If I had a Bicycle …

“I would definitely use (a bicycle) for transporting my food from the garden.”   

In rural Uganda, accessing basic needs such as food and water, healthcare, education, and jobs in neighboring urban centers is a daily challenge due to great distances and the fact that the few resources are available only for the majority. Riding a bicycle is four times faster than walking, yet only 36% of Ugandans own a bicycle, and even less in the rural areas. The initial investment necessary to purchase a new bike, around $200 US dollars, is out of reach for many low-income families, yet many continue to hope that one day they’ll be able to afford their own bicycle. It is the voices of local Ugandans which continue to resonate with the US-based team working to bring Bandha Bikes to fruition. And it is the local voices of Ugandans that continue to influence, shape, and inspire the vision and inspiration of what Bandha Bikes hopes to share with Ugandans in the upcoming year.

With the plan to pilot late this summer, Hatch International’s Bandha Bikes team has been hard at work developing a bamboo bicycle which can be made locally and affordably in Uganda as well as developing a comprehensive program that includes empowerment opportunities for women and educational workshops for all. The third prototype has recently been completed with a stronger design and large rack to carry ample goods, making this design more adequate for rural Ugandan families. Potential add-ons such as baskets, rear seats, and front lights are currently under consideration with the hopes of enhancing livelihood opportunities for our partners, particularly women.

In addition to the technical developments, a key component of the project involves delivering a set of educational workshops available to all in the communities where the project is implemented. Aside from exclusively introducing the technology, the educational workshops will ensure that the bikes are used to benefit those who need them most and maintain overall sustainability of the project’s larger social goals. Educational lesson themes include financial planning, gender equity, and community resource mobilization. The Bandha Bikes team has received initial assessments on two of the three lesson plans from community members on the ground, and further improvements will be formulated in the pilot this summer to gain additional feedback. Trust, rapport, consistent communication, and transparency are critical factors in maintaining positive relationships with partners in Uganda. And these relationships continue to be crucial in building success of Bandha Bikes project.

After the successful piloting of the bike building and community education in-country, Bandha Bikes aims to scale the project further in Uganda and eventually through the US specialty bicycle market. As the market demand for the bikes grows the project will strive to expand the manufacturing capacity, which in turn will create more jobs and provide more subsidized bicycles for low income families.

Bandha Bikes would like to thank to the US-based team for their countless volunteer hours developing the project, our Ugandan partners who provide valuable insight and a voice for their own communities, and to all those who have helped the project progress this far. With your support Bandha Bikes has the potential to enhance opportunities for young people, women, and entire villages by increasing access to basic needs and resources, and improving overall health and wellness.

Hatch International’s Bandha Bikes projects aims to improve the well-being of impoverished Ugandans by providing rural communities with economically and environmentally sustainable bicycles. For more information on Bandha Bikes or to help support the project please click here.

This blog post was written by Laurel Hamilton and Song Nguyen, Co-Directors of Hatch International’s Bandha Bikes Project