The closest road was previously a two-day journey away on foot. It now takes one hour by tractor. Good roads provide access to health care and increase chances for better income.
Photo: Nils Gärdek
Roads required to improve quality of life
Sida has built more than 1,000 kilometres of road in Laos, which has provided about 330 villages with better access to health care, schools and markets. In many cases, the roads have allowed farmers to earn twice as much money as they did previously for their products. This is because their travel expenses are reduced and they can sell more. Health and medical staff can now get to villages more easily and people who are sick can to get to hospitals faster. It is now easier to transport material to build new schools, and the trip to school for many children has been cut by several hours.
Many people isolated in rural areas without roads
Many people in Laos live in isolation from hospitals, school and markets. It can be difficult for the sick to receive treatment and the difficulty in getting to other villages and markets means that the selection of foods is limited.
Mr Bounta, who is 53 and lives with his family in the village of Ban BoSao in the YotOu district of northern Laos, says: “Before the road was built, we had to go on foot along narrow paths, over mountains and rivers for a whole day to get the nearest infirmary. The village is a long way from the closest town, and until recently, was isolated from the rest of the world except for a few paths.”
Roads help trade and give many access to medical care
Laos is a mountainous country,
where much of the area is rugged
and lacks road networks.
[Photo: Nils Gärdek]
Jörgen Persson, embassy counsellor and analyst at the Sida office in Laos, says: “We’ve had very good co-operation with the World Bank and Swedroad. This work is important and we hope it will continue after we phase out our aid to Laos in 2011.
Much has happened since the village has been made accessible by road. For example, farmers can get to a market where they can sell their vegetables at a better price than before. This in turn gives them a better opportunity to improve their standard of living by their own means.
“I can go to the market now,” Bounta says. “I’ve used the money I earned for my vegetables to repair my roof, which had a large hole in it. Maybe I can install electricity next year. I hope so.”
Bounta and his wife live in a house on the edge of the village together with their daughter’s family. The family has been living in the village for many generations. The Bounta family sustains itself through rice farming in traditionally water-soaked rice fields. They also grow vegetables.
“Everything has improved since the road was built,” he says. “The biggest difference is that now, we have access to health and medical care. People in the village are not as ill, and the village has become cleaner because we can now easily take the refuse away. It’s easy to get to hospital when we need to. And doctors can now make regular visits here.”
Before the road was built, there was already a schoolhouse in the village of Ban BoSao. Once the road was completed, the school was filled with the first five classes of children from the surrounding villages. Today, it functions as an elementary school.
Roads are a requirement to social participation
Owe Andersson, manager of Sida’s development aid in Laos, says: “The construction of roads has been extremely successful and appreciated by the Laotians. We have been co-operating with the World Bank, and people on all levels of society feel positively about the roads, including the villagers way out in the provinces and those in power in Vientiane.
“You don’t think about how important roads are when you’ve grown up with them as we have in Sweden. But roads are an essential aspect of being able to participate in society.”