Biking help to remote communities

24 March 2005

A South African manufacturer has secured a contract to export 58 purpose-built utility motorcycles to South East Asia.

The eRanger Lifecycle is designed for cost-effective use as a stretcher ambulance, mobile clinic, water purification and audio-visual education unit in remote rural areas.

Terrence Harmse, director of Ranger Production Company SA, told Beeld newspaper that the order comprised 53 motorcycle ambulances with side-mounted stretchers and five motorcycle immunisation units capable of carrying two people plus all the equipment needed to set up a mobile clinic.

The eRanger is designed to reach areas that may be inaccessible to all but four-wheel drive vehicles, but at a fraction of the cost. An eRanger ambulance costs little more than R30 000; a four-wheel drive ambulance costs in the region of R500 000.

SA, UK joint venture
Manufacture of the vehicle was transferred to King William’s Town in the Eastern Cape following a joint venture deal struck in 2003 between UK-based Ranger Production Company and South African engineering company Fabkomp.

The deal, representing R3-million in British investment, was endorsed by Nelson Mandela, an early sponsor of what was initially called the Ranger Lifecycle project.

The utility vehicle, the brainchild of British businessman Mike Norman, has been successfully deployed in rural areas in Malawi and South Africa.

Three eRangers were delivered to the Malawi Safe Motherhood Project in 2000 for transporting pregnant women to clinics. In 2002, Malawi’s department of health placed an order for a further 10 vehicles.

Also in 2002, Ranger Lifecycle and Nelson Mandela launched a project involving 17 of the utility vehicles in the Oliver Tambo District in the Eastern Cape.

As part of the project, a workshop was set up in Umtata and fully equipped with parts needed for the bikes. Local mechanics were trained in repairing the vehicles, and the riders, both male and female, were trained to service the bikes and carry out emergency repairs, in addition to being medically trained.

In 2004, the Eastern Cape department of transport bought a fleet of 22 eRangers to help combat cholera outbreaks in remote parts of the province.

Adaptations, collaborations
Ranger Production Company has also collaborated with UK-based firm Agri-Visual in developing the MediaCycle, which comes equipped with everything needed to put on a video screening for an entire village.

Another collaboration, with South African fire and rescue group Fire Raiders, has produced the eRanger emergency response vehicle, combining ambulance, police and fire services in one flexible unit that is lightweight and nimble enough to traverse the narrow lanes of an informal settlement.

A trial eRanger Mobile dog-patrol unit has also been put to the test by the East London police – and the vehicle’s versatility doesn’t end there.

“eRanger can also be used by entrepreneurs”, says Fabkomp CE Brian Harmse. “It would be a great tool for self-employment opportunities.

“Corporate business, on the other hand, could find this bike effective in reaching people on the streets and outside urban areas, and as a convenient and cost-effective tool for transporting their products directly to the people.

“There is great potential for transporting products such as food, ice-creams and soft drinks.” reporter