The role of the bicycle in alleviating poverty.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

A kitchen blender attached to a bicycle sounds like the sort of device an inventor might dream up in a particularly eccentric moment, and never bother to build.

But it really exists, and is one of a number of pedal-powered machines that are making a real difference to the lives of people in poverty-stricken Guatemala.

The biciliquidora consists of a blender jug mounted above the frame of what is essentially half a bicycle, which a person sits on and pedals to get the blender working.

One group of women uses the biciliquidora to produce an organic aloe vera shampoo, skinning the plant’s spiky leaves and liquidising the white pulp, according to Samara Watkiss, a volunteer with the non profit organisation Maya Pedal.

The women sell the shampoo in local markets, or to tourists.

But they also use the device for more exotic purposes.

“My personal opinion is that the best margaritas in the world come off a bicycle blender,” Watkiss says.

Watkiss is one of the presenters at the Velo Mondial conference underway in Cape Town. Velo Mondial is an organisation aimed at encouraging the use of the bicyle in all aspects of life, and this year’s conference has a special focus on the role of the bicycle in alleviating poverty.

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