Bicycle enthusiasts have long known the environmental, economic and physiological benefits of cycling. Now, by buying a handcrafted bamboo frame from Zambikes International, bikers can help support Zambian workers and their families. In Zambia — where literacy is low, there is no free public education, and over half of the population is unemployed — the California-based startup has made strides to offer decent living wages and technical training to communities struggling with poverty.
In a country where public transportation can be unreliable, a bicycle can mean a dependable way of getting to what little work is available. Since 2007, Zambikes has been using bamboo as a strong, sustainable base for their bicycles, taking advantage of a durable, light, surprisingly shock-absorbent material that is a cheap and abundant alternative to metal. Bamboo grows well in the Zambian climate, and once the grass is mature and treated, the frame can last up to ten years.
Under the direction of two Zambians and two Americans, Zambikes International employs a large team of builders that produce quality cycles in a variety of styles including a cruiser, road bicycle and mountain bike. Crafted with rural living in mind, they also offer brilliant cart and trailer attachments such as the Zambulance, which has been fashioned to meet the needs of remote medical clinics, and the Zamcart, a hitch created for farmers that has the capacity to carry a load of up to 250 kg.
By offering bamboo cycles both locally and internationally, Zambikes helps provide environmentally and socially conscious transportation that benefits not only those buying their products, but also those who produce them. While for many Americans a bicycle is a tool for recreation, in Africa it can be the only form of reliable transportation to and from work, the fastest way to get to a hospital, an efficient means of carrying a heavy load of equipment, or a swift method of removing arrested criminals.
For more information on the mission of Zambikes and the people behind this amazing company, visit Gershom Sikaala’s website and read about his motivations for establishing programs benefiting his fellow Zambians.