I was impressed by today’s bike donation ceremony, because in front of us were three very simple men who try to make a living in a harsh environment and try to contribute to their communities. They suited up for us, although based on the bad fit of the suits it was obvious that they are not accustomed to wearing clothes like that. And I wish that they hadn’t, and that they had just came to us the way they are in regular life. Or maybe we should even have gone to them, instead of letting them come to us… Most important is that they all showed their sincere gratitude, giving me the feeling that these bikes will truly make a difference. I really hope they do 🙂
Today’s ride was quite uneventfull, 130k, a bit of gradual climbing and a long gradual descent into Malawi’s capital Lilongwe. Highlight was the gin stop, some 20k after lunch, organised by Jerome 🙂 He mixed the gin up pretty well with cranberry juice. I could have stayed there all day 🙂
At camp we had another TDA foundation bike donation. This time the foundation donated 20 bikes to community based organizations and farming cooperatives. There were three beneficiaries present to tell us about what they do and how they use the bikes. One of the cbo’s uses the bikes to visit and take care of the sick and elderly within their community, which includes a number of aids patients that need support. The farming cooperatives use the bikes to explore markets for their crops so that they can get the best price for their produce. They also use the bikes to have teachers visit individual farmers to learn them about how they can run a more efficient business.
In the end the bike donations are all about mobility. In our western world, we take mobility for granted; cars, bikes, public transport, it’s all available to us. Furthermore we live in cities, with all amenities just around the corner. Here in Africa however, there are many who don’t even know how to ride a bike, let alone can afford to buy one. With 50 percent of the population living beneith the poverty line and 25 percent pf the population living in extreem poverty, Malawi is one of the poorest countries in the world. 90% of the population works in agriculture and therefore lives in rural areas. Distances to be bridged are much larger than we can ever imagine and cars and public transport are non existing for the majority of the people. For that reason, a bike is already a great help!
However giving away stuff is controversial. Countries like Malawi and Ethiopia are highly aid dependent and this leads to people becomming dependent. This is demonstrated by the many children we see on the side of the road that yell “musungu, give me my money!”. After the bike donation some of the riders had a discussion about the pro’s en the con’s of aid, and the conclusion was that in the end it is not about just giving away stuff, but about enabling people. Micro financing enables people to start their own business. Donating our bikes enables cbo’s to visit and take care of more old and sick people. Donating our bikes enables farmers to get better prices for their crops. Handing out food and clothing and money just makes people dependent.