Nepal's rural roads go global

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DFID-funded programme wins 2009 Global Road Achievement Award

11 JANUARY 2010

The Government of Nepal received in Washington today an international award for its innovative road programme - Rural Access Programme (RAP), which reduces poverty through road building.

RAP, funded by DFID, won the International Road Federation's 2009 Global Road Achievement Awards in the category of advocacy and lobbying.

RAP is designed to promote road transport infrastructure as a means of improving the livelihoods and economic development of the poorest in 7 out of 75 districts in Nepal. The reputation of RAP has allowed it to influence major national policies, including the Government's 3-year plan. For example, the government now has adopted labour-based, environmentally friendly and participatory approach in its Local Infrastructure Development Guidelines and Rural Road Maintenance Directives. A provision in the guideline also demands 33% of women in the labour force.

Improving rural access in Nepal - audio slideshow

Launched in 2000, RAP has already built 633 km of roads in rural Nepal and further aims to build 365 km of roads. DFID provided £36 million for Phase I (ended in 2008) and is funding £17 million for Phase II of the programme.

The impact of RAP road building has exceeded expectations. Among many other impacts, RAP is generating 13.4 million labour days with average income of NRs. 200 ($2.85). In addition, free immunisations increased by 34%, school enrolment increased from 75% to 92%, labour migration fell by 5%, basic commodities prices fell by up to 46%, moneylender debt reduced by 73%, formal credit flow increased by 45%, and two-thirds of workers embarked on new income generating activities. The workers savings and credit schemes amount to NRs 162 million ($2.2 million), changing attitudes to saving.

Activities of RAP are run under the principle that access does not stop at road building and complementary income generating activities are an essential part of the programme. RAP's approach is labour based, environmentally friendly and participatory. This allows for not only the immediate employment of almost 47,000 workers from the poorest and most disadvantaged communities like the Dalit - the former untouchables, and the Janajati - the indigenous people - but also for training on income generating activities. This provides to the poor people the opportunity of future development and allows them to leave the poverty trap after the completion of the project.

Bhim Karki, a beneficiary of RAP says: "RAP has completely changed the way I farm. The training and advice I got from RAP has enabled me to switch from subsistence crops such as maize to cash crops such as radishes and cabbages. I've also learned the health risks of using pesticides on vegetables and am now using composting instead using new composting techniques, such as worms, which is cheaper and healthier."

RAP is one of the eleven road projects from around the world to win the International Road Federation's prestigious Global Road Achievement Awards.