Construction of small bridges and culverts on rural roads has drastically reduced the cost of transporting agricultural produce and helped increase beneficiaries' income, a recent survey by the Implementation Monitoring and Evaluation Division, also known as IMED, has found.
"A 15-metre bridge or culvert on a rural road has cut down the transportation cost for an average amount of produce a farmer carries on a daily basis to Tk73.66 from the previous Tk133.66," reads the survey report, a copy of which The Business Standard obtained.
Besides, the average monthly income of the beneficiaries increased to Tk21,643, which was Tk19,215 before the bridge or culvert construction.
The IMED, through outsourcing private firms, conducted the survey on 2,400 people who are the beneficiaries of a Tk3,684-crore project to construct small bridges and culverts totalling 1,33,248 metres across the country. The Ministry of Disaster Management and Relief implemented the project, titled "Construction of 15-metre Bridges/Culverts on Rural Roads", from March 2016 to June 2019.
Before the construction of the concrete-made culverts, the transportation costs of agricultural inputs such as fertilisers and pesticides and crop yields were higher as farmers had no choice except for hiring day labourers to pass bamboo or wood-made culverts on their ways. The concrete culverts made it possible to transport these goods by vehicles and at lower costs, the impact assessment survey found.
The IMED has also conducted surveys on the beneficiaries of two other ongoing rural bridge construction projects, where respondents said road infrastructure development made their life easy in many ways and helped increase earnings.
Dr Mohammad Jahangir Alam, professor of agribusiness and marketing at the Bangladesh Agricultural University, agreed that the road infrastructure development in rural areas over the past decade has brought a significant change to farmers' life.
"Most of the bridges and culverts were constructed in the last one to two decades. We see a major change in Char and Haor areas, as a consequence," he told The Business Standard.
"Nasimon, Karimon, and rickshaw vans are now available to take agricultural products directly from the field to the rural markets. This has reduced the cost of transportation as well as that of agricultural production. The improved road communication also helped people increase earnings and find new employment opportunities," he added.
In the surveys, respondents also said new culverts and bridges paved the way for establishing new Hat and markets and many more opportunities.
Development of rural roads in independent Bangladesh started in FY1995-96 through the Food for Work programme, but necessary bridges and culverts were planned in phases later, according to official documents.
During the period from 1994 to 2009, the government constructed only 4,948 culverts of 12-metre length on rural roads. The culvert construction initiative got a boost after 2009.
In a previous IMED survey on the Tk1,835cr project, titled "Reconstruction of Iron Bridges in the Southern Region", 77% of the respondents said that the construction of the bridges enabled fishermen to market their fish easily. All the respondents said the bridges increased the marketability of their crops and facilitated the development of poultry and dairy industries.
Half of the respondents opined that the improved communication reduces the risk of their product spoilage while 72% said it helped grow new entrepreneurs in the agriculture sector.