Mobility Problems in Developing Countries

The minimum socially acceptable levels of mobility identified in the developed world may be irrelevant in most developing rural societies, given the great differences in overall living standards. In developing countries, the quality of the infrastructure and levels of personal and household income are often the most important factors. This is unlike the industrialized world, where levels of mobility and access are closely related to the availability of public transport and private car ownership.

In most developing countries, the road is the principal mode available. Rail and inland waterway transport generally play a less important role within rural areas. However, for the developing world, the physical condition for the rural road network is one of the main conditions for economic expansion and the upgrading of social facilities. In the mid-1960s the road networks of most African states, apart from South Africa, had on sealed surfaces less than 5% of their total length. A large proportion of the minor feeder roads were, and still are, tracks beaten out by walkers and animal carts [1].

Agricultural improvement programs change the land use and increase crop yields. They also result in a need for longer trips by farmworkers to farming areas. When time spent on walking increases, the period available for farming activities decreases and the effectiveness of farm labor is even further reduced. In that case, farmers may decide to abandon their remotest fields to concentrate their efforts on the more accessible food crops. The need for regular supplies of drinking water and firewood in rural areas also can involve long trips. This can take up to four hours each day as, for example, in the eastern part of Africa. In parts of Tanzania, for example, water sources are often found at distances of at least 5 km from a village. Almost all of these trips have to be undertaken on foot. These long trips for water can be avoided if wells or boreholes are created closer to the villages [1].

Table 3.5 displays information on the small distances and the modest loads transported for the majority of trips in developing countries. To provide for these kinds of trips, an adapted network for local available modes may be preferable.

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