Have you ever heard of bamboo bikes?
Bamboo, which is highly available in Ghana, is mainly used in making fabrics, wine, vinegar, biochemicals and pharmaceuticals. Domestically, bamboo is used to make mats, baskets and canoes.
But a Ghanaian woman named Bernice Dapaah is using bamboo to make bikes while simultaneously providing employment for other women and helping less privileged children.
Dapaah, who is the brains behind Ghana Bamboo Bikes Initiative, has helped promote equality and economic empowerment of women. She is also one of the World Economic Forum’s Young Global Leaders and is looking forward to employing 250 women in the next few years.
Currently, they have trained women and young people in rural communities to build bikes. She also hopes to work with NGOs in building a childcare where mothers can work freely without worrying about their children.
Cycling is known for being a low-carbon form of transport, and Dapaah is making it even more sustainable by making bicycles using bamboo and planting 10 bamboo trees for every tree cut. Making bamboo bikes also uses less electricity than metal ones.
“The reason we use bamboo to manufacture bicycles is because it’s found abundantly in Ghana and this is not a material we’re going to import. It’s a new innovation,” Dapaah said in an interview with World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda. “There were no existing bamboo bike builders in our country, so we were the first people trying to see how best we could utilize the abundant bamboo in Ghana.”
Dapaah, who grew up in rural Ghana, knows how something as small as a bicycle can help transform a student’s life, hence the donations.
She was raised by her grandfather and had to walk to school in her early years until she got a bicycle, making her life easier. Her background inspired her to start the Bamboo Bike Initiative with two fellow students in college.
She added in the same interview, “We had to walk three and a half hours every day before I could [get] to school. He later bought me a bike, so I finished senior high and wanted to go to university.
“When we started this initiative, I looked back and said, when I was young, I had to walk miles before I could get to school, and sometimes if I was late, I was punished. Why don’t we donate bikes for students to encourage them to study and so they can have enough time to be on books.”
For every bamboo bike sold, Dapaah gives away one to a child in the rural areas who have to walk long distances to school, hindering their academic performance.
Bamboo Bikes Initiative has so far sold around 3,000 bicycles and they plan to donate 10,000 more to school children in a period of five years.
Phoebie Shamiso Chigonde is a journalist passionate about gender equality, social development programmes and grassroots-based solution seeking initiatives. She has a passion for women and community development. Phoebie is also a radio personality at a regional commercial radio station, a platform that enables her to network with like-minded women, journalists and activists as she continues to document and tell the story of the ordinary woman from the lens of that very ordinary woman.