COMWELF: Doing Well in Bawku District, Ghana

Fall 2001 InGear

As Pedals for Progress crosses the 10,000 bicycle per year production mark, Africa is receiving more and more bikes, both in total numbers and as a share of overall production. Over the last decade, seven countries in Africa—most significantly South Africa, Ghana, and Eritrea—have received 6,600 bikes, over half of them in the last 18 months since the beginning of the millennium.


In our summer 2000 issue of InGear, we featured one of our most promising partners, the Community Welfare Foundation (COMWELF) in Bawku, Ghana, and the process leading to an initial shipment taking place as we went to press. This shipment was sponsored by the Friends of Ghana, a Returned Peace Corp Volunteer group.

Because we feel it important to avoid leaving our readers the impression that our partners are temporary or that the glowing hopes reported beforehand are unfulfilled, here is a summary, and a few excerpts, from a subsequent letter and report dated April 15, 2001, received from COMWELF’s director, John Atibila.

Mr. Atibila began providing some basic statistics and the results of a beneficiary survey. The bikes were popular; of 458 bikes received, 420 were sold within six months. The survey revealed that of 25 interviewed, 21 were male, four female. Respondents indicated multiple use; 80% used bikes to go to work on their farms, 72% in going to markets for selling or shopping, 24% in going to school, 20% going to church, 16% going for medical treatment, and 12% for recreation. According to the report, traders earned 70–100% more income by getting to markets easily and early.


Still others saved money by doing without the local bus. Of those surveyed, 85% claimed having a bike raised their social status and 100% reported that the bikes were “very important.”

Mr. Atibila further stated: “We would like to continue with the bikes project. We now have sufficient funds to order container #2. In addition, we have surplus funds of [$1,000] for our poverty alleviation fund, which provides microcredit to rural women… Thank you for your donation.”

Specifically, COMWELF is seeking two containers of 450 bicycles apiece per year, with which it will train 10 additional bike mechanics and hold the Bawku Zone First Annual Cycling Competition, scheduled December 2001. The objectives will be to make COMWELF the leading bicycle distributor in Northern Ghana, support community development and employment in the region, and generate increasing revenue from the project, “which can support rural micro-enterprise development to alleviate poverty and ensure food security.” So far, so good! Stay tuned!

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