Part 3: Upcycling the Tanzanian Way

July 25, 2012 § Leave a comment

Tanzania has some really creative ways to reuse garbage! Here are my favorite examples:

1. Bicycle spokes = grilling skewers for the barbecue

Those are bicycle spokes, yo.

Mishkaki is a very popular Tanzanian street food involving teeny, tiny cubes of meat stuck on a skewer and then cooked over a charcoal grill. For skewers, they clip the spokes off of bicycle wheels. Innovation!

Read the full post about mishkaki here.

2. Old plastic bags = baby diapers

Babies poop. Lots. Peeps need a way to contain all that baby doo without it constantly getting all over cloth and fabric, because hellooo handwashing. Disposable diapers are decidedly not a thing here. What is a person to do? Wrap that baby butt is one of the hundreds of free plastic bags lying around! Rinse it off, cut it up, make strips, keep them on hand at your changing station. Easy! Then the only cloth you need is a small square of fabric for the baby’s comfort.

Hippies that are reading this (you know who you are), please don’t get any ideas about cutting up your Safeway bags and wielding them on your baby. This approach works in Africa. In the States, it’s taking things too far.

3. Busted office chairs + busted bicycles + scrap wood = dope as hell homemade wheelchair

There are a lot of handicapped people in Tanzania. Malnutrition, lack of access to medicine, poverty, disease – all these things contribute. Vitamin D deficiency has a lot to do with it, so does polio, poor natal care, etc. The point is a lot of people need wheelchairs and there aren’t any wheelchairs to be had, especially not the kind that can withstand East African road conditions and allow the person to do anything useful.

So, what’s a physically handicapped person to do? Mobility is a necessity and crawling down the street really sucks, although people do it. The answer? Build your own mode of transportation out of whatever’s available. More than once, I’ve seen people truckin’ around on these awesome contraptions that are all a variation on this theme: part bicycle up front – handlebars, a wheel, chain and pedals rigged to be propelled by hands instead of feet; part desk chair – a comfortable and secure place for the person to sit where they won’t fall out; part wagon in the back for transporting goods. They get work and do business by transporting goods in the back of their wheelchair. It’s awesome.

Often, the best and most creative innovation comes from necessity. In a place where poverty is the standard and goods are not readily available, people have to make the most of what they have and stretch every resource available to the maximum. It leads to some really strange, some really cool, some really hilarious creations and situations.

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