Thursday, February 22, 2007
Follow-up meeting with Joseph, a farmer using the Coffee Bicycle
Joseph is an older farmer than Celestin and doesn't use the bicycle as much. He is also not a thorough in documenting his activities as Celestin and does not openly express and point out the highlights of the bicycle. But the information I did receive showed positive results.
Joseph, his wife and 8 children live in the Cyendajuru zone of the Maraba cooperative. He owns 600 coffee trees, and last year he produced 800 kilos of coffee cherries, the year before he produced 730 kilos. So last year he roughly made 96,000 frw ($175USD - using the 550frw/$1USD exchange) when he dropped off the coffee to the washing station, then when the coffee was bought he made an additional premium of 24,000 frw ($44). We hope this premium price will triple with the added quality that the coffee will bring with improved transportation. We predict an increase of $0.10 - $0.15 a pound for this coffee. I am not sure exactly how these premium profits are divided between the cooperative operations and the farmers, but roughly 30% goes to the management/operations and 70% to their farmers. So for Joseph's last season this translates into an increased income of 68,000 frw ($123) at $0.10 and an increase of 102,000 frw ($185). This, of course, it hypothetical and the true increased premiums will be determined as the coffee bicycle coffee has undergone quality testing during the coffee season.
Joseph documented a few of his longer trips for me. Last week he took 100 kilos of agricultural product to Butare, about 30 km away. He takes a dirt road to get to Butare which is characterized by one long hill. Before with the standard bicycle he would push the bicycle the entire way and not pedal. With the coffee bicycle he pushes the bicycle 2 times, and rides the rest of road riding the bicycle. With the coffee bicycle he is able to save 30 minutes each way. He is normally packing more than 100 kilos on the coffee bicycle to the markets, and with the older bicycle it would be 20-30 kilos less and he would use 25% more time to transport the less weight.
If there was something that Joseph would change about the bicycle he would want the rack above the rear tire to be wider. He thinks that the racks on the sides down near the axels are helpful also, but is more used to placing things on a higher rack. He also thinks that the racks should not be made out of wood since there is a negative stigma about any type of wood being used on a bicycle, why? I don't know. He suggests that any form of a rack ought to be made out of metal, and this makes sense since all the bicycle racks that are found here are made out of roughly welded rebar. Also the bicycle is long and with the heavier loads that he ambitiously straps on it he finds it more difficult to push up hills when it is necessary. There are plans to make a shorter wheelbase coffee bicycle in the future.
After his month of using the bicycle he is excited about being on the list to receive one. He sees the worth in it and is willing to pay 70,000 frw ($127) for one.
The picture is the rack of his older bicycle. This rack supports his 80 kilo loads. The weight of these loads on these bicycles sits behind the axel of the rear wheel, so when the weight of the rider is off the front or if something in the road pops the front wheel off the ground, the weight of the load flies to the ground and the whole front of the bicycle stands strait up the air like a capsized boat. It usually takes more than the rider to lift of the load and ground the front wheel again. The whole thing is actually a pretty tricky process, the rider has to pay so much attention to how quickly he dismounts and keeps the load from flying to the ground. I have helped a few capsized bikes back to normality since being here. With the coffee bicycle this is not an issue though, since the weight it either in front of the rear axel or place on top of it.