Tools of Transport and Transformation – Interview with Innocent Niyongabo

Tools of Transport and Transformation - Interview with Innocent Niyongabo

This just in! We interrupt our regularly scheduled program to bring you the man of this and every hour, Innocent Niyongabo! As Vice President of the BFI English Education Program, Innocent was once described as ‘The Burundian MLK’. This comes as no surprise because to know Innocent is to know inspiration, courage, and humility. His love for his fellow being is palpable, and his big smile is matched only by his heart. He is the leader we all aspire to be.

Part history lesson, part bicycle tutorial, and all real life in Burundi, Innocent takes us down unseen roads with new twists and turns! Grab your helmet and come along for the ride…

Burundi, located in East Africa, is one of the poorest countries in the world. Poverty is widespread throughout the country. Focusing on bicycles in Burundi, mostly they are used to make money as the cheapest way of transport in the country. For Burundians, bicycles have been long depicted as a transporting tool and vehicle. They help with moving people, crops, water, and firewood from remote places to people’s home.

Bicycles are said to date years back in the Burundi landscape, and they are still encountered in the countryside and cities today. They are not only cheap transport, but they avoid using fuel that increases in price from time to time. They are thus a good means to protect the environment against global warming.

Bicycles are a vital sector in the development of Burundi. If a Burundian family manages to get money to buy a bicycle, it is for business: transportation of people and goods. These bicycles are important in Burundi for economic issues.

The majority of people, especially in rural Burundi don’t buy a bicycle for competition, pleasure, or just to move here and there. However, there are a few people who use bicycles for these reasons. They are owned by a limited number of people in Burundi and they are expensive compared to bicycles used as Taxi-vélos.

In some other cases, people use bicycles for public or private jobs such as teaching or pastoring a church far from home. Or for going to church or school many miles away from your home.

In hilly terrains, people choose to walk many miles on foot or carry materials on their head. Others will choose to put materials on the bike and push with the heavy load on the back of the bicycle. You can’t find this system in a developed country. It is risky and truly not safe for a human being. I asked a bike rider what he thinks about his job and he responded: “I don’t enjoy riding, it is dangerous work. However, if I don’t go and do it, my kids will sleep without eating.” These kinds of riders live hoping for each day. No saving.

In many areas of Burundi, bicycles are used to harvest rice, beans, and to transport every kind of heavy loads. In Burundi, a bicycle is equal to an American truck. It is a multi-task vehicle. And the most poor in Burundi have no hope to own a bicycle today, but maybe one day in the future. It is crucial to let you know even where I was born, it is a poor community and so the one who owns a bicycle is among the rich families, even though they are still poor. In the US a rich person has what? An airplane? Car? Horse? Here it is a different reality.

Innocent

Help change reality for one of the world’s poorest countries. Help BFI support the people of Burundi by making a tax-deductible donation today: https://www.classy.org/campaign/cycling4burundi/c191396.