Although rural transport is not explicitly mentioned in the draft of proposed sustainable development goal (SDG) 2 (“End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture”), rural transport is fundamental to achieving this goal, and rural transport infrastructure and services will play a crucial role in ensuring global food security and improving nutrition in the coming decades. 

This point is underscored in a number of recent publications representing a diverse set of organizational perspectives, which draw common conclusions that improved rural transport can make food more affordable for the poor by reducing costs and stimulating agricultural production, reducing spoilage of agricultural products, and facilitating access to appropriate on-farm technologies. 

Wasting Food in a Hungry World 

Bjorn Lomborg, Copenhagen Consensus Center

This article analyzes how infrastructure, including transport, in rural areas can increase food security and reduce hunger in poor, rural regions of the world. In developed countries the majority of food waste takes place in the kitchen, while in developing countries, more than three-quarters of food waste is a result of inefficient agriculture and the lack of proper transport infrastructure in rural areas. Without proper roads linking fields to markets, farmers cannot easily sell their surplus produce, which may then spoil before it can be eaten. 

According to Lomborg, improving road and rail capacity enables farmers to reach buyers more efficiently and effectively. Reduced costs in transporting products also make food more affordable for the poor. According to the article, by 2050, better infrastructure (including transport infrastructure) could mean that 57 million people would no longer be at risk of hunger, and about 4 million children would no longer suffer from malnutrition.  Thus, making necessary investments in transport infrastructure in rural areas can create a significant step forward in the campaign against malnutrition.

The full article is available in here.

Post-2015 Consensus: Food Security and Nutrition Assessment

Copenhagen Consensus Center

This paper aims to assess the impact of extending infrastructure (including transport infrastructure) and technologies to more cost-effectively reduce post-harvest losses (PHL) in poor, rural regions of the world. The paper asserts that infrastructure is of primary importance in addressing post-harvest losses and that the adoption of PHL-reducing technologies (such as on-farm technologies for storage of roots, tubers and bulbs and cooling practices used for vegetables) is facilitated by the development of improved infrastructure, including transport.

The study points to the important role of roads and railways in reducing PHL (particularly paved roads, which reduce the odds of post-harvest losses by half).  The study shows that investment in infrastructure (including transport infrastructure) for PHL reduction contributes to lower food prices, higher food availability and improved food security. Such infrastructure investments have broader benefits for the entire economy, as expansion of roads, railways, and electricity infrastructure produces significant spill-over effects beyond the agricultural sector.

The paper concludes that reductions in PHL are not in themselves an alternative to productivity growth for achieving food security, but rather that public infrastructure investments to achieve large-scale reductions in PHL are a crucial complement to investments in long-term productivity growth that necessary to achieve global food security.

The full article is available in here.

Agriculture Production and Transport Infrastructure in East Africa 

International Food Policy Research Institute

This empirical study focuses on the relationship between major crop production and transport connectivity in the East Africa region, including rural accessibility. Africa has great potential in the agriculture sector which has not been fully realized due to many constraints including small-scale subsistence farming, lack of fertilizers and irrigation, a lack of access to market information and communication technologies and, most importantly, a lack of rural accessibility.

In East Africa, only 25-35 percent of the rural population has access to an all-weather road within two kilometers, according to the Rural Accessibility Index. Transport accessibility (regardless of mode) plays a crucial role in allowing farmers access to market opportunities and advanced technologies (e.g. fertilizers). It also reduces input prices (including fertilizers) and boosts agricultural production; for instance, the Rural Roads and Markets Improvement and Maintenance Project of the World Bank yielded a 30 percent increase in agricultural output.

It is also found that the impacts of transport accessibility on agriculture production vary across areas and crops, and in some cases (e.g., coffee in the landlocked countries, tea in Kenya and tobacco in Tanzania), public investments to improve transport connectivity have made these crops highly profitable.

The key question is where governments should invest. The results of the study indicate that infrastructure investment has a spillover effect, and that a single investment in transport infrastructure (and in particular, in rural transport infrastructure) can benefit multiple countries in the region. For instance, an infrastructure investment that would halve the waiting time at the port of Mombasa, Kenya could reduce total port costs, and thus would benefit not only Kenya but also the entire region.

The full article is available in here.


Gwilliam, Ken, 2011,  Africa’s Transport Infrastructure: Mainstreaming Maintenance and Management,  The World Bank

Khandker, Shahidur R, et al.  2006, The poverty impact of rural roads : evidence from Bangladesh, the World Bank

The State of Food Insecurity in the World 


This joint report by the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the World Food Program (WFP) takes stock of progress made towards achieving internationally established hunger targets, and reflects on specific needs, including transport-specific needs, to transition to the new post-2015 development agenda. The report emphasizes a number of constraining factors, such as weather-related shocks, storage and communications infrastructure, and poor transport, that compromise potential agricultural productivity gains and limit incomes for family farmers.

The report highlights the critical role of rural transport to ensure food security in a number of case studies. For example, in Tanzania, limited investment in the agricultural sector, which is dominated by small family farmers with poor access to local and international markets, appears to explain in part the disconnected paths between growth on the one hand, and poverty and food insecurity on the other hand.  Tanzania continues to lack the rural transport infrastructure needed for broad-based economic development, and that secure access to land (in terms of transport and land ownership) remains a key constraint, not only for agriculture, but also for domestic and foreign investors.  The report also highlights the Productive Safety Net Program in Ethiopia, which is intended to increase long-term resilience to food shortages and to build more resilient livelihoods through activities such as developing community infrastructure and rehabilitating rural roads.

The full report is available in here.