are affordable for the people there.

There are many other very promising aspects in that project. What convinced me most, is that the coordinator of the project, Nyine Bitahwa, is one of the few Ugandans, who after a long time in Europe, has come back to his native country, to help his compatriots. He knows about the real problems in his country and knows about the problems related with tradition (he had SOME problems with his mother and his grandfather). Nyine is married with Astrid, a german nurse, which is able, to validate the success of the herb-medicines. To me, the whole project seemed to be something, not planned somewhere in Europe or America, where people can't know all about an african country, but to be a real African project, that will sustain and not fail after a time,when the "experts" have left.

One major problem at Rukararwe is, that most staff-members live quite distant from the project itself. Bicycles are necessary. So Heiner and Tobias from Halle (former East-germany) have installed a bicycle- workshop there and have left also 6 bicycles.One of these is used by Mr. Geoffrey Kawempe, the photographer and printer of the project. He has to visit all different places of the project and has to cover distances. Later we have also sponsored an additional Roundhouse for staff-members and (sometimes) visitors.


Up to now, about 30 visitors (from East- and Westgermany,women and men) have visited "our" projects and have coworked.

Maybe, they have not seen as many lions and elephants as most tourists and travelers,but they had the possibility,to learn something about "another" africa. They had the possibility,to live with the people there, to communicate and to work together with them.

There is an Africa outside the national parks and the big cities, where people are living. They are not so different from us, when You get to know them. They work hard, to earn their living,but they are under the constant pressure of an unforgiving nature and even more under the pressure of our "developed nations", which see Africa mostly as a source for cheap coffee, cheap cotton, and as a market for weapons and other "useful" goods. We think, that development-aid should not only look for the necessities of the (they call themselves) "donors", but also look for the necessities of the receivers. As we have seen, and "indigenous people" support that opinion, bicycles are a necessity in Uganda.

Up to now,there is no bicycle-factory in East-Africa. But there is still hope, that one of the bicycle-manufacturers goes there and starts a production, at least a production of bicycle-frames.I think, it would be a good project for the governmental development-aid, adapted to the real needs of the people.

We shall continue our private small-scale-work,but we hope, that other private organizations of other countries pick up the idea of the "bicycle-fostership" visitors and apply it in other countries of our so- called "developed world".

************************************************************************ Helmut Kornmann c/o Jugendhilfe Ostafrika Kolbergerstr. 2 B, D-76139 Karlsruhe, Germany Email: Tel: ++49-721-6091-415 ++49-721-689080 Fax: ++49-721-6091-413 telex: 7825931


Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar
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