In Africa, motorcycle taxis provide access to markets, education and health facilities for millions of rural dwellers. But they can only do so effectively where there are roads. In Liberia, a quarter of the population is living in villages connected to the national road network by no more than a footpath. Upgrading these footpaths to a motorcycle accessible track is easy and much cheaper than feeder road rehabilitation, let alone construction. But donors and governments are reluctant to do this without hard data on the socio-economic impact of these upgraded footpaths. Dr Krijn Peters’ study provided this much sought-after data. 

Dr Peters had conducted extensive field work during and immediately after the armed conflicts in Sierra Leone and Liberia, on the reintegration process of ex-combatants and rural post-war reconstruction. He observed that many of the newly unemployed started to take up motorcycle taxi riding. This sector - spontaneously emerging after the end of the wars – provided tens of thousands of new jobs. 

Krijn Peters by a lake and palace

These observations were presented to GIZ/GTZ - the German equivalent of the Department of International Development - and resulted in a track construction project. Simultaneously, Dr Peters received funding from the ESRC/DFID to assess socio-economic impact of this. Base-line data from two village clusters and a control village cluster were gathered in 2016, prior to track upgrading. End-line surveys were conducted in 2018, a year after the upgrading. 

The project directly affected approximately 2500 people in 23 villages by: 

  • helping farmers to start producing for (local) markets, by halving travel times and increasing amounts that could be transported 
  • providing employment opportunities for vulnerable youth 
  • helping women and children, by reducing head-loading by up to 80% and by enabling petty trading in the villages due to improved access to urban markets 
  • providing faster and more convenient access to health facilities 
  • improving school attendance rates as pupils did not have to spend time carrying loads to the roadside/market 

Subsequently, the ’Footpath to Track’ upgrading concept has now become part of Liberia’s draft rural road infrastructure plan.