Community-based approach in rural road maintenance and its opportunities for New Rural Development Program

On 21 and 22 November 2011, a workshop was held in Hanoi to look at community-based approaches in Rural Road Maintenance and its opportunities for the New Rural Development Program.

The workshop was held under the framework of the Making Markets Work Better for the Poor II project (M4P2) and links closely to the researches currently being undertaken in the Policy Action Research Component. M4P2 is supported by the Ministry of Planning and Investment (MPI), the Department for International Development (DFID) of the United Kingdom (UK) and the Asian Development Bank (ADB).

The rural road network plays a crucial role in the economic development in Vietnam, accounting for a substantial portion of the total road system (over 80% of Vietnam’s road network of 256,684km are rural roads), and facilitates the economic activities of around 76% of the population. However it is still beset with problems due to poor surface quality, narrow width, with many sections of these roads remaining in a poor state of repair, whilst roads in several thousand communes can only be used in dry season.

The deterioration of rural roads has far reaching long-term economic consequences, impact, especially on the poor – Research undertaken in Viet Nam revealed that poor households living in rural communes with paved roads had a 67% higher probability of escaping poverty than those in communes without paved roads. Furthermore, maintenance ensures that these benefits are maintained over time to the benefit of the poor. According to a World Bank study undertake in the 1990s, every dollar spent on maintenance saves 4 dollars on rehabilitation.

“The provision of rural roads throughout Vietnam has been improved much, however, the job of maintaining these crucial rural roads have been less of a priority in the past. We hope that the involvement of the New Rural Development Programme will address this issue and ease some of the constraints of remoteness, and through maintenance continue to support efforts to reduce poverty in these areas” said Mr. Doan Tho Nam, representative of the Ministry of Planning and Investment – chairman of the workshop.

In comparison to institutional models for management of other sectors such as rural water supply, rural road maintenance models are currently facing severe funding problems. On average each district provides 10 million VND per commune per year for the operation and maintenance of rural roads and small irrigation schemes. However it is estimated that the necessary budget is in the order of 45 million VND per commune per year, although this figure rapidly increases for more remote areas.

“We’ are very pleased that so many different stakeholders working in community-based rural road maintenance were able to attend the seminar. This was a great opportunity to share experiences of community-based rural road maintenance development in Vietnam, explore the opportunities for policy change and discuss further steps for the testing and scaling up of successful pilot schemes,” said Buddhika Samarasinghe, Team Leader of M4P2 project.

”The initiatives discussed in the workshop, in conjunction with research work undertaken by the M4P2 project could help fill a gap in the New Rural Development Program in terms of community-based rural road maintenance. These do not only bring the strongest positive impact for the poorest households, but also provide them with higher probability of escaping poverty and benefit from Vietnam’s continued economic growth,” said Dao Viet Dung, Senior Public sector Management Officer of the Asian Development Bank.

Under the framework of M4P2 project, the Policy Action Research component will aim to learn the lessons from the current experience and work with the New Village Programme to support a number of rural road maintenance models, including those implemented in Kien Giang, Hoa Binh and Ben Tre Provinces.