World Bicycle Relief developed a Field Mechanics Training Program to accompany bicycle distributions; this ensures that bicycle owners have access to local, qualified maintenance and repair service. Mechanics learn bicycle assembly, maintenance and repair as well as basic business, marketing and management skills.
Each trained mechanic receives a bicycle, a set of high-quality bicycle tools, a uniform, and marketing materials; some mechanics work with microlenders to establish businesses and purchase a stock of spare parts. Alex is a 70-year-old small-scale farmer and WBR field mechanic, and this is his story.
Alex Pumulo Mukendwa is a small-scale farmer. When Buffalo Bicycles became available in his area, Alex was selected by a local council to become one of more than 2,200 trained Buffalo Bicycle mechanics.
Buffalo Bicycles are extremely tough and specifically built for rugged terrain, but they still need a fix or tune-up from time to time. And when students, healthcare workers or entrepreneurs need their bicycles fixed, it needs to be done quickly and well so they can get back on the road right away.
“A bicycle has value in my community,” he tells us. “A household without a bicycle is considered poor.” Alex takes special pride in making sure his neighbors’ bicycles stay in good shape and on the road. “I see my job as important. When I fix people’s bicycles, they appreciate my service,” he said.
Thanks to his additional income as a mechanic, Alex has been able to put his children through school and purchase a new radio, solar panel and power inverter. Plus, Alex loves the satisfaction of making broken things work again. His favorite bike part to work on is the rear hub, because he likes to re-assemble all of the small pieces within the coaster brake.
“I’m very proud to be a mechanic,” Alex said with a smile.
Our employed bicycle assemblers train a local team of field mechanics using a universal training manual that instructs with pictures and diagrams rather than words. Learning to repair a Buffalo Bicycle is simple for those who are interested in learning; the bikes are deliberately built to be compatible with locally available spare parts and repairable using only basic tools. The field mechanic program is an essential part of our self-sustaining model. Once Buffalo Bicycles are available in a community, they never need to leave that community for repair or maintenance, and local residents with an interest in mechanics are able to create a new income stream for themselves.
It costs just $50 to provide a field mechanic with a toolkit, who in turn serves an entire community with their maintenance bicycle maintenance.