Isolation is one of the key elements of poverty; isolated communities have little or no access
to goods and services, and few opportunities to travel beyond their immediate surroundings.
This restricts agricultural productivity, reduces health and educational and limits
opportunities for employment and political opportunity.
Limited financial resource prevents investment in transport maintaining the position of
poverty and isolation. Consequently, there is a need to develop alternative, more affordable
means of transport
Developing such systems requires
consideration of four key elements:
• the improvement of village
level infrastructure such as
paths, tracks, and footbridges
• the provision of adequate and
affordable rural transport
• the siting of services closer to
the communities, thereby
removing or reducing the need
for lengthy travel the
promotion and use of
intermediate means of
transport including; pack
animals, sledges, animal carts,
cycle based transport and some
low cost motorised devices. One
of the more common types
of intermediate transport is
Figure 1: Cyclist carrying mattresses, Puttalam
District. An example of ordinary bicycle used to
transport difficult loads. Photo: Practical Action.
Bicycles are a low cost means of transport that can improve access to water, health facilities
and, for example, address stove marketing problems faced by woman producer groups in
The bicycle is still expensive for poorer families in Africa and can cost between 20 to over
100 per cent of a rural household’s annual income. Therefore, transport needs to be
supported by an affordable system of manufacture, supply, and repair.
Affordability is related to the availability of spare parts and repair services, which are
sometime lacking in rural areas. Several projects have attempted to boost local economics by
encouraging artisanal production of suitable transport and improve the local capabilities of
metal workers to maintain and repair bicycles and other types of transport.
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