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South Africa - Pedal-power Plan for Rural Communities

A fresh look at the use of pedal power to get every day items working is being considered for South Africa's rural areas. The concept has already met with a lot of success in poverty-stricken Guatemala where a number of people are using odd-looking pedal-powered inventions to make their lives easier.

The biciliquidora or bike blender which was showcased in Cape Town recently is just one example of how to put pedal power to work. The design is relatively simple – an ordinary kitchen blender which is mounted above a bicycle frame on which a person sits and pedals to get the blender working. It may sound completely crazy, but the design is already being used regularly to produce an organic aloe vera shampoo which is sold in local markets or to tourists.

The unusual biciliquidora design was showcased at the Velo Mondial conference in Cape Town. The Velo Mondial organization encourages people to use the bicycle in all aspects of life. This year's conference was focused on the potential role that the bicycle could have in alleviating poverty. Many of the designs originate with a group of farmers from the Guatemalan highlands who started building pedal powered machines over ten years ago. With the help of the Canadian organization Pedal Energy Development Alternatives (PEDAL), many of the designs have been refined and the tools necessary to build them have been supplied.

The parts for the machines come from regular used bicycle shipments from the US. Some of the bicycles are repaired and sold to the community at subsidized prices while others are turned into machines. Other machines strip kernels off maize cobs and grind them into meal, remove coffee been shells, sharpen tools and pump water. All the machines work well, save time and energy and do not pollute the environment. So far the biggest hindrance has been the lack of funding for those individuals who wish to purchase these machines. The unusual devices also create job opportunities for people who can repair bicycles and for those who want to try and run small businesses using the machines.

After the success of the project in Guatemala, the idea of creating similar machines for the rural areas of South Africa is growing. A small shipment of bikes has already been shipped to Diepsloot, Johannesburg, where they will be refurbished for transport. The project is based on filling community needs and developing community skills with environmentally sustainable technology – exactly the sort of concept that needs to be put into action in South Africa's more rural areas.


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