Rural infrastructure

Access to Infrastructures Service programme

Goal 1: Poor people in isolated rural communities have greater economic opportunities and well-being as a result of improved infrastructure services

We are interested in finding ways in which infrastructure can help catalyse development in rural communities, as well as reducing poverty by taking away some of the burdens and hardships of life in isolated rural areas. Our experience tells us that decentralised types of infrastructure which can be chosen and controlled by poor people themselves often bring the greatest benefits. At the same time, these systems also need to be run in partnership with government or other agencies if they are to run smoothly.

Our main areas of project work under this goal are in renewable energy, water supplies including irrigation, and transport. There are also some smaller components of work on housing, in particular in relation to reconstruction after disasters.

There are three cross-cutting themes that apply to all our work under this goal, and are what makes our work distinctive:

Appropriate technologies and technology choice

Practical Action has been working on rural infrastructure for over 40 years, learning much and sharing those lessons with others. Rural people continue to need an adequate choice of technologies that meet their needs and are affordable. Participatory technology development is now a well-established method that will remain key to many of our projects in this area.

The global context, however, continues to change and even isolated rural communities are feeling the effects. For example, we need to make sure that the technologies we introduce can be 'climate proofed' in the face of the uncertainties of climate change. We have also been working in emerging areas such as exploring the ways that locally-produced biofuels could help address energy poverty.

Practical Answers: technical information on energy and other technologies

Decentralised management systems

Practical Action's understanding of technology is broader than just the equipment or infrastructure itself. 'Technology' needs to include all the systems surrounding the equipment so that it can be chosen, financed, managed and maintained effectively and sustainably.

Over the years, we have developed considerable experience with the best ways of organising and running renewable energy systems, road construction and maintenance, and more recently the development or rehabilitation of rural water sources. Lessons are beginning to be learned and transferred between these different sectors.

Models for scaling up

Practical Action aims to develop ideas and technologies which can have a bigger impact on the lives of millions of poor people by being taken up and used by others. We aim to do this by communicating with, encouraging, and building the capacity of other agencies. We also need to make sure that the right policies and regulations are in place to support and enable scaling up to take place.

Further reading

Energy for the poor:Practical Action's policy and advocacy work on energy


Projects under this goal include:


Southern Africa:

South Asia:

Latin America:



East Africa:

no comments