Making a difference in Asia and the Pacific



Issue 20: March-April 2008

Rural infrastructure

In this issue


Improved rural infrastructure – paving the way to achieving the MDGs

Rural infrastructure plays an important role in meeting the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) of halving the number of people living in poverty and hunger by 2015.

Poor rural people often lack roads that link them to markets where they can buy agricultural inputs and sell their agricultural products, or to health centres. Schools are often out of reach, preventing children from getting primary education and taking advantage of economic opportunities in the future. In some rural areas, lack of access to clean water means that people continue drinking water from streams, having dire consequences on their health. As a result, poor rural people continue living in the ‘vicious circle of poverty’.

Almost all IFAD-supported projects in the Asia and the Pacific Region fund activities related to rural infrastructure. IFAD assists governments in the construction of: roads that enable poor people living in remote areas to access markets; schools that children can reach without walking for miles; health centres where people can receive primary and emergency care; and water pumps and toilets that improve people’s health and sanitation.

IFAD involves project participants, including many women, in the construction and maintenance of physical infrastructure. Community involvement generates employment, hence more income. Higher income in turn enables people to buy more nutritious food for their families, pay for their children’s education and sometimes start up other income-generating activities. Moreover, participating in project implementation creates a sense of ownership and responsibility, which often translates into assets and benefits that are sustainable.

Martina Spisiakova, Newsletter Coordinator

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Constructing flood-resistant roads links village lives and livelihoods in Bangladesh

Sunamganj is one of the poorest districts in Bangladesh. Lack of local roads, and the seasonal flooding that damages them, prevents people from bringing their produce to market, children from attending school, people from getting to the hospital and often farmers from bringing harvested crops home. Roads built by the IFAD-supported Sunamganj Community-Based Resource Management Project, which began in 2003, have solved this problem in a number of innovative ways.

About 86 per cent of the people living in Sunamganj District participate in the nine-year IFAD-supported project – landless, marginal and landholding households with less than 2.5 acres of land. The high incidence of poverty is attributed in part to low cropping intensity, since the area remains under water for about five to six months during the year. Undeveloped roads also contribute to the poverty of the area.

The infrastructure component of the Sunamganj Community-Based Resource Management Project focuses on building village roads to connect communities with the main road network. At the same time, the component has two special features to more specifically address the problem of poverty and flooding, as well as sustainability.

First, the project builds roads that are made of concrete rather than bitumen. Concrete can withstand flooding. It is now supporting the construction of two types of reinforced concrete roads – 2.6 metres and 2 metres wide – which permit smaller vehicles to transport produce but prevent heavier vehicles that can destroy the roads from using them. By being submersible, these roads do not require high embankments. This reduces cost, removes the need to acquire more land for embankments, and does not disrupt the natural flow of flood waters (disruption of flood waters can create local drainage problems and result in embankments being washed out). 

Second, the project supports the participation of local communities in the work. Although the roads are built by local contractors, the community is involved in planning the programme of work, monitoring the construction and ensuring maintenance. The work is organized through the Infrastructure Management Committee (IMC), whose seven to nine members come from community organizations established by the project. At least two of the members are women. 

The component also includes planting trees on the shoulders of embankments.  The project selected the poorest women of the community to routinely maintain trees and shoulders. Each one km of road engages two women who are paid BDT 50 (US$0.7) per day.

In collaboration with the Local Government Engineering Department (LGED) upazila (sub-district) engineer, the IMC is trained by the project’s engineer to check the quality of materials, concrete mixing processes, thickness of the concrete, placement of reinforcing bars and curing after casting.

Two members of the IMC supervise construction activities and ensure the quality of work. In cases of irregularity, they first notify the LGED field supervisor. If the problem continues, they contact the project. IMCs have raised many issues that were resolved immediately. On four occasions IMCs had to temporarily stop the work because of major irregularities. Consequently, they succeeded in making contractors work according to the terms of their contracts.

Last year the project introduced another innovation. Instead of employing contractors to build roads using reinforced concrete, the project employed its community groups known as Labour Contracting Societies (LCSs) to undertake construction of roads made of concrete blocks (see photo).  Omitting reinforced concrete saves the cost of expensive steel. (Lateral reinforcing bars can be added later in places where there is evidence of subsidence.) Many local women make the concrete blocks.

Construction through LCSs increases community involvement and generates employment. Most blocks are produced between September and November – a period when little other work is available. During this period, many poor households have to reduce food consumption and borrow money from moneylenders to survive. The project enables them to earn rather than borrow during this period. Communities are also learning new skills. By piloting this innovative scheme, the project helped build 4.5 km of roads.  

Communities are pleased with the roads and give significant credit to the project’s community organizations involved in building them. The roads have linked fields and fishing areas to homesteads, and homesteads to markets, schools and clinics.  To date, the project has built 69 roads amounting to 93.5 km and connecting 148 villages in six upazilas.  

Sheikh Md. Mohsin, Project Director, Sunamganj Community-Based Resource Management Project

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Roads to prosperity for the villages in Garo Hills in Meghalaya, India

For generations, five villages in West Garo Hills of the Meghalaya State of India were deprived because they were inaccessible. Lack of roads prevented people living in these villages from marketing their produce, unless they walked long distances to reach markets, and they were dependent on subsistence agriculture for their survival. The IFAD-supported North Eastern Region Community Resource Management Project for Upland Areas (1999-2008) alleviated their isolation by supporting the construction of roads.

Before the North Eastern Region Community Resource Management Project for Upland Areas started in 1999, Sasatgre, Durabanda, Ronkugre, Dubagre and Dura A·sim were remote villages. The main occupation of the people living in these villages is agriculture, with a predominant use of shifting cultivation. The main source of income comes from growing areca nut, an important commercial plant that yields a nut which is rolled in betel-leaves and chewed. Areca nut grown in this area is considered to be the best in North East India. Villagers also cultivate vegetables such as maize, millets, chillies and pumpkin.

For years, villagers had to walk up to 15 kilometres over the hills to carry their produce to the main road to sell it. It would take them four to five hours to reach the first point where they were able to sell their produce, and at a very low price. The IFAD-supported project funded a 9-kilometre road that linked all five villages with the main road, changing the lives of 257 families. Greater accessibility enhanced their economic conditions and improved the quality of life. The new road encouraged villagers to scale up their production of agri-horticulture products, as they can now easily reach markets and get better economic returns. This has changed the attitude of the people, as they are now motivated to work harder and are also beginning to pay greater attention to their children’s education and general health care.

“Everyone in the village has benefited immensely from the roads. Now pick-up vehicles and jeeps can come to our village. We don’t have to carry our produce on our heads. The businessman comes to us and purchase our produces and we get a good price for our yields”, said Starson Sangma, Secretary of a Natural Resource Management Group.

According to Romonsing Rangsa Marak, Secretary of Dura A·sim village, every productive adult in the village participated in the construction of the road, with the project paying them for part of their labour. “We worked as labourers and we are managing the roads,” said Marak.

Unfortunately, the new roads are made of kutcha, unpaved and untarred roads that require regular maintenance as heavy rains wash parts of them away. Nevertheless, the villagers maintain the kutcha roads because they consider them their own creation, property and asset. ”If the road was made of pucca [paved and tarred], life would become even more easy,” said Marak. Nevertheless, heavy rain does not stop people’s business activities. The pick-up Jeeps and other 4 X 4 vehicles come to villages and business goes on.

The villagers are now scaling up their current income-generating activities and also quickly taking up other ones. Thanks to the new roads, they are now able to sell their products in greater volumes, and thereby earn more. Without the roads, it would have been impossible for the communities to transport their products in such volume; they would have continued to be confined to low-level production and the resulting poverty.

Ankita Handoo, Knowledge Management Specialist, IFAD Field Presence Office, India

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Improved community infrastructure transforms village life in Attapeu, Lao PDR 

The IFAD-supported Rural Livelihoods Improvement Programme in Attapeu is being implemented in three districts of Lao People’s Democratic Republic (PDR): Phuvong, Saysettha and Xansai. The districts are amongst the poorest in the country, and the programme is working with 93 of the 113 villages in the three districts. Poor infrastructure is one of the causes of extreme poverty, and the programme is helping communities and the government build community infrastructure in order to improve people’s livelihoods and living standards.

The programme was launched in June 2006 and has already made significant progress developing a variety of local infrastructures.

The programme helped build five primary schools and repair six old schools. A total of 450 students are enrolled in the new schools and about 300 continue to attend the rehabilitated schools. Total enrolment has increased by almost 20 per cent. The schools targeted by the programme are being managed by the parent association in the villages where the schools are located.

Before the programme started, people had to travel a long distance to access primary health care. The programme supported the construction of three dispensaries during its first year of implementation. As a result, 1,082 families (5,702 people) now have access to health services. The government provided the dispensaries with a drug revolving fund to purchase medicines. This year, the programme plans to construct three more dispensaries – one in each district.

Potable water
Before IFAD’s intervention, people in Attapeu used to drink water from the streams and shallow wells, which often resulted in health problems such as diarrhoea. Women also had to travel long distances to fetch water. The programme has constructed 66 hand pumps in 22 villages. As a result, the incidence of waterborne diseases has decreased (for example, incidence of diarrhoea has decreased by 50 per cent). Women can save one to three hours per day by having hand pumps in their vicinity. In many villages supported by the project, villagers use hand pumps to raise catfish in small plastic-lined ponds. They also use water from these ponds to irrigate their kitchen gardens.

The programme helped construct 513 family toilets in ten villages of Phouvong and Saysettha districts. It provided families with toilet sheets, pipes and iron angles. The families receiving the toilets provided local material, such as sand and concrete, and labour for their construction. The Department of Health provided technical support and supervised the installation. The new toilets were built for individual households and are located near houses. The project also trained their owners on toilet usage, sanitation and hygiene. Water from hand pumps is used for flushing.

Before 2006, the only form of transportation for people living in many of the villages was on foot or by bicycle. The programme has supported the construction of almost 70 kilometres of roads (four roads to date) that link villages within a district. The government has financed the construction of a 4-kilometre road in order to connect two districts. In addition, IFAD collaborates with the World Food Programme (WFP), which provides food-for-work assistance to the people involved in constructing roads. Through this assistance,
 villagers have constructed 4 kilometres of road and another 29 kilometres are under construction.

Community markets
The programme helped build four community markets in Hadsan, Makkheua, Tadseng and Viengxay villages and an urban market in Phouvong District. Programme participants provided 60 per cent of the total cost of the construction in the form of wood, sand, stones and labour.

  • Soulichanh Phonekeo, Provincial Programme Director, Rural Livelihoods Improvement Programme in Attapeu Province
  • Dr. Kulwant Singh, Programme Management Advisor and Technical Assistance Team Leader, Rural Livelihoods Improvement Programme in Attapeu Province
  • Mr. Phetvilay Meuangduang, Social Development Advisor, Rural Livelihoods Improvement Programme in Attapeu Province

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Revitalizing the livelihoods of earthquake-affected people in Pakistan through house reconstruction

The Restoration of Earthquake Affected Communities and Households (REACH) is a project initiated with the financial support of IFAD. The project is a response to the earthquake that struck Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) and the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) on 8 October 2005, causing enormous loss of life and damage to physical infrastructure. The project focuses on the restoration of livelihoods affected by the earthquake. The key components include reconstruction of houses, rehabilitation of critical community infrastructure and replacing livestock.

The earthquake that struck in AJK and NWFP on 8 October 2005 left more than 80,000 people dead, half a million homeless, and countless without livelihoods. The Government of Pakistan, international and national donors, civil society organizations, volunteers and philanthropists intervened in every possible manner to convert this disaster into an opportunity to lead a better life through: improved living conditions such as seismically safe houses and physical infrastructure; and increased access to education, health and sanitation, training and improved technologies.

IFAD approved US$26.4 million for the Restoration of Earthquake Affected Communities and Households (REACH) project. The financing from IFAD supplemented the Earthquake Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Project (E3RP), funded by the World Bank and launched on 31 January 2006. The Pakistan Poverty Alleviation Fund (PPAF) was selected as an implementing partner for the project.

The project’s mandate was to carry out a detailed damage assessment of 120,000 houses and provide financial and technical support to homeowners in housing reconstruction. The reconstruction had to be in line with the guidelines laid down by the government for seismically safe construction of rural houses in earthquake-affected areas. Initiating the project was not a simple task because of the difficult terrain, harsh weather conditions and massive opposition by political and religious elements

In spite of these challenges, PPAF along with its partner organizations initiated the project at a very early stage and managed to carry out the detailed damage assessment of 120,000 houses before August 2006. To date, the project has disbursed more than US$175 million to eligible beneficiaries for housing reconstruction. 

Local training and mobilization
The ultimate goal of rebuilding the earthquake-resistant houses would have been unachievable without providing training to homeowners on reconstruction techniques used to make a house earthquake-resistant. A total of 77,084 house owners participated in a comprehensive training programme carried out at village/hamlet level. In addition, 25,785 craftsmen from the community were trained in earthquake-resistant contraction techniques. This cadre of skilled workers not only tackled the issue of labour shortage but also supported the trained workers in generating their income.
Under the social mobilization component, the project organized 90,145 community members in 3,181 community organizations at the village level. These organizations played a vital role in purchasing material and disseminating technical information, resulting in high-quality earthquake-resistant construction.

Monitoring and management information system
The project established a comprehensive monitoring and management information system at the outset. The system significantly increased the efficiency and effectiveness of the project, enabling the physical progress of the housing construction to be monitored, as well as other key factors such as design adherence, quality assurance and disbursement progress. The project also ensured the weekly flow of information from the field by developing a comprehensive reporting system that enabled the PPAF to monitor the pace and quality of project interventions. These systems enabled knowledge, information and experience to be shared among various stakeholders on regular basis, and cost-effective and sustainable solutions to be identified.

It is anticipated that the project will be successfully completed by June 2008 without compromising the quality of project interventions. The timely financial and technical support from IFAD enabled the earthquake-affected communities to revitalize their lives and livelihoods in a short time span of 2.5 years. 

Najaf Khan, Coordinator, Restoration or Earthquake Affected Communities and Households, Pakistan Poverty Alleviation Fund, Pakistan

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Multi-stakeholder approach – the key to successful infrastructure development initiatives in the Philippines

The multi-stakeholder approach in the establishment, operation and maintenance of infrastructure projects is one of the innovations introduced by the Northern Mindanao Community Initiatives and Resource Management Project supported by IFAD and the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR). The approach involves the participation of community members, institutions of the poorest of the poor, non-government organizations (NGOs), local government units (LGU) and national line agencies in the identification, prioritization, planning, implementation and management of critical rural and community infrastructure.

An innovative feature of the multi-stakeholder approach is the contribution of both labour and financing for infrastructure projects. In most cases, community contributions come in the form of labour, while the LGUs and the project share the cost of materials. The project also covers operating costs for the LGUs during the implementation of the infrastructure sub-projects and other supported sub-projects in the community such as the Poverty Alleviation Fund (PAF). NGOs contribute their expertise in community mobilization, and conduct trainings and other activities to build the capacity of community institutions.

The major gains achieved through the multi-stakeholder approach are improvements in access of poor families to basic services such as health and sanitation, education and markets. The construction of health centres, school buildings, potable water systems and production centres have benefited poor families. There is need no more need for them to travel to nearby barangays (villages) or municipalities to have regular health check-ups. Children no longer have to walk long distances in the mornings and afternoons to attend school in nearby barangays. Women and children no longer have to travel long distances to fetch water.

The infrastructure sub-projects supported by IFAD have contributed to an increase in farm productivity and cropping cycles. For example, the irrigation sub-projects have increased the production of palay, since irrigations systems allow two croppings per year, as opposed to one cropping per year in rain-fed areas.

The participatory nature of the multi-stakeholder approach has also contributed to a change in behaviour of participating stakeholders. In particular, as a result of the participation of the community members in the planning and implementation stages of the infrastructure sub-projects:

  • the sense of community ownership of initiatives has increased
  • sub-projects are maintained with more commitment and efficiency
  • LGUs developed a higher level of sensitivity in addressing the needs of participating communities.

Potable water system (PWS) in Sangay

PWS is a system in which water is stored in a common reservoir and distributed through pipes to common faucets to a cluster of five to ten households. One such system was constructed in Barangay Sangay, Municipality of Kitcharao, Province of Agusan del Norte, with the assistance of the project and the LGU of Kitcharao.

The system was completed and handed over to the community in April 2005, after which the barangay was responsible for its operation and maintenance. The Municipal Project Office (MPO) of LGU Kitcharao created the Sangay Water System Association (SAWASA) to operate and manage the system. In turn, SAWASA formed an operation and maintenance committee composed of six volunteers.

A regular barangay assembly is held every month. The committee presents and discusses issues related to the operation and maintenance of the system. Based on the results of the discussions, the barangay council formulates policies that are promulgated at the assembly.

During the settlement of disputes related to the operation of the system, SAWASA officers seek the assistance of the MPO personnel. Disputes occur most frequently among non-members such as political leaders, government employees and influential families.

“Children can now sleep clean and tidy. Mothers have more time spent at homes and participate more in community activities since they spend less time in fetching water and doing laundry with a tap stand nearby,” said Eusebia Con-con, a resident of Barangay Sangay.


The multi-stakeholder approach has demonstrated that development initiatives such as rural infrastructure projects can be implemented more successfully and become sustainable.

  • Vherna Castilla, Information Analyst, Northern Mindanao Community Initiatives and Resource Management Project
  • Edgar Soriano, Monitoring and Evaluation Support Officer, Northern Mindanao Community Initiatives and Resource Management Project
  • Ailyn Luyong, Sub-Project Analyst, Northern Mindanao Community Initiatives and Resource Management Project

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Martina Spisiakova
Tel: 3906-54592295

Making a Difference in Asia and the Pacific

Issue 19: January-February 2008
Rural finance

Issue 18: December 2007

Issue 17: September-October 2007

Issue 16: June-July 2007
Managing risks and reducing vulnerability to natural hazards

Issue 15:
March/April 2007

Energy for sustainable development

Issue 14: January/February 2007 - Sustainable natural resource management

Issue 13: November/December 2006 - PBAS: looking beyond the resource allocation system

Issue 12: September/October 2006 - Communication for poverty reduction and rural development

Issue 11: July/August 2006 - Working with UN agencies at the country level

Issue 10: May/June 2006 - Indigenous peoples and ethnic minorities

Issue 9: March/April 2006 - Access to land

Issue 8: January/February 2006 - Agricultural Technology Management

Issue 7: November/December 2005 - Pro-poor policies

Issue 6: September/October 2005 - Gender & MDGs

Issue 5: July/August 2005 - Partnership

Issue 4: May/June 2005 - Rural Finance

Issue 3: March/ April 2005 - Donor Harmonization

Issue 2: January/ February 2005

Issue 1: November/ December 2004

Upcoming events and missions:


93rd Session of IFAD Executive Board, 24-25 April 2008


Asia-Pacific Forestry Week, 21-26 April 2008, Hanoi, Viet Nam

Supervision mission – IFAD grant titled ‘Rehabilitation of agricultural livelihoods of women in marginal and post-conflict areas of Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan: participatory research, dissemination and adoption of improved dairy goat production systems (851)’ to the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas, 20-30 April 2008

Supervision mission – IFAD grant titled ‘Community action in integrated and market oriented feed livestock production in Central Asia and South Asia (816)’ to the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas, 20-30 April 2008


USA delegation visits Dhaka, 30 March – 5 April 2008


Programme review and implementation support mission – Agriculture, Marketing and Enterprise Promotion Programme, 31 March – 13 April 2008


Formulation mission – Dabieshan Area Poverty Reduction Programme, 15 March – 20 April 2008

Mid-term review mission – Environment Conservation and Poverty-Reduction Programme in Ningxia and Shanxi, 1-30 May 2008

Implementation support mission – Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region Modular Rural Development Programme, 15-30 June 2008

Implementation support mission – South Gansu Poverty-Reduction Programme, 15-30 June 2008

Supervision mission – Rural Finance Sector Programme, 17 May – 6 June 2008

Inception mission – new project, 1–30 June 2008

Appraisal mission – Dabieshan Area Poverty Reduction Programme, 15 June – 31 July 2008


Annual country portfolio review workshop, 1-4 April 2008

Global Agroindustry Forum, 3-5 April 2008

Portfolio review workshop – Orissa Tribal Empowerment and Livelihoods Programme, 8-14 April 2008

Visit of IFAD’s President to India, 9-11 April 2008


Supervision mission – Oudomxai Community Initiatives Support Project, 30 April – 10 May 2008


Loan signing – Fisheries and Agricultural Diversification Project, 7 April 2008

Implementation support mission – Post-Tsunami Agricultural and Fisheries Rehabilitation Programme, 28 March – 15 April 2008


Formulation mission – High Value Agriculture Project, May-June 2008

Pacific Islands

Mid-term review mission – Mainstreaming of Rural Development Innovations (MORDI) Programme in the Pacific, 1-27 April 2008


Appraisal mission – Khatton Livelihoods Support Project, 1-21 April 2008

Viet Nam

Participatory consultations for COSOP, 1-7 April 2008

Start-up workshop – Programme for Developing Business with the Rural Poor, 1-7 April 2008

Formulation mission – Programme 135 – Production Development Support Project, 8-31 May 2008

Pre-appraisal mission – Programme 135 – Production Development Support Project, 1-30 June 2008


About IFAD

The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) is a specialized agency of the United Nations, dedicated to eradicating poverty and hunger in developing countries. Its work in remote rural areas of the world helps countries achieve the Millennium Development Goals. Through low-interest loans and grants, IFAD develops and finances projects that enable rural poor people to overcome poverty themselves.

IFAD tackles poverty not just as a lender, but as an advocate for the small farmers, herders, fisherfolk, landless workers, artisans and indigenous peoples who live in rural areas and represent 75 per cent of the world's 1.2 billion extremely poor people. IFAD works with governments, donors, non-governmental organizations, local communities and many other partners to fight the underlying causes of rural poverty. It acts as a catalyst, bringing together partners, resources, knowledge and policies that create the conditions in which rural poor people can increase agricultural productivity, as well as seek out other options for earning income.

IFAD-supported rural development programmes and projects increase rural poor people's access to financial services, markets, technology, land and other natural resources.

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