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BAP in Gulu

The main way BAP is pursuing its goal of eradicating poverty is through different projects using Bicycles. BAP’s first project was initiated summer of 2009 in the Northern part of Uganda, in a district named Gulu. Due to the 21 year conflict that has traumatized the communities of Northern Uganda, BAP proposes to empower the community of internally displaced persons and make significant contribution to their lives by through encouraging economic recovery in the district.

The primary means of transport in Gulu district is by foot as motorized mobility is not only scarce but also unaffordable to the majority of the people. The situation is made worse by the remote location; people must trek long distances to access the most basic social, economic, and political facilities. Access to bicycles can improve not only individual opportunities, but benefit families as a whole by enabling people to bring produce or crafts to market, obtain water, access health care, maintain kinship ties, and improve social networking.

The Plan

In the summer of 2009, students from Bucknell were able to distribute a total of 102 bicycles to men and women of Kona Nwoya and Lulyango, located in Amuru District (previously part of Gulu). The bicycles were subsidized by BAP and provided with microfinancing that allows recipients repay the cost over the period of 18 months. People living in these villages were internally displaced from the war and continue to live in Interally Displaced Persons’ (IDP) camps away from their farmlands. Many of the individuals who received bicycles are farmers who will be able to use their bike to travel to and from their farmland, as well as to transport their goods to market. Since most of these farmers have to walk between one and three hours to and from their farm per day, a bicycle will drastically improve their day-to-day lives by quickening their commute and by easing the burden of carrying crops.

Implementation and Challenges

During the implementation of the Bicycles Against Poverty project, members learned many lessons through trial and error. A major change in our project plan occurred because of opportunitists who took advantage of people in the IDP camps by making promises they failed to keep. Because of their disheartening behavior, the government disallowed unauthorized people to do any form of work within the IDP camps.

This caused a delay in our project implementation, and taught us a lot about how government and NGOs function in the Gulu area, which will help us in future BAP work in Gulu. Despite this confusion and slight disorganization, the BAP project was successful for two reasons. One was the determination of the members whose response was to work as hard as possible to overcome obstacles. Second, upon arrival at the IDP camps, our project was immediately accepted by the residents which motivated us to continue to work long and hard to ensure 102 bicycles were given to the rightful recipients.

BAP employed translators to overcome the language barrier. Our initial contacts on the ground were able to find very knowledgeable local people who not only helped translate but also assisted us in writing the necessary letters to local officials to obtain permission to start our work in the camps. Most notably, all BAP documents were translated into the local language, Acholi, for maximum accessibility.

The sustainability of this project rests on the fact that every beneficiary agreed by the signing of the terms and agreement of our program that they will pay back half the cost of the bicycle (shs 140,000) in 18 months maximum (4,000 shs/mo.). The money collected from the beneficiaries will be used to buy more bicycles for people in the community.

Our good relationships with local officials proved to be very useful. While community members filled out applications, a station was set up for applicants to have their applications stamped showing the approval of local council members. We ensured that the applicants were not charged for the stamps, and instead paid for them ourselves, in order to avoid conflict in case the applicant was not selected to receive a bicycle.

Bring on the Bikes!

The transportation of bicycles to the two villages proved to be difficult due to the rough roads and distance from Gulu. Starting our project in Kona Nwoya we tried to correct mistakes and apply lessons learned there to Lulyango. An example of such a lesson learned is the way in which we painted BAP logos, bike numbers and put stickers on the bicycles for easy identification. In Kona Nwoya, we attempted to do all this on the day of bicycle distribution, for Lulyango we were able to accomplish all of this ahead of time.


We realized that one of the many facets of the war in Uganda was that rebel leader Joseph Kony was fighting against the government army whose soldiers were misusing their power by stealing cattle from the people they were meant to protect. We therefore believe that the better off a community is, the less likely it is to engage in war because the people understand that war results in the loss of life, property and wealth. As a result, the bicycles BAP distributed were not simply tools for economic development, but a source of joy and new beginnings for the beneficiaries and their neighbors. Individuals who receive bicycles are given a new sense of hope that they can arise out of insecure pasts, and move towards a more sustainable future.


One of BAP's goals is conflict reconciliation because only by reconciling violent pasts can people work together and improve their situation for the future. In order to meet this goal, two of BAP's five Ugandan consultants are experts in the field of conflict management, which we feel is vital to the ultimate success of the project. The consultants work on the ground to resolve disputes and send us feedback on how to improve this area of our project in the future. In addition, community members now understand that the future of the project depends on the success of the beneficiaries from the pilot project; thus beneficiaries and non-beneficiaries must work together to ensure that repayments are met. During the war people did not leave their huts because they were unsure of which neighbors they could trust and were not likely to work together on projects. However, BAP emphasizes the value of communities working together for a common goal; the goal of bringing more bicycles to their village. Thus, this project is changing the way both community members and BAP members see the world.

After travelling to Gulu, we were exposed to the negative psychological and emotional effects of war. Even two years after fighting has ceased, people live in constant fear, a feeling that has become engrained in their psyche. Although the project cannot alter this reality immediately, we have seen how joy, excitement, gratefulness, and hope can break down looming fear. Through this project, we have come to believe that indeed the power to make a difference lies in our hands. True inspiration causes a change of heart and leads to action by the inspired; students in BAP are proud to say, they were truly inspired and as a result took action.