University of Iowa student still pedalling for climate

With RAGBRAI complete, local woman's fundraising goal continues

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Vanessa Fixmer-Oraiz may be done riding her bamboo bike across the state of Iowa, but her mission to raise $40,000 for a bamboo processing tank for farmers in the Philippines is just hitting a new gear.

“It’s a lot of money,” said Fixmer-Oraiz, who was given the estimate on the bamboo processing tank from Carmelita Bersalona, executive director of InHand Abra who will purchase the tank. “When I heard the number I was like ‘OK, well, this is a tall order, but we’re going to give it our best shot.’”

Fixmer-Oraiz spent the last week riding a bamboo bike, which she has named the “bambike”, more than 400 miles in RAGBRAI from one side of the state to the other to promote her fundraiser and climate justice in the Philippines.

Fixmer-Oraiz, who is half Filipino and a graduate student at the University of Iowa, studies climate change impacts on rural farmers. She is currently an intern with the English River Watershed Management Authority here in Iowa.

In the Philippines, where Fixmer-Oraiz worked with local NGO InHand Abra, she discovered that farmers were working to plant more bamboo, a highly sustainable crop for the area.

“It would make for a more streamlined product,” explained Fixmer-Oraiz of the bamboo processing tank. She said that the tank cuts down on the time it takes to cure and process the bamboo. It also yields a higher-quality product compared to when farmers dry the bamboo in the sun, which can cause twists and cracking in the bamboo.

In the end, the bamboo processing tank will give farmers a better chance to compete in the national market.

“I think people were generally interested in the bike and the fundraiser,” said Fixmer-Oraiz, who got the bamboo bike frame in the Philippines and constructed it with a friend in Iowa City.

The process of making the bamboo bike RAGBRAI ready took four months, mainly due to challenges of adding parts without compromising the bamboo frame.

For example, the water bottle holder, something common on most bikes, needed to be attached with Velcro instead of screws.

Now that RAGBRAI 2014 is complete, Fixmer-Oraiz is looking for new ways to promote her fundraiser which has currently raised $2,230.

“I’m looking for other opportunities to fundraise,” said Fixmer-Oraiz, who has been promoting her $40,000 goal via social media and plans to work with local community organizations.

Follow Fixmer-Oraiz’s blog at Kawayancrew.wordpress.comor make a donation to her project at her page.

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