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Pedal-Power Machines for Local Enterprise

Posted in Models by Kate Archdeacon on August 18th, 2010

Source: The Ecologist

From “Reusing bike parts to power water pumps, corn crushers and more” by Mira Olson:

A tiny workshop in rural Guatemala is pioneering cheap, eco-friendly, pedal-powered machines made from discarded bicycle parts.  A group of elderly, indigenous women wearing traditional hand-made dresses sit in a circle and exchange stories. Their continuous pedalling would go unnoticed, were it not for the noisy churning of the blenders placed on top of tables in front of them. The machines have enabled these women to form their own business: the sale of blue agave shampoo produced at their humble, cinderblock home.  The pedal-powered blenders are capable of speeds of up to 6,400 RPM and are used in multiple capacities in the community, from simple food processing to more creative applications.

They are but one example of several bicimáquinas (bike-machines) designed and built at Maya Pedal, a locally-run NGO in the small, rural town of San Andrés Itzapa, Guatemala, which is still primarily inhabited by the Mayan people of Cakchiquel descent.  Thanks to the organisation, community members benefit from water pumps to irrigate their fields, mills to grind corn, devices for manufacturing concrete tiles, electricity generators capable of storing electricity in car batteries, coffee pulping machines that can accumulate up to 8000 pounds daily, trikes and trailers to transport people and goods within the community, and even three-cycle washing machines, all operated essentially while exercising.

The NGO itself is the product of a collaboration that took place in 1997 between a group of Canadians from the organisation Pedal and local mechanic Carlos Marroquín. Jointly, they created what would be Maya Pedal’s first and arguably most revolutionary machine: the bicidesgranadora de maíz, a device that removes the kernels from up to 15 corn husks per minute, allowing farmers to bag up to two dozen 43-kilo sacks per day.  Marroquín explains: ‘It was necessary to find a path and an alternative that would meet the needs of the locals and we researched and invested all that we could to do so.’


More than 4,600 Maya Pedal machines are now in use in San Andrés Itzapa and surrounding communities; some 400 volunteers, many from Europe, have also dirtied their hands to help in the process. And because of its growing international network, several of the ideas from the NGO have been implemented in indigenous communities throughout South America, North America and even in Africa.  This tiny workshop in a forgotten Mayan town in rural Guatemala highlights the ingenious power humans possess to overcome adversity and implement ecologically-friendly solutions for our daily needs.

Read the full article by Mira Olson.

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