This a great challenge because more than 60% of 1.216 Billion Africans living in rural areas still do not have access to good roads. For the past five years, rural road construction has been on the agenda of every government in Africa in a bid to improve their economies and thus the lives of rural populations.
In this respect, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), The World Bank, International Labour Organization (ILO), The African Development Bank (AfDB), Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) in collaboration with their governments, have funded many rural-urban road infrastructural projects in African. It is believed that these roads will enormously reduce hunger, diseases, poverty, unemployment, insecurity, illiteracy and enhance rural access to health, educational, social and most purposely commercial services since they link rural populations to markets, medical services, commercial services and social amenities.
On-going, planned & Completed rural farm-to-market road projects
In 2001, African leaders agreed to sign a deal which they called “The New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD)” focuses on regional planning for new infrastructure projects to facilitate the efficient transportation of goods, people and information throughout the African continent.
Within the past ten years, many farm-to-market road projects have been going on, some completed while some are still at the planning stage, for example;
The rehabilitation of rural-urban farm-to-market roads was Ghana in 1996, a labour-based contracting project, which was the very first in Africa. The aim was to foster easy transportation of cocoa from its production in rural areas of the Western Region of the country to the sea ports. This project was later funded by the word bank in 2001.
In Senegal, the Dakar-Damniadio highway project was carried out from 2013 to 2015 to link the political capital to the economic capital. This network of roads also links the Dakar sea port and the Blaise Diagne airport and other cities of neighbouring countries while passing through rural areas.
The Cameroon Mamfe-Bamenda highway project which is on-going planned to link many rural/urban areas between the Bamenda grass field highlands and the Ejagham-Fontem forests.
Urban-rural infrastructure rehabilitation project, executed between 2009 to 2011 which links the city of Monrovia and rural areas in Liberia.
Kampala-Jinja Expressway project which is still at the planning stage launched in 2018 and on-going.
How farm-to-market roads can improve development in rural areas
Rural economies in most African countries are primordially agrarian with minimal supply chains and inadequate infrastructure to enable access to markets. Most markets for rural products are more than five hours or more away from rural areas and this is a serious constrain to transportation and movement in general. However, if farm-to-market roads in rural areas are constructed, their economy will improve in the following ways;
There will be a better rural-urban connectivity which will definitely improve urban market access by rural farmers thus widening their business horizon.
It will be possible to bring better farm equipment, services and chemical input to rural farmers that will improve product efficiently, variety and quality.
There will be a remarkably possible to distribute, market and transport faster, at low cost and in great quantities.
It will encourage the development of local markets, small-scale businesses, large scale farming and financial institutions that can fund agribusinesses.
Diverse employment opportunities will be created for rural inhabitants from petit jobs for daily waged employees/labourers to white collar jobs.
It will enable mobility of the more vulnerable and weaker social class people such as women, children and old people to safely move.
It will facilitate the provision of social amenities such as telephone services, portable water, health services, schools and electricity.
It will ensure food security and curb hunger reducing malnutrition and death rate.
Rural transport systems and farm-to-market in general can improve the economy of African countries if made available, sustainable, affordable, reliable and accessible. African countries can make their transport policies and agendas easy for low-income inhabitants to access markets, needs and social services, so as to encourage.
Article from AFRIC editorial.
Credit image/google images