Nelly Bassily | January 28, 2008
Célestin grows his coffee in the Kabara region of Rwanda. Like many other coffee farmers, he is only able to transport about 50 kilograms of coffee cherries on an old bicycle. Most of the roads he travels are unpaved. Often, he has to push his old bike through many kilometres of steep hills and valleys to get to a coffee washing station.Célestin was one of the first to try the “coffee bike.” With this new bicycle, he can now transport up to 200 kilograms of coffee cherries. The coffee bike allows him to pedal with ease through Rwanda’s hilly countryside. He says the new bike halves the time it takes him to travel from the field to the washing station.
And this helps him earn more money. The faster the cherries get to the washing station, the better the quality, and the better the price for the farmer. If they can get their cherries to the washing station quickly, farmers can earn 15 US cents per kilogram.According to the organization Sustaining Partnership to Enhance Rural Enterprise and Agribusiness Development, there are almost half a million small-scale coffee growers in Rwanda. The average plantation has 200 coffee trees. These trees are the main source of income for coffee farmers.
The idea of a coffee bike came from an American NGO called Project Rwanda. An entrepreneur and cyclist from California invented the bikes. They are specially designed with a large carrying platform over the back wheel, making the bike ¾ of meter longer than the average bike and are easy to maintain. As only one in 40 Rwandans can afford a good bicycle, Project Rwanda helps farmers to obtain microcredit loans to purchase coffee bikes.
But it’s not only coffee growers who benefit. Project Rwanda also trains mechanics to assemble and repair the bikes. This ensures the sustainability of the coffee bike project and creates jobs for Rwandans. So far, Project Rwanda has distributed almost 1,000 coffee bikes.
As for Célestin, he figures that his coffee bike cuts one hour off the time he spends transporting his beans to the washing station. What does he do with that hour he has gained? He spends it on other income generating activities.
Celestin riding a Coffee Bike. source: projectrwanda.org