UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres championed low carbon lifestyles by taking a spin on Ghanaian bamboo bikes at the "2013 Momentum for Change - Lighthouse Activities", - a UNFCCC side event which recognizes the most innovative initiatives combating climate change. The bicycles, which use locally grown bamboo, were pioneered by the Ghana Bamboo Bike Initiative and were further developed with the support of the GEF Small Grants Programme (SGP). The strong, but light bamboo bikes can be used for multiple purposes in a variety of terrains.
What distinguished the women-led initiative was its focus on developing a climate-smart, alternative mode of transport while simultaneously creating employment opportunities for women and youth with little or no education. In partnership with the Bright Generations Community Foundation, - SGP grantee and implementing organization for the project -, SGP Ghana helped the Ghana Bamboo Bike Initiative develop into a sound social enterprise. With SGP's assistance, the initiative managed to improve training for the construction of quality bamboo bicycles and establish a fully operational training center and bike factory. Consequently, the SGP project has not only provided stable, higher-paying jobs for ten bike builders, but also created jobs along the value chain for the suppliers of bamboo and distributers of the bicycles.
Upon the advice of SGP Ghana, the initiative also established a bamboo plantation to secure a sustainable supply of bamboo. To date, one hectare has already been successfully planted with 1,500 seedlings by 25 youth, while another four will be developed with the technical assistance of the International Network for Bamboo and Rattan (INBAR). The bamboo plantation has eased pressure on the community's dwindling forests and improved air quality by absorbing large amounts of CO2 and generating up to 35% more oxygen than an equivalent stand of trees. Bamboo bicycles also use less energy and chemicals in production than steel bikes.
With an eye on spreading the benefits of this sustainable transport vehicle to other countries, SGP Ghana helped the initiative obtain international certification and connect with important partners. In 2010, the Ghana Bamboo Bike initiative was selected as a commitment project by the Clinton Global Initiative University and it further received numerous awards, including the 2010 UNEP SEED Award and the 2012 Samsung Generations for Peace Award. The selection of the Ghana Bamboo Bike Initiative for the "2013 Momentum for Change - Lighthouse Activities" at the UNFCCC COP19 in Warsaw further highlighted the initiative's innovative approach of simultaneously targeting climate change, gender and poverty issues.
The initiative has also received support from the District Assembly and Newmont Mining Company who are p
romoting the technology. To date, the project has been replicated in two other communities. The potential opportunity to export bamboo bikes to Europe and the United States could further contribute to climate change mitigation and local economic development in Ghana.
On the occasion of COP 19, SGP took the opportunity to launch its new publication "Empowered Generation: Youth Action on Climate Change through the GEF Small Grants Programme". The publication features more than ten projects from communities across the world, where youth have played a significant role in addressing climate change. Employing a range of tools, young people have led and promoted the use of renewable energies, carbon footprint mapping, tree planting, disaster risk reduction measures, as well as communicated the urgency of taking action on climate change through environmental awareness raising events. The publication includes a more detailed description of SGP's award-winning bamboo bicycle project in Ghana.
Photo credits: Keith Peterman - Huffington Post