Using Pedal Powered Machines for Farm & BusinessPosted by Ryan in News on January 24th, 2011 – 2 Comments
In the central mountains of Guatemala, corn and vegetables are planted on every hillside, amongst towering evergreen trees, a landscape little changed for generations of the indigenous Maya. Men, children, and most of all, women are seen working these hillsides throughout the seasons, planting and harvesting their produce. This hard work of farming is made a little easier and more efficient with the help of a group called Maya Pedal and their many different innovative creations. This group invents and builds “Bici Maquinas” or “Bike Machines” in the town of San Andres Iztapa to make hard manual labor and small Guatemalan businesses more efficient and sustainable in these steep agricultural valleys. These bicycle farm machines are created from old, discarded North American bicycles by devoted local Guatemalans and international volunteers
Often bicycles are thought of as alternative, sustainable, environmental & efficient form of transportation. Maya Pedal re imagines pedal power for commercial and agricultural purposes. They use Bici Maquinas to create an intermediate technology bridging the large gap between manual labor and industrial technology.
These bicycles are transformed into pedal powered machines to help Guatemalan family farms and small businesses. As one of the international volunteers informed us, these Bici Maquinas “are self sufficient forms of technology that do not require fuel or electric energy to function. They contribute to the Guatemalan economy of rural farming communities by providing a low maintenance resource to improve production.”
They have invented over 30 different Bici Maquinas all powered by pedal including: bicycle powered water pumps, corn mills, roofing tile molders, tool sharpeners, blenders, degrainers, electric generators, macadian nut shellers, bicycle plows, bicycle wood saws, animal feed mills, washing machines, & cargo tricycles.
These “Bici Maquinas” or Bike Machines, made by the organization Maya Pedal, are employed to make work easier, more efficient, and self-sufficient in this agricultural land. The use of pedal power is truly an “appropriate technology,” transforming work done by hand into a much more efficient labor. Maya Pedal explains that the Bici Maquinas “Utilize the force of leg power, which is five times greater than that of the upper body. The equivalent of 1/8 of horse powered energy.”
Their mission is to “Contribute to the conservation of the environment, the health of the Guatemalan People, and the productivity of the local economy.” The organization was originally inspired by the practical needs of Guatemalan farmers. As their director, Carlos Marroquin, explains to a group of local Guatemalan women, Bici Maquinas are “a tool, to help make things easier, much easier and faster than doing things by hand. It is much easier to push with our legs.”
Maya Pedal has received containers of bikes from many non profits in North America. They have worked with the Peace Corp, Bikes not Bombs, Working Bikes, & MIT to receive donations and keep their mission alive. They accept bikes in any condition and make use of everything they are sent. This includes wheelchairs and walkers which are put to use by the many disabled and amputees in this once war ravaged country. To keep Maya Pedal sustainable; donated bikes that can be repaired are fixed and sold locally to further their goal of providing sustainable transportation options as well as using the profits from the bike sales to fund the creation of the Bici Maquinas that are sold to farmers at cost.
When we visited Maya Pedal in November of 2010, they were finishing off the last scraps of a container that had been sent in January by Working Bikes Collective of Chicago. The volunteers and staff of Maya Pedal desperately asked how they could get another container of bikes to continue their charitable work. They told us how many organizations in the United States and Canada are donating bikes to Africa & Asia, which is very important, but the volunteers at Maya Pedal wanted us to share “our need for bikes here in the Americas.”
The bikes Maya Pedal relies on for providing transportation and for Bici Maquinas are bikes that many Bike Collectives in the United States and Canada throw in the scrap pile and recycle for scrap metal prices. The Huffys and department store bikes of any age are the bikes that Maya Pedal uses to accomplish their inspiring mission. The volunteers and leaders of Maya Pedal implored us to share their story and to explain how one person’s trash can be another person’s treasure. May we remember to help our fellow Americans with their bicycle needs.
Very informative video of Maya Pedal:
Maya Pedal is always in need of volunteers and especially needs a shipment of used bikes.
Story & photos by Ryan Hashagen & translated and edited by Lale Santelices.
We are currently travelling overland and sea from Portland, Oregon to Puerto Montt, Chile investigating Latin American cycling culture.
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Flickr Photo Set of Maya Pedal: