By Bunmi Obanawu
This is a story of one woman whose sustainable business is addressing the problem of climate change, poverty, rural-urban migration and high unemployment amongst the youth in rural Ghana. Bernice Dapaah is the executive director of the Ghana Bamboo Bike Initiative, an organization that uses creative and eco-friendly practice to make a difference her society through the building of high quality handcrafted bamboo bikes for the global market.
It all began when she decided to do something about the many issues facing her community and nation. The next step for Bernice was to seek people who were just as motivated and passionate about the same issues she had identified. Together, they worked to design a product and seek the financial backing in order to support their idea.
The idea of using bamboo was pretty easy to agree on as according to Bernice, bamboo is a great material that grows quickly and is a sustainable resource to use in the design of their bikes.
Of course building bamboo bikes frames would involve cutting bamboo plants which many would designate as not very eco-friendly, but for every bamboo plant her team cuts down, they plant ten more.
This also helps them control supply of their raw material. The bamboo plant they return to the soil goes on the bamboo plantation; Bernice and her co-founder have started at Seidi, in the Ashanti region of Ghana, where bamboo grows naturally.
This is very essential as bamboo is an up-and-coming commodity, particularly in Ghana as rampant deforestation has seen a vast drop in timber, and since 2002 the government has been actively encouraging bamboo development.
Another thing is that Ghana Bamboo Bike Initiative has discovered that when a community makes use of their bikes, they can reduce carbon emissions by up to 70 percent.
At the moment, the initiative has trained 42 people to manufacture and assemble the bikes locally, primarily women with little or no education, who are paid double the minimum daily wage.
GBBI was recognized by a UNEP SEED Award in 2010, along with many other awards, which has helped to push it to the public and has increased the popularity of their products.
For Bernice, she remains incredibly honoured to have been recognised as a World Bamboo Ambassador for spearheading the Ghana Bamboo Bikes Initiative. This ecopreneur is very outspoken about her passion for environmental issues as well as solving community-based issues through social enterprise.