The Green Road to Bamboo Bikes

Located on the West Coast of Africa, Ghana has long been known for its thriving democracy. Although the country is rich in resources, its growth is being held back by poverty, youth unemployment, rural-urban migration, traffic congestion, and environmental degradation. According to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), Ghana has lost 90 percent of its rainforest in the last 50 years. This has been caused by several factors, such as slash-and-burn agriculture and illegal logging.

In recent years however, Ghana has become known for something else: sustainable development. Founded in 2009 by Bernice Daapah, Kwame Kyei and Winnifred Selby, Ghana Bamboo Bikes has found a way to empower women and build resilience using two sticks of bamboo.

Ghana Bamboo Bikes trains and employs women with limited access to education in the manufacturing and assembling of bamboo bikes. Compared to wood or metal, cultivating bamboo to build bikes is helping to conserve Ghana’s rainforest, while improving air and water quality. Bamboo absorbs up to four times more carbon dioxide and releases 35% more oxygen than hardwood trees. In addition, its root system reduces soil erosion, which protects local agriculture. While bamboo requires less energy to produce than metal, it has a greater weight-to-strength ratio than steel. Each bamboo bike takes an average of 40 man hours to complete, resulting in a product that is durable, shock-resistant and eco-friendly.

Ghana Bamboo Bikes also works with farmers in rural areas to harvest new bamboo crops and conserve existing ones. This not only avoids high imports costs, but it also avoids carbon emissions related to transporting imported materials. Bernice Daapah explains: “If we cut one bamboo, we make sure to plant at least three or five more.” The initiative has already created 30 jobs in farming and bamboo bike production. After training, each artisan is equipped to employ at least five people and set up their own small-scale production base in any part of the country.

In 2013, the United Nations General Secretary, Ban-Ki Moon, rode a bamboo bike to celebrate the initiative’s efforts. That same year, Ghana Bamboo Bikes won UNFCCC’s Momentum for Change: Women for Results Award. In 2014, Bernice Daapah was named a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum. Thanks to this global recognition, Ghana Bamboo Bikes has received and filled orders as far away as Europe and the United States. That being so, next time you find yourself on the road, consider going green with a bamboo bike. You won’t only be improving the lives of many young women, but you’ll also be promoting bamboo bikes as a sustainable mode of transportation.

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