Solar electric tricycles give Zimbabwean women a ride

Danai Bvochora, a poultry farmer, arranges the eggs at her market stall after transporting them on her renewable energy electric tricycle designed for an off-road rural setting like her home in Domboshawa, July 20 2022. The tricycle was a boost for she Egg business as she no longer travels long distances to the market carrying heavy loads on her head or paying display fees to carry her egg crates. Transportation has historically been inadequate in Zimbabwe’s sparsely populated rural areas, where women often have to travel long distances carrying heavy loads on their heads to trade products, which sometimes ruin the road in the heat. (Photo by Jekesai NJIKIZANA / AFP)

Zimbabwe (AFP) – For years, selling eggs has been a joyless business for Danai Bvochora, as most of the money she earned went to cover minibus fares to the market in a rural area of ​​Zimbabwe.

That was until a brown earth solar powered electric tricycle changed its life.

“We used to carry loads on our heads. The tricycle lightened the load, ”said the 47-year-old from Domboshava, about 40 kilometers (25 miles) north of Zimbabwe’s capital Harare.

Carefully load the eggs onto the tricycle trailer before embarking on a bumpy five-mile drive to the market.

“We also use it to go to church and worship,” Bvochora said, explaining that a single trip to buy chicken feed from a local mall cost her $ 12.

But charging her new solar-powered vehicle only earns her $ 2.50 every two weeks, and the mother-of-two is now making a profit.

Bvochora is among the women’s groups in Domboshava, a district renowned for its picturesque hills and giant boulders, which received a tricycle last year as part of an EU-funded project to assist small farmers.

Assembled by the Harare-based social enterprise Mobility for Africa, the three-wheeled vehicles were first introduced in Zimbabwe in 2019 to help women develop their businesses, said company director Shantha Bloemen.

Transportation has historically been inadequate in Zimbabwe’s sparsely populated rural areas, where women often have to travel long distances carrying heavy loads on their heads to trade products, which sometimes ruin the road in the heat.

– electric thrust –
Yet the idea of ​​tackling this problem with electric three-wheelers initially raised some perplexity, said Bloemen, an American-born permanent resident of Zimbabwe and living in the country in the 1990s when working for UNICEF.

“He was very lonely when we started,” Bloemen said, explaining that his team had to work hard to prove to lenders that the idea was feasible.

“Nobody was talking about electric mobility in Africa let alone rural women”.

Three years later, the social enterprise expects to more than triple its current fleet of 88 motor vehicles by the end of 2022.

It operates three solar-powered stations, where drivers can come and replace their lithium battery with a fully charged one when it’s running out of power and foot the bill when something breaks down.

Zimbabwe has been facing difficult economic conditions for more than two decades, with rural areas particularly hard hit. The country’s economy is mainly driven by the informal sector, to which Domboshava women farmers like these belong.

While some of the three-wheeled vehicles – nicknamed “Hamba” or “go” in the local Ndebele language – were bought by the EU and then given away to locals, others are rented for $ 5 a day.

Phyllis Chifamba, 37, a mother of four, uses her hired vehicle as a taxi.

His clients include sick people who go to a clinic, pregnant women who undergo medical checks, and villagers and peasants who go shopping and other errands.

“I am able to provide food for my family and pay school fees for my children with the money I make using the Hamba,” she said.

Mobility for Africa said it was planning to expand operations to other areas.

“African women are the most entrepreneurial, the most productive, but nobody takes them seriously,” Bloemen said. “If we solve the transport problems, rural economies will work. Small farmers will put more products on the market “.

Beneficiary Frasia Gotosa said her small business has improved since driving to the market as her vegetables no longer rot while waiting for the bus or pushing a wheelbarrow.

“Now I arrive at the market while my products are still fresh,” he said.

fj / ub / sn / imm / ach

© Agence France-Presse