World’s First Pedal Powered Cinema Saves Great Apes

The world’s first pedal-powered cinema, specially adapted for screening films in the field, is being used in Africa and Asia to help raise awareness about great apes and their forest habitats. Inspired by a sustainable, affordable and innovative way of bringing environmental films to communities without access to electricity, Madelaine Westwood provides the solution – the pedal powered cinema.

Pedal Powered Cinema in Africa


Madelaine Westwood is the founder and director of the Great Apes Film Initiative (GAFI), which has pioneered this people generated power solution that has been instrumental in raising awareness amongst communities about great apes, their habitat, the threats they face and how communities can be involved in protecting forests and great apes while at the same time enhancing their own livelihoods and sustainable futures.

Specially selected conservation films are screened to three target groups: decision-makers (including presidents and government ministers), the general public (national television audiences) and local communities (including wildlife management teams, army, farmers, national park rangers and education establishments).

Weighing about 20 kilograms, the pedal powered field cinema can be carried by one person in a backpack and taken to the remotest regions of the planet to communicate using the power of film. Participants of the film screenings are eager to help power the documentaries by taking turns to pedal the bike.

Gorillas, orangutans, chimpanzees and bonobos are among the great ape species that face extinction as their habitat is being destroyed and many animals are illegally killed or traded. Not only does this impact on the survival of great ape species, but it also has an impact of the livelihoods and well-being of millions of people who depend on forests and the ecosystem services they provide.

great apes chimpanzee


GAFI is currently active in 15 countries in Africa and South East Asia. These include Cameroon, Congo-Brazzaville, Côte D’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, Ghana, Nigeria, Rwanda,  Sierra Leone, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Sumatra and Borneo.

GAFI has achieved a huge impact across Africa and Asia, having screened its environmental films to approximately 300 million people via broadcast. Almost 500 000 people have been able to watch the films in local settings thanks to the pedal powered cinema.

Pedal Power for Great Apes


After watching the documentaries, group discussions on actions that can be taken to address sustainable livelihoods and conservation needs have inspired many people to start their own conservation projects, environmental clubs or campaigns. The screenings and discussions have also resulted in behavior changes like families deciding to stop collecting firewood from the forest and have resulted in the establishment of many new wildlife clubs.

GAFI also provides three trees at each local screening which enables the community to start a tree nursery that will eventually provide an alternative to taking fuel from the forest, provide food and give an income from selling seeds to other people.

GAFI is keen to reach even more people across Africa and Asia through its pedal powered cinema and arrange associated educational activities. Anyone interested in donating a pedal powered cinema (which cost £3500), is encouraged to contact Madelaine Westwood at GAFI ( Partnerships are key to the success of the GAFI screening programme, and Madelaine actively invites potential project partners to join with GAFI to produce effective conservation through the use of film and media.


  1. World’s First Pedal Powered Cinema Saves ... - July 24, 2013

    […] The world’s first pedal-powered cinema specially adapted for screening films in the field is being used in Africa and Asia to help raise awareness about great apes and their forest habitats.  […]

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