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Impact of Rural Roads on Poverty Reduction: A Case Study-based Analysis

Impact of Rural Roads on Poverty Reduction: A Case Study-based Analysis

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This study aims to provide a concrete documentation of the correlation between rural roads and poverty reduction. Case studies from previous ADB operations were used for this assessment that will also be the basis on improving the design of rural roads.
This study aims to provide a concrete documentation of the correlation between rural roads and poverty reduction. Case studies from previous ADB operations were used for this assessment that will also be the basis on improving the design of rural roads.

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Modes of Transport of the Poor

55. Despite the difference between the case study sites, the travel patterns of the poor and
very poor across the study areas appear to be remarkably similar. Most appear to mainly restrict
their travel to the village area and occasionally travel outside the village. Even when the village
is close to a nearby marketing center (as in the case of Negros), the poor travel only on market
days and not regularly. The fundamental reason for this appears to be lack of capital; they have
little to sell and little money to buy anything but essential items. They also lack time as their
days are taken up with subsistence tasks and laboring, and have little time for speculative
activities to diversify their livelihoods. The primary mode of travel is walking, though the poor
also use bicycles when they can gain access to them. Poverty is compounded for those in
control areas where remoteness and isolation are greater.

56. Access to means of transport among those who are in the better-off category of survey
respondents is, unsurprisingly, far better than among those who are poor or very poor. About
65% of the better off have a bicycle, against 35% of the poor and very poor. Twenty-five percent
of better-off households own one or more scooters/motorcycles, against 4% of the very poor
and 9% of the poor. Comparisons between the very poor, poor, and better off indicate that for
crop processing, the percentages of each group traveling are 9%, 17%, and 24%, respectively.
To sell crops, the percentages traveling are 20%, 16%, and 32%, respectively. In traveling for
business or employment, the better off travel more often, generally more than once a week (i.e.,
for regular employment). In fact, PRAs in all of the study communities showed that those with a
regular government or salaried position were by far the largest subgroup of the better off in all

57. The responses to the question of whether the condition of the road had changed after
rehabilitation were generally very positive (Table 4). Among all project respondents, 59% said
that it was better than 5 years ago, although 24% disagreed. However, consciousness of the
road and its importance seems to be much higher among the better off than the very poor and
poor. Table 4 also shows that the better off are less likely to give a “don’t know” response, and
more likely to give a positive response.

Table 4: Change in the Condition of the Road Over 5 Years (%)


Socioeconomic Group


Better Off

Very Poor


Don’t know





Better now





Worse now





No change









Source: Household survey data.


58. In looking at access to modes of transport, it is useful to consider the buying of
provisions, which is a common
task. Figure 2 shows the
proportionate modes of transport
for each group in the project site.
The very poor are much more
reliant on walking than the better
off. The latter are more likely to
have access to private motorized
means (motorcycle or 3-wheeler)
or to a car or van. Interestingly,
the poor are more likely to use a
bicycle, while bicycle usage
among the very poor is
negligible. The very poor’s heavy
reliance on walking is reflected in
other tasks too, such as in
accessing health services, going
to school, and selling products.


The Importance of Roads to the Poor

59. Through the improvement of road surface and provision of all-year access, the six
projects studied have allowed better modes of transportation, reduced travel time, and at times,
even the travel costs, thereby bringing benefits to those who travel outside the community and
its vicinity. PRAs indicate that the poor and very poor inhabit a localized village, walking world,
and as such make little use of medium- or long-distance transportation links. Of more
importance to them are the network of paths, tracks, culverts, and access routes in the
immediate village vicinity, on which they rely to access water, firewood, fields, and local
employment opportunities. Saving time in their within-community travel is important to them.
Intermediate modes of transport that help them increase their carrying capacity are also useful
to save time for more productive work. Most things critical to their lives can usually be found
within the village locale, and travel outside is occasional and for a special purpose. Incremental
benefits to them are more likely to come from accessing nonmotorized transport and ability to
cross waterways, etc., to help in their daily routine tasks. Often, they cannot afford to use
motorized vehicles, and these vehicles travel to destinations beyond their sphere of livelihood.
Therefore, increasing the mobility within the village is as important for poverty reduction as
providing access to markets outside the village. The time savings within the village will allow the
poor and very poor to be more productive and generate small savings to explore opportunities
outside the village.

60. Men and women in all of the study locations have different household responsibilities. As
such, they also had different transport and travel patterns and needs. Responses from PRAs
confirm that women across the study countries are deemed to be responsible primarily for
household tasks, and are likely to have to spend more time on these tasks. In both their travel
within the community and outside, men and women have different travel patterns, tasks, and
responsibilities. In local travel, responses indicate that both men and women share
responsibility to undertake crop production. For water collection, men overall have a slightly
higher responsibility (30%) than women (26%). In collecting firewood, another major household
task requiring travel within the immediate village area, men and women have similar
responsibilities. However, in looking at the total time spent to undertake this task, women spend
nearly twice as long in firewood collection tasks as men (42% to 22%).

Figure 2: Means of Transport Used for
Buying Provisions
(project sites)




percentage of respondents


























minibus/route van






animal drawn/cart

on foot

better off very poor poor

Source: Household survey data.


61. Inside the community, the survey shows that women are much more likely to travel for
health purposes (55% as opposed to 5% for men), either for themselves or, more frequently, to
accompany children. They are also much more likely to travel for provisions within the
community, with 46% of responses against 17% for men, and 18% shared by both. Men are
more likely to travel for crop processing (53% to women’s 14%, with 17% shared) and social
travel within the village is largely shared. In travel outside the community, these patterns are
broadly replicated. Outside the village as well, women are more responsible for buying
provisions and traveling for health reasons, while men travel outside for employment, crop
processing, and selling their produce. Survey returns also show that, for various tasks, men are
broadly more likely to have access to private means of transport like a bicycle, 3-wheeler, or
motorcycle. Women are more likely to travel on foot to fulfill tasks, or use a public form of
transport, like a bus or truck. The opportunities for men to travel outside the village and to take
up outside opportunities are reinforced and perpetuated by traditional gender roles in the study
sites, with women responsible for household tasks and men for productive or economic tasks.

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