Shalala shows us how bicycles boost water access

Shalala Ali is one of behind-the-scenes workers who helps Qhubeka to connect people with bicycles. This World Water Day, 22 March 2017, he shares how his own bicycle has changed his life.

“My name is Shalala Ali and I have been working here for three years,” he says, referring to the Qhubeka Bicycle Assembly Plant, which is based at the Marico Rural Development Programme (MRDP) in South Africa’s Limpopo Province. “My job is to put the tyres in the wheels, onto the rims.”

Shalala’s bicycle is spotless and shiny – it’s just been washed – and he says he’s very proud of it. “I use my bicycle to fetch water and wood, and to get to work,” he says. He gestures to the three large, empty containers behind his bicycle, which hold 25 litres each. “Every day, I fill these with water. It’s a total of 75 liters. I put them on the back of my bicycle before I go home.”

Shalala supplies his household with water from the MRDP. His home is about 2km away. Before he had a bicycle, he used to have to walk to fetch water and carry it home himself. Having the bicycle makes this chore quicker, easier and less exhausting. Shalala’s family is also able to access more water than previously.

“I like my bicycle so much,” he says. “It’s strong and it goes so well.”

Many people in South Africa, like Shalala, have no access to running water in their homes. In fact, according to AfricaCheck, the 2011 General Household Survey showed that only 43.3% of South African households had piped water in their homes (28.6% had access to water in their yards, 2.7% had the use of a neighbour’s tap and 14.9% had to make use of communal taps).

Large numbers of people still have to travel to a communal tap or well to fetch water. While the South African government is working to address this challenge, building the necessary infrastructure is a slow and costly process. A bicycle can help to fill this gap until every household has easy access to piped water.

With a bicycle, people can travel up to four times faster and carry up to five times more. Aside from getting to water sources more quickly and being able to fetch larger loads of water, people who have bicycles spend less time fetching water, which means they have more free time to do other important things, like attend school and engage in economic activity.

This World Water Day, help Qhubeka to connect more people with bicycles, and thereby facilitate better access to water. Donate towards funding a bicycle because bicycles increase he distance people can travel, what they can carry, where they can go and how fast they can get there.