The Bamboo and Rattan Development Programme (BARADEP) Secretariat of the Forestry Commission has instituted a bamboo bicycle training programme to train the youth to build cargo bicycles using local bamboo as a component.

About 50 Ghanaians who have been trained on the programme have developed their own businesses and are currently transferring the technology to others.

The objective of the programme is to among other things, build more of the bamboo bicycles for rentals to tourists and farmers.

The BARADEP Secretariat under the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources was established to coordinate the activities on bamboo and rattan resources and industry in the country.

A bamboo bicycle designer based in California, USA, Mr Craig Calfee who is collaborating with the programme to train Ghanaian youth, is on a crusade to train bicycle repairers to also build bamboo bicycles.

Speaking to graphic.com.gh during his recent visit to Ghana, Mr Calfee said he had trained many Ghanaians who were now on their own and that the trainees were to train others to develop the bamboo and rattan industry, which abundant resources were not being taken advantage of.

He explained that he got to know about Ghana?s rich bamboo resources in 1984 while on a tour of Africa, adding that an American friend of his, David Peckam, working on a bicycle project, spoke to him about the use of bicycles by Ghanaians especially those in the northern part of the country.

According to him he took interest in the sector to build such bicycles designed especially for African conditions, including cargo bicycles that were also suitable to rent to tourists.

Mr Calfee who is also a manufacturing expert, described the bicycles as rather expensive and said, the programme would pursue a rental business model and not sell to individuals.

He said since 2007, the programme has been training the youth on how to manufacture bicycle frames, to help them develop good skills and provide quality products for export to the US and European markets .

?The new cargo bicycle design is especially interesting because it is designed to improve the bicycle experience in Africa,? he noted.

Among the advantages the bamboo bicycles have over the regular one, Mr Calfee enumerated, were the fact that the former was robust with big tyres to travel on bumpy roads, has a very strong design, coupled with standard parts and need a few tools to maintain.

For him, economic opportunities abound in the bamboo sector.

Currently, Mr Calfee says he is making efforts to secure funding to scale up the programme so as to import a container-load of standardised bicycle parts from the US to support the programme.

One of the Ghanaian beneficiaries of the programme, Mr Kwabena Danso, Country Director of Yonso Project, a rural industrial set up, told graphic.com.gh in an interview that the bamboo sector had economic potential for national development.

His project, based in the Ashanti Region, has the development of bamboo bicycles as one of its focus areas.

Another beneficiary who gave her name only as Bernice and heads the Ghana Bamboo Bikes Initiative, is currently using some of the graduated bamboo bicycles trainees for designing and manufacturing such bicycles for her organisation.

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