CANTAL BAKKER IS EMPOWERING MOROCCON YOUTH WITH PIKALA BIKES

‘Pikala’ means a bicycle in Moroccon dialect, while ‘Pikala Bikes’ is a social enterprise founded by a Dutch national Cantal Bakker.

Project Pikala bikes train’s local population with education and technical knowledge; making them employable and independent.

By improving the skills of the youth, girls and boys become professional bicycle tour guides and a catalyst-of-change to boost tourism in the country.

Besides imparting education and generating employment, the foundation is encouraging circular economy with its recycling project. It imports old-discarded bicycles from the Netherlands to Marrakech; refurbishes them and puts them to use for social development projects.

Pikala Bikes are available for rentals and guided tours. In addition, the NGO is pushing the case of cargo bikes as well. It delivers food and groceries using electric cargo bikes and further exploring efficient alternatives to ensure businesses adopt sustainable ways for last mile deliveries.

In the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the NGO has reached out to affected communities with essential supplies and other items. Part of the financing for Pikala Bikes comes from TUI Care Foundation, and rest from its partners and donors.

Founder of Pikala Bikes Cantal Bakker. Photo credit: Sara Holmberg

Pikala Bikes was founded by Cantal Bakker in 2016 with her partners help, Erik van Heikningen. The Dutch girl visited Marrakech in 2014 with her friends and immediately fell in love with the city.

In the absence of bicycle rental shops, they rented out bicycles from locals and rode to explore off the beaten tracks in Marrakech. In the trip, Cantal Bakker noted a host of issues – youth unemployment, air pollution, lack-of sustainable tourism facilities and bicycles had poor reputation.

She saw a potential in promoting sustainable tourism and thought of using bicycles as a ‘force for good’ to eliminate poverty, generate employment and introduce cycling culture with a positive impact.

Bakker returned to Netherlands and worked on a business plan. Post her research, she was convinced with her idea and Pikala Bikes came alive in January, 2016. Five years later, they are now active in three cities.

Today, the project is helping the citizens of Marrakech and tourists to have access to unique and personalized experiences on bicycles.

Pikala Bike tour. Photo credit: Edelweiss Magazine.

Cantal Bakker made a bold decision of relocating and starting a bicycle revolution in Morocco, and has fostered a successful tourism and community development project. She intends to support more youth and plans to expand to more cities in Morocco, at the same time have its presence in other European cities.

The government of Morocco is backing Pikala Bikes and offered rent-free space to run the Atelier (workshop). The Atelier is a multi-functional learning cum commercial center used for bicycle mechanic training, cycle training classes, traffic safety workshops for schools, rentals and guided tours, community outreach programs and retail sales. Hundreds of participants have already undergone the short term training (2 months) and the long-term courses (2 years) with Pikala Bikes and making a difference.

From the onset of the pandemic, the Atelier has sold more bicycles compared to its previous months.

Above and beyond, Pikala Bikes aims to further promote women cycling with additional batches for girls, to teach them how to cycle and conduct more workshops for kids on road safety and impart knowledge on using the power of bicycles with art and creativity.

Pikala bike girls. Photo credit: Pikala bikes.

Moroccan women in hijab and robes are breaking social barriers by riding bicycles, building self-confidence and feeling empowered. Currently, 40% of the volunteers and guides employed with Pikala are girls; and many others are working in different domains and getting trained for leadership roles.

Marrakech receives over two million tourists each year, and to offer different types of activities to discover the city heritage and tourist attractions especially on a leisurely pace makes a great offering.

Eco-Tourism is the future for travel industry and Marrakech has bright prospects powered by Pikala Bikes. With community participation in eco-friendly mobility projects; the city is cycling towards a climate-friendly environment.

Cantal Bakker and her NGO are doing fabulous work to build healthier, happier and inclusive cities. You can contribute in many ways – by renting a bike, booking a bicycle tour, collaborate for long term partnership or simply share her story in your network to reach maximum people.

Tourists on a guided trail. Photo credit: Pikala bikes.
  • Wadaeana – Goodbye
  • Kun Amna – Be safe
  • Baraka Allaho fik – God bless you.

(Translated using google – apologies for any error; please flag-off).

Before you leave, I suggest you watch this amazing video titled – “This girl left Holland to start a bicycle project in Morocco”.

What do you think about this project? Write your comments.

Photo credits: Pikala Bikes

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Author: Vijay Malhotra, Mumbai

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