Thursday, February 15, 2007
Follow-up meeting with Celestin, a farmer using the Coffee Bicycle
Celestin, the Karaba Coffee Farmer using the Coffee Bicycle, met Jean Marie and I in a tiny little restaurant where we ate an afternoon portion of goat brochettes and bananas. Celestin sat down across from me in a dark room that was lighted up by two small windows. He had the same excitement in his eyes as the day I let him start using the bicycle two weeks ago. He was happy to tell me about his experiences with the bicycle in his charismatic manner, how it has helped him and his family, how it has saved him time and earned him more money.
Over the past two weeks he has traveled at least 210 km. I say least because this is what he documented, and he only documented about 8 days worth of riding yet he mentioned that he rides it everyday. He used to travel these distances on his older, standard edition Rwandan bicycle to the market places in the nearest large town, Gikongoro, about 30 km away. With his older bicycle he would push the bicycle with a load of roughly 45-55kilos about 50% of the time, generally up hills. With the Coffee Bike he pushes it about 25-30% of the time and does it half the time. Before this loaded trip would take him 2 to 2 ½ hours, with the Coffee Bicycle it takes him 1 – 1 ½ hours. On unloaded trips to Gikongoro he never pushes the coffee bicycle, and with his older bicycle he pushed it about 30-40% of the time. I asked him what he does now with his extra hour or two during the day, he told me that he is starting to plant more vegetables to sell or focuses on caring for his coffee trees. During this extra time he was able to visit more fellow Karaba coffee farmers in order to prepare to the upcoming coffee season [He is an extension agent for the cooperative, which is someone who informs farmers, especially more remote farmers, in his district of the news with the cooperative, and about other issues surround the upcoming coffee season.] He mentioned that with his older bicycle he did not have this extra time.
He said that the coffee bicycle helped in three significant ways. First, the bicycle is ideal for transporting any type of agricultural good to the market, and may as well be a washing station during the coffee season. He thinks that he can make more money, and has made more money with its capabilities to carry more to the market. Secondly, he is able to carry his entire family on the bicycle; his wife and two children. This has saved the entire family time because now they don’t have to walk as much, and this has saved them money since they don’t have to spend as much on transportation fares. People have said to Celestin that the bicycle is like a motorcycle in that it can carry more people than a normal bike and do it efficiently. Thirdly, the reduction of time using the coffee bicycle has allowed him to focus on other income generating activities.
Anticipating the Coffee Bicycle Program coming up in the upcoming coffee season I asked him about the price and the loads that he will be able to put on the bicycle in the transportation of coffee cherries. He is willing to find the money to pay cash for the bicycle, no questions asked, he doesn’t want to bother with the loan. He said that the current crops he has been transporting he hasn’t gone much over loading it with 80 kilos. His has loaded it with 200+ kilos of people though. He says that he would feel comfortable carrying 200+ kilos of cherries on good roads, and 120-150 kilos of cherries on bad, rut infested roads. With his older bicycle the maximum he would load the bicycle down with coffee cherries was 50 kilos.
There is a summary of how he has been using the bicycle. Hope you find it exciting like I do. Thanks for reading. -Jay