Project Rwanda: Bicycle-based development
Continuing with my end-of-the-year cleaning and de-cluttering of my home, I found myself flipping through Outside Magazine‘s September issue and was captivated by a story about the Wooden Bike Classic in Rwanda.
Almost fifteen years after the genocide, tiny Rwanda is suddenly a hot adventure destination, the new darling of multinational investors, and, says mountain-bike legend Tom Ritchey, one extra-long bicycle short of a comeback.
Videos and photos of Rwanda’s Wooden Bike Classic can be found here, but I was most intrigued to learn about Project Rwanda, an organization “committed to the economic development of Rwanda through initiatives based on the bicycle as a tool and symbol of hope. Our goal is use the bike to help boost the Rwandan economy as well as re-brand Rwanda as a beautiful and safe place to do business and visit freely.”
One of the cool things to come out of Project Rwanda is the “coffee bike,” a 45-pound, all-steel bicycle with special modifications (e.g., V-brakes, eight-speed drivetrain, long-wheelbase) that allow coffee farmers to cut hours off the time it takes to haul beans from fields to the processing plants — a job that is still done on foot throughout much of Africa. By delivering more beans at a faster pace, farmers and workers are able to demand a premium for fresher product.
World Vision plans to offer two-year micoloans to help Rwandans cover the $185 cost of a coffee bike. Feel free to donate directly to any of the above organizations (easy to do via online donate buttons on their sites); Project Rwanda also sells a $1,000 replica of the coffee bike in the U.S., with proceeds supporting its cause.