A poor rural farmer grows grains and vegetables. This farmer uses appropriate technology to ensure a good crop and enough to feed his family. He hopes to sell his excess produce to gain additional income to pay the school fees for his children. How does the farmer access the market to sell his products?
Transportation is critical to linking people, improving communication as well as incomes. Rural transportation goes beyond building roads. It includes safety, inland waterways, women’s transport needs, ongoing maintenance and combating corruption in the sector. In rural poverty reduction, the role of transportation is often overlooked.
For example, in Sri Lanka, out of 4.4 million vehicles almost 50% are bicycles and they are used mainly in rural areas. Still, pedestrians and cyclists have been left out of the planning and development process. In India, these are the main people being killed as there is a lack of awareness as to the implications of new roads/traffic on communities. In Bangladesh, school children are dying en route to school highlighting the need to further communicate the link between education, transportation and road safety. In Amazonian regions (as shown in the photo above) or the islands of the south Pacific, waterways are the main transportation routes and should not be forgotten.
In a nutshell, what I am learning from my interaction with the International Forum on Rural Transportation and Development? We need to go beyond building roads and account for the wider role of transportation in rural development and poverty reduction efforts.