Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Rise of the 'Rural Mercedes': the Bicycle

Transport and development go hand-in-hand. In Angola's burgeoning rural economy and society, virtually everything traded must be transported, and almost everyone needs wheels to develope social structures.  The rise of bicycle use in rural Angolan areas represents simple, affordable transportion which can generate wealth, as well as saving lots of time and back-breaking work.  Most importantly, this rise has occurred due to widespread war damage and devastation that has left many secondary roads decrepit and rivers uncrossable by 4 X 4 vehicles swept away by floods.

Bicycle use is also widespread amongst NGO and relief agencies trying to reach remote populations overcome with logistical difficulties in efforts to bring aid and medical relief.  Recently, MSF (Medecins Sans Frontieres) an international medical response organization, used bicyles to reach many remote villages in the remote northern parts of Angola; in regions where many of the paths are not big enough for a car. As well, the roads are suspected of being mined so access is often only on foot or by bicycle. MSF frequently uses bicycles in Malange to do vaccinations in communities without access by road.
Bicycles are now being used as a useful tool in Angola to present the Gospel and build up church congregations. Angola, much like many other parts of Africa presents a unique challenge to Christian pastors and evangelists. Due to the high illiteracy rate among the Angolan population, often the gospel has to be spread orally. However, communities are far-flung which means that great distances have to be covered in the quest to spread the gospel. In addition to this, the terrain is frequently inhospitable and unforgiving, making the lack of a properly developed transport infrastructure more sorely felt.  Since most rural Angolan pastors are very poor, the bicycle is the most practical and affordable answer to these financial and logistical challenges. A bicycle can go where a 4 X 4 cannot go.

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