By Devendra Kamarajan
ACCRA (IDN) – A young inventor, Frank Darko, has designed a water cycle to help Ghanaian children living in villages throughout the Volta region reach schools. Currently, they must swim or wade through at least one river every day to get to the nearest school. This is particularly dangerous during the rainy season, three months a year.
Frank Darko, a 27-year-old Ghanaian man, was moved to action in 2017, after seeing a documentary and news reports about the children’s plight, reports Raluca Besliu in YaleGlobal. He invented a water bicycle to help children and others living in river regions to cross bodies of water.
“There are no canoes to carry them,” Darko notes. “But even if there is a canoe, it is very risky as it can capsize at any time putting the life of the children in danger. The water cycle is designed to be stable on the water.”
He calls his invention ‘Chario’, a name inspired by the word chariot, a carriage driven primarily through horsepower, and claims that his chariot is safer than a canoe. It took him more than one year to come up with the concept and design the water cycle. He had other ideas at first, including building a bridge, but these proved to be beyond his financial means.
Darko has used aluminum, wood and a propeller as well as cork which keeps the Chario afloat. With no financial support from either investors or the government, he invested around $100 out of his pocket to develop the cycle.
The Chario is easy to operate, and Darko says there is no need to know how to ride a bike. Other people, including a popular radio anchor, tested the water cycle at sea, although children in the Volta region have yet to try it out.
Darko is currently perfecting his model. The current version accommodates one person. He plans for the next one to ferry five people: “Four at the back and the rider. The children are not going to ride the machine by themselves. Someone will carry them to and fro on the water surface. They will be at the back and the rider in front, just like a regular chariot.”
For his next version, the young entrepreneur plans to use more expensive, durable materials for water-resistance – stainless steel, mahogany, leather and kapok – a tropical tree native to West Africa. For the new model, he is immersing the propeller to avoid splashing water onto the children or driver. This will make the device faster, lighter and more efficient. He hopes to secure the support of private investors.
The importance of the invention is underlined by the fact that over the past several decades, flooding has become one of the most harmful natural hazards in the Volta River Basin. In 2018 alone, more than 30,000 people in at least 225 communities in the Upper East and North regions have endured floods, writes Besliu.
These regions also report the lowest overall primary and secondary school attendance rates in Ghana. Not all the children know how to swim in the flood-affected regions. “Those who cannot swim usually ford streams by holding onto logs and bending tree branches, risking a fall and the waters carrying them away.”
Children are often late for classes and tired. In some cases, parents decide that crossing rivers is too dangerous, so they simply refuse to allow their children to attend school.
Such entrepreneurial endeavours are far from singular in Ghana, notes Besliu. According to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor report based on a countrywide survey of more than 1,200 young people, 66 percent of young Ghanaians have started their own business. Most operate in the informal sector due to cost and lack of market access.
More than 35 percent of Ghana’s population is under the age of 14 – compared to the global average of 25 percent. In Ghana, as in other parts of sub-Saharan Africa, this is partly due to the government’s inability to provide jobs for its citizens as well as an increasing demand for local innovative solutions by banks, insurance companies and manufacturing firms.
Darko’s invention could be useful throughout Ghana, says the YaleGlobal report, as many communities struggle with heavy rainfall and flooding. During the two rainy seasons, in spring and autumn, children and workers often cannot reach their daily destinations. “The Chario could also be useful in other countries facing similar problems, including Togo and Benin or India.” [IDN-InDepthNews – 07 December 2018]
Photos courtesy of Frank Darko and Education in Ghana. Source: YaleGlobal Online.
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