Amuru Village Health Workers Update

News released on: 
Feb 23rd, 2015

Bikes Not Bombs International Programs Director, David, is in East Africa to visit existing and potential partners, in addition to expanding Bikes Not Bombs' connections in the region.

This past week, I met with the Village Health Team Association leaders, mechanics and members in Amuru, Northern Uganda, and worked with them to develop a plan for the long-term sustainability of their bicycle mobility project. With 550 Village Health Workers (VHWs) on bikes being used daily, regular maintenance, repair and sourcing of spare parts are critical for long-term sustainability. Fortunately the Village Health Workers have most of this in place.

In 2011, Bikes Not Bombs began partnering with the Village Health Team in Amuru, Northern Uganda, with the goal to provide 500 volunteer VHWs with mountain bikes, and to develop the repair infrastructure to maintain and repair these bikes long-term. Now, in 2015, the VHWs have a highly organized member-driven Association, strong democratic leadership, 47 trained mechanics, a network of 7 bicycle repair workshops, a centralized system for sourcing and distributing replacement parts to the workshops, and the contacts in Kampala to source affordable made-in-China replacement parts for the bicycles.

One of the most exciting developments in the project over the past few years is that the VHWs have adopted a market-based approach to running the project. Through the small business of regular repairs and spare parts sales, the project mechanics generate a modest income while strengthening their skills, and the project makes back all the money it spends on sourcing the spare parts. So this essentially establishes the financial sustainability of the project. Additionally, the VHWs generate income through annual membership fees and soon from the interest on small loans they plan to offer to VHW members.

The development of the VHW bicycle mobility project over the past 4 years had occurred in tandem with the general development and health improvements of Amuru sub-county. The local markets are bustling, there is enough food being grown on the fertile land, rates of preventable diseases are down, pregnant women are receiving more antenatal care than ever before and the VHWs are continuing the grow their momentum and impact.

After 20 years of war, the region is rebounding, though there are new challenges in this time of peace. Government and corporations are
looking to capitalize on the fertile land of Amuru, and are grabbing huge tracts of Amuru land for a sugar plantations, game hunting and cattle grazing.
This would lead to renewed displacement, disenfranchisement and military presence in Amuru. While peace and development have been hard-won, people are demanding justice and will defend their rights.