Wheelbarrow boys of Liberia

via herwigphoto.com on flickr

While most of us rarely think of or use wheelbarrows in our daily lives, for a large group of post-war Liberian youth, pushing a wheelbarrow through the streets of Monrovia is decent work and steady income. The otherwise simple tool allows many of them a means to make money without much initial investment or extensive training. The wheelbarrow workers are generally divided into two main groups – those selling products likefood, clothing, etc, and those hired by individuals and companies to transport goods throughout the busting city.

"The wheelbarrow is very importantto the Liberian economy because mostpeople cannot afford cars and trucks totransport goods," says T.R. Sieh,who makes wheelbarrow deliveries inDuala Market, north of town. "Andmany of our roads are narrow, so we usethe wheelbarrow to reach customers wheretrucks cannot go." Wheelbarrows are so ubiquitous thatsome corporations have taken topurchasing ad space on the sides of thebins, much as they do on buses and taxisin more developed cities.

The wheelbarrow and the mostly young men who wield them have become such a booming business that they have been organized into several competing unions.

At least three competing unions arestruggling to organize the wheelbarrowoperators in the post-war economy, whereunemployment is estimated at over 80%and droves of new young people migrateinto the city every day in search ofwork. "You register with the Associationand we paint the serial number on theside of your 'wheel' like a licenseplate," says George Wilson,Financial Secretary of NAWOAL's DualaMarket branch. "Our branch has 394members. We've been here since 1991. It's in our constitution that it's everymember's duty to make a contribution.Then when you get sick, or if you die,NAWOAL can help with thearrangements."

More info and images in the Liberia – Wheelbarrow workers Flickr set. Also, watch the video below about the life of one wheelbarrow worker.

2 thoughts on “Wheelbarrow boys of Liberia

  1. sinclair

    im very much interested in this article please help me with details on how i can start and operate such a business,so that i can create employment in my country

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