The road out of poverty
The road out of poverty
Cut off. That’s the situation for many of the world’s poorest women, men and children. They can’t just leap in the car, on a bus, or on a bike and get to where they want to go. Julita Npoto, who looks after her young, hungry and often poorly children, can only reach the outside world by walking long distances over tough terrain. She has nothing to help her carry vital supplies of food or medicine, so she has to bear the burden on her head or back. Julita’s village is miles away from the nearest market and from the essential services such as health and education that people in the developed world simply take for granted. Julita lives in Kenya and her situation is all too common across the developing world. No proper roads or vehicles mean women and children are forced to spend many hours each day attending to their most basic needs, such as collecting water and firewood. This valuable time could be used to tend crops, care for the family, study or develop small business ideas to generate much needed income. Governments in developing countries recognise that a greater choice of transport is good for the population, but priority is usually given to building main roads that only serve the better-off. People in the poorest rural communities rarely benefit.
Inadequate transport causes
• illness and death, as hospitals cannot be reached quickly. • illiteracy and innumeracy, as children find it difficult to attend school. • poverty, as long distances to markets make starting businesses very difficult. • powerlessness, as rural people are so removed from centres of political control.
Practical Action’s road map
Bike or bus? Donkey or ox? For more than 40 years, we have worked with poor communities to identify the types of transport that work best for them. With our technical and practical support, isolated rural communities can design, build and maintain village roads and bridges using local materials, tools and labour. Animals, bicycles and motor vehicles are all potential ways to carry people and their goods. In Kenya, for example, Julita Npoto no longer has to face the daily drudgery of collecting water and firewood, because Practical Action has worked closely with her community of Massai women to introduce a specially designed donkey pannier. Julita says: ‘I now collect enough water to last me for more than three days. I use the time saved to work on my small business, which brings me an income and a better life.’ All Practical Action’s projects are developed with the active participation of local people so they are right for their culture, needs and skills, and develop solutions that are sustainable.
Breaking the cycle of poverty
The wheel revolutionised the history of the world – and it continues to transform people’s lives today. Practical Action makes a real impact on poverty by helping local communities develop different kinds of cycle-based transport. Cycle ambulances, for instance, have helped save lives in Sri Lanka, Sudan, Nepal and Kenya. Quick and efficient, they provide a way of getting sick people to clinics and hospitals. Cycle trailers have a practical business use too, helping people carry their goods, such as vegetables and charcoal, to markets for sale. Not only that, but those on the poverty-line can earn a decent income by making, maintaining and operating bicycle taxis. With Practical Action’s know-how, Sri Lankan communities have been able to start a bus service and maintain the roads along which it travels. The impact has been remarkable. This service has put an end to rural people’s social isolation. Quick and affordable, it gives them a reliable way to travel to the nearest town; and now their children can get an education, making it far more likely they’ll find a path out of poverty.
Cycle taxis have revolutionised the lives of the Massai people
Driving forward new ideas
Practical Action and the communities we work with are constantly crafting and honing new ideas to help poor people.
Project in Action
Recent developments include
• new equipment and training to make affordable, durable wheels and brakes. • bicycles that can carry bigger loads. • ropeways to transport farm produce across hillsides and rivers to local markets. • boats to transport people and goods in areas prone to flash flooding.
These practical, effective and easy-to-use forms of transport can prove life-changing. Aizul Pradesh, who runs his own boat service in Bangladesh, is proud of what he has achieved through his work with Practical Action. He says, ‘During severe flooding I can now save families from my community by taking them to higher ground.’
Women spreading a fine gravel as the surface layer of a community road, which will be rolled in later.
New roads, new lives
With a community boat service people can earn a living – and save others when flooding occurs.
Bringing people on board
Working with local communities Practical Action lobbies for government policies that will give poor people better, more affordable transport options to improve lives. In Kenya and Sri Lanka we are working with town planners to ensure that the needs of cyclists are considered, vehicle pollution is reduced and good transport is available to even the poorest people. Furthermore, in Kenya we have helped local communities influence the government to abolish bicycle import tax. While in Sri Lanka, lobbying from poor people encouraged the government and other donors to invest money in roads built by the local community. As a founder member of the International Forum on Rural Transport and Development, Practical Action is at the heart of a global network that shares life-changing information about transport among individuals and organisations in nearly 100 countries. We are one of the leading publishers of technical manuals on low-cost vehicle manufacture and repair. We also provide information on village road construction and maintenance. Such practical advice helps rural people transform their lives.
In Sri Lanka it’s a sobering fact that, in one district alone, up to 2,000 kilometres of roads can be washed away in a few weeks by heavy rain. With Practical Action’s assistance, communities learn how to make, maintain and repair their own earth roads even in the face of floods. Mr Dissanayake, who attended one of our training courses on how to build earth roads, said, ‘Practical Action’s approach is ideal for remote communities. We can make use of it to help more people have better roads. The KiriwatteAngulgamuwa road built using these methods has withstood heavy spells of rain and has proved it really works!’ With new roads being built between communities, a lifechanging network of possibilities is being created – one that connects previously isolated people to schools, clinics and markets. They’re no longer alone. With their confidence given a much-needed boost, people can take charge of their lives, dare to believe in a more prosperous future, and make themselves heard by the people in power. The expertise we have gained in Sri Lanka is now being shared with communities in Peru and Kenya. As a result, they can construct and maintain new earth roads and paths, now and for generations to come.
Transporting goods using a gravity ropeway.
Project in Action
Nothing more than gravity
More than half the Nepalese population lives in the rugged hills and mountains that cover over three-quarters of the country. The main mode of transport is on foot, with people carrying heavy loads across the harsh, unfriendly landscape. In the Mustang district, people used to carry goods to market on foot or with pack animals. Exhausting and slow, this often meant their precious farm produce would be damaged or even rot on the journey. All this has now changed. How? Because of a simple, practical ropeway that uses nothing more than gravity to transport goods in a matter of moments. Chandra Man Lalchan, who helped install this innovative technology with the help of Practical Action says, ‘It used to take two hours to transport 70 kgs of apples downhill, but with the Gravity Ropeway, it takes less than two minutes. It’s amazing!’ Gravity ropeways are an affordable, safe and efficient method of getting goods to market. The simple ropeway consists of two trolleys attached to separate cables. When one goes up the other comes down – it’s as simple as that. The weight of the trolley at the top pulls the trolley from the bottom while the speed is controlled by an easy-to-use braking system. A local committee collects a small service charge to manage and maintain the ropeway and ensure the service is sustained into the future. By saving time, effort and money, this simple intervention has transformed the lives of women and men who previously struggled for hours with heavy loads on their shoulders.
Photography: Annie Bungeroth, Zul, Lucy Stevens, Rachel Berger, Practical Action/Nepal
We at Practical Action are proud of what we have achieved, but we know it’s only the beginning. We look forward to working alongside poor communities the world over, to improve even more lives through a wider variety of available transport.
Future plans include
• making sure that transport plans address the needs of children, disabled and elderly people. • linking transport initiatives with other projects that reduce poverty such as improving the marketing of products so that people get a better price. • highlighting the benefits of investing in non-motorised forms of transport in contrast to large-scale projects such as highways and flyovers which take land from communities without giving back any benefits.
If you would like to know more about transport and development, or Practical Action’s work in general, please contact: Supporter Services Unit, Practical Action, The Schumacher Centre for Technology and Development, Bourton on Dunsmore, Rugby, Warwickshire, CV23 9QZ, T +44 (0)1926 634400 F +44 (0) 1926 634401 E firstname.lastname@example.org W www.practicalaction.org
Practical Action is the working name of Intermediate Technology Development Group Ltd. Charity No. 247257 l Patron HRH The Prince of Wales, KG, KT, GCB. Whilst stories in this leaflet are true, names and photos have been changed to protect the identity of individuals.