And so, "Pikilily" begins...

IMG_0304.JPG

So, as you probably already know, I quit my job 2 months ago to pursue my obsession with motorcycle maintenance.  This fervour originally began about 2 years ago quite early on in my year long solo motorcycle ride through Africa (for probably quite obvious reasons!) but never did I imagine that my daily rituals would lead to what came next:  spending several months in Malawi helping a very motorcycle dependent microfinance charity manage their spiralling fleet costs by running "love your motorcycle" maintenance workshops for staff  all over the country, or more recently, travelling to southern Tanzania to train mobile midwives in motorcycle maintenance. 

In fact, it was while I was there in May this year that I learned more about the issues with the bodaboda riders (motorcycle taxi riders).  Since 2010, its become legal in Tanzania to ride a motorcycle as a taxi, opening up a massive new market for very cheap motorcycles that have flooded in, largely from China and India as many young men have understandably grasped the chance to have their own wheels and their own business.   Sadly though, very few of these new riders ever take any training in motorcycle riding or road awareness, with maintenance skills almost entirely out of the picture, resulting in an epic problem: in a typical Tanzanian hospital, between 60-80% of the Casualty ward patients are there as a result of motorcycle crashes, either as rider, passenger, or collision victim.    This problem is becoming a greater killer than AIDs or Malaria and needs to change.

So, after several months of this situation gnawing away at me, I decided that I just had to do something about this. And this is my idea, which I've named Pikilily (I'll explain the name in a bit!). The format is, I'm going to go back to Songea, the southern Tanzanian town I visited in May, to run a series of workshops for the bodaboda riders.  These workshops will cover all parts of motorcycle maintenance essential to keeping the bikes in full working order, as well as road safety training to help riders avoid the commonest accidents. Then, I'm also going to be training some local women, who I'd like to work with to set up a small business, equipped with all the kit (tyre compressors, spray lubricants for chains, etc) that these riders will need to maintain their kit regularly and make an affordable habit of it, while also earning these ladies a small income too.  This kit isn't otherwise available in this town - or most in Tanzania, in my experience - so this will form a really important part of making sure the right stuff is in place for this to work.