Chukudus – A no nonsense local transporter that changes lives of Congo’s poor

February 10, 2010 at 11:55 pm

(Source: Washington Post)

Necessity is the mother of all inventions.  Many of the world’s top innovative tools and applications, right from electricity to our modern computers, were all bron out of our existential necessities.  The following story by Stephanie McCrummen brings to you another such invention that is not the best form of transportation around, but in a country that is shattered by years of a civil war and grinding poverty, it is very effective in getting the  job done – moving people and goods, while enabling income generation for some of the poorest people in this world.

Today’s Washington Post Foreign Service featured this story of Chukudu, a pre-industrial looking local transporter, prevalent in Congo.  Here is an excerpt of this story:

African cities often have forms of transport that reflect some facet of their character. In Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, tiny, blue, Soviet-made Ladas buzz along the wide avenues, mementos of the country’s Cold War alliance. In the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, a corrupt syndicate runs a fleet of banged-up minibuses with names such as Dreams, Bombastic, Mayhem and I Feel Nothing, which weave a spirited, at times nihilistic, narrative through the traffic.

In the towns and villages of war-ravaged eastern Congo, the lumpy, lava-covered roads belong to the humble chukudu: hand-hewn wooden scooters that men ride and push across the hills, hauling towering loads of charcoal, cabbage, potatoes and other stuff of daily life.

Though the chukudus look pre-industrial, local residents say they date from the 1970s, when Congo’s economy and government began to collapse under the rule of then-dictator Mobutu Sese Seko and people had to improvise services from schools to heavy transport.

Available in three models — small, medium and large — the chukudu is a marvel of practical engineering and endurance. It has become the donkey of eastern Congo — a beast of burden that hauls vegetables in the good times and fleeing people in the bad. Purely utilitarian, chukudus are rarely painted or personalized. The most common flourishes are mudflaps for their wooden wheels. And unlike the minibuses of Nairobi, chukudus rarely inspire nicknames.

Here is the best part – Economics:   Ndayambaje, 27, said he could expect a decent 5,000 Congolese francs, or about $5, for this trip, which is $5 more than he would have if it weren’t for his chukudu.

“If you have a chukudu,” he said, “you can’t starve.”

And you don’t need a license to drive one of these. It will be interesting if someone can conduct a study on the economic impact of this transporter and possibly include  some safety statistics to go along with in that evaluation. You can bet your life that it has to be one of the best cost effective forms of transportation modes around, with a cost-benefit ratio that you cannot beat, ever.  Above all, the Chukudus are super eco-friendly, can be rated zero-emission vehicle right off the bat and people stay fit riding/pushing them around.  Anyways, click here to read the rest of this interesting article.

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