Ranking Rural Roads

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					Prioritising a process                                                Jo Leyland

                            Prioritising a process:
Community participation in prioritising rural road improvements
                        in East Africa
             By Jo Leyland, Community Transport Specialist, Nairobi, Kenya

As in many developing countries, responsibility for the maintenance and improvement of
rural access and feeder roads in East Africa lies with the area local authorities. In the case
of Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania, the main authorities are at District level and then
respectively at ‘Sub-county’, ‘Sub-location’ and ‘Ward’ level. The District Authorities
have limited financial resources for routine maintenance let alone road improvements and
also limited technical capacity in terms of staff, their mobility and office facilities. These
constraints coupled with the prevailing institutional environment also result in limited
flow of information and community representation in decision-making regarding road
works. Technical and financial capacity at the more local level of ‘Sub-county’ etc is
commensurately less.

The annual planning and prioritization of roads for improvement and maintenance by
Districts generally includes the incorporation of priority requests from the lower
administration units. These can be combined with district priorities and drafted as a plan
by a technical team under the District Engineer. Priority roads may be selected based on
ranking criteria determined by the District technical team. However, approval of the plan
is generally done by the District Council. Here, strong articulate political interests can
alter the distribution of resources and impact negatively on maximizing benefits from
road improvements for the district population as a whole. There is also often little
recognition by politicians of the importance of routine maintenance and preserving the
existing maintainable network as opposed to spending money on opening up or
improving other roads which garners more political support. Where there are external
resources available for improving the road network, generally from donors, the appraisal
process may be dominated by the external support team in defining the criteria, having
the mobility to assess the road links and having the final say on deciding which priority
roads will be supported. The appraisal process may involve considerable data collection
and analysis.

Rural road improvement programme objectives are likely to focus on cost-effective use
of resources to improve the area road network to maximize basic access, contribute to
poverty reduction/economic development and have a sustainability/capacity development
component. In all likelihood it is the funding agency that has the greatest interest and
leverage to see that the resources are allocated systematically, are adequately justified
and in line with the programme’s objectives. The criteria for selecting the eligible road
network, the desired level of access, the intervention strategy and the actual selection of
the road links to be improved are fundamental to how the road improvement resources
will be allocated. Who determines the criteria and who uses it to make the choices may
be quite different.

Prioritising a process                                                Jo Leyland

Appraisal accuracy
Appraising rural roads for improvement is not an exact science. Before even considering
measuring the social and economic benefits of roads, there is the question of what roa d to
consider. Maybe the network to be considered is easily determined as being the
classified network, although some unclassified exceptions may merit inclusion. Longer
road lengths are likely to score higher with more facilities, services and population along
its length although this could be dealt with by comparing roads on a scores per km basis.
Another alternative is to break roads into shorter stretches but this can bring in
complications of appraising scenarios of one alone being improved or the whole longer
length being improved. Where a spot improvement approach is advocated for critical
sections, what is the road link length that should be considered? Determining the road
links to be appraised is not such a simple exercise and the delineation of the road links
can substantially impact on their subsequent ranking.

Another important basic indicator is the population served by the road but again, it is not
so simple to obtain. For a start, what is the area of influence? Which villages or
settlements along the road should be included and which adjacent roads/routes that feed
into them and what weighting should be accorded the latter? If the road links to a main
road and there is a sizeable trading centre /village at the junction, how should that
population be included? If there are a number of route options for one village at a
junction along the road, how should its population that use the road be calculated? And
even having determined how to deal with these, there is the issue of obtaining accurate
up-to-date population data that in most cases is not available. If one is looking for a
simple ranking criteria of cost per population served, as the main measure for cost-
effective allocation of resources and to maximize benefits, the figures are indicative, not
accurate. Thus, whilst cost per population served is an important indicator, such a criteria
should not be the sole or over-riding deciding factor or represented as such in the
decision-making process.

Appraisal in the process of improving roads
The appraisal and decision-making process in identifying rural roads to be improved is a
key opportunity for any rural road programme to establish good relationships and
understanding with local authorities and representatives especially if the programme has
an emphasis on capacity development. It is an integral part of the whole exercise of
improving roads and increasing capacity in the road sector, and should be undertaken
accordingly. For instance, improving rural roads is of limited value if there is a culture of
little or no routine maintenance. However, if the local community plays a strong role in
determining the roads to be improved, and improvements are subsequently made on their
most important roads, then the chances of those roads being maintained in the longer
term are also higher.

Within the road improvement decision-making process there is plenty of scope for
awareness-raising on the importance of roads; of the need and mechanisms to protect the

Prioritising a process                                                Jo Leyland

road investment with routine maintenance systems; implications of choosing different
intervention strategies; the local roles and responsibilities in the road sector etc. There
are also a range of options in who determines the criteria for selecting roads, in who
collects the data relating to the roads under consideration, who undertakes road
assessments besides the tasks of undertaking the road improvements. These are also
potentially capacity development activities and there are a range of actors who can be
assigned to do the tasks. Appraisal is also not without cost. If there is limited finance
available for carrying out improvements on roads, then it does not make sense to have a
very costly appraisal exercise involving a lot of time of external consultants. The
appraisal process needs to be appropriate to the local context and resources available.

There are a number of road programmes 1 currently ongoing or recently completed in East
Africa that have had two key agendas in their planning and prioritization stage. The first
has been to ensure that there is appropriate allocation of financial support for road
improvements through the optimal selection of roads meriting improvement. (This may
also include defining the intervention strategy). The second has been to work closely
with key stakeholders, the local authorities, to improve the process whereby the roads are
prioritized and selected. Given the limited technical and financial resources of the
authorities, and their accountability to the local population, that revised process has
necessitated increasing the level of community participation in the decision-making
regarding investments in the road network. The intention has been to expose the local
authorities and community representatives to a more transparent, rational and
participative process of determining priority roads and selecting those for carrying out
improvements. As an exercise, the prioritization process is intended to be clear and
desirable enough that the local authorities appreciate the benefits and can adopt it into
their existing approach for longer term planning of their road network.

Experience from two projects of appraising and prioritizing roads is given in the next
section. One is from western Uganda and was a pilot project carried out at ‘sub-county’
level but was part of a much larger six year road maintenance capacity building project.
The second is from Tanzania and at a higher level, supporting road improvements in
districts in Mwanza Region. In the first example, most of the decision-making was taken
by the ‘sub-county’ leaders and representatives including deciding the criteria for judging
the roads. In the Tanzanian case, the ranking criteria were pre-defined but the decision-
making was made by the district forum.

Experience in prioritizing rural roads

The case of the Western Uganda Road Maintenance Capacity Building Project
The Western Uganda Road Maintenance Capacity Building Project (WURMCBP) was a
DFID funded technical capacity building project supporting the Ministry of Works,
Housing and Communications (MoWHC) from 1996 to the end of 2001 in the

  Besides the two cases cited below, the District Road Support Programmes of northern Uganda (DANIDA
funded) and more recently, the Swiss funded one of Morogoro Region, Tanzania have had these aims.

Prioritising a process                                                Jo Leyland

rehabilitation and routine maintenance of selected national gravel main roads in western

Besides the work carried out on the trunk road network, the WURMCBP carried out a
short sub-county community access road (CAR) maintenance programme in the second
half of 2001. The national ‘community access road’ (CAR) network is estimated to be
over 30,000km in length. It is the sub-counties within the districts that have the
responsibility for the maintenance of the community access road network and they have
very limited resources to allocate to their upkeep or to the ‘opening-up’ of new or
overgrown roads. Not only are there scarce resources for these roads’ physical upkeep,
but there is also very limited assistance given to the sub-counties in terms of their
planning and managing maintenance on the community road network. The emphasis of
the CAR programme was not so much on carrying out spot improvements as of raising
awareness and knowledge about road maintenance. Three sub-counties were covered:
Hakibale (Kabarole District), Kyarusozi (Kyenjojo District) and Kahunge (Kamwenge
District). The project had already established good working relations with these sub-
counties through the activities with their sub-county ‘road committees’ on the trunk road
network. For each sub-county, there were three main areas of focus: inventorisation and
prioritization, road maintenance improvements and routine road maintenance support.
The prioritization process was largely based on the approach used by a project in Zambia
in the late 80s2.

Following initial discussions to find out about the CAR network and its maintenance,
each sub-county was assisted to draw a map of the sub-county and its main roads,
including national, district and ‘main’ community access roads. Then, at a workshop
with about 60 local leaders and representatives, including local road workers, all the sub-
county’s roads were listed with their lengths. The participants then collectively
determined the criteria for judging the importance of the roads. Participants were then
split into three groups and asked to list the 10 most important roads and to then list the
reasons for their choices using the criteria that they had determined earlier. The results
were then combined into a list of the top 15 or so roads. The order of importance of the
criteria could also be determined by summing the number of times each criteria was used
by the groups in ranking their roads 3. The same three groups were then asked to
prioritise the top 10 agreed roads using pair-wise ranking where each road chosen is
compared in turn against each of the other roads to assess whether it is of greater or lesser
priority. If there was difficulty to judge between two roads then it was useful to refer to
the ranked criteria in deciding. From the pair-wise ranking matrix, the 10 roads could be
listed in order of priority by each group. This listing was then compiled for the three
groups and a final ranking obtained. Thus, the sub-county meeting arrived at a list of
roads with the first 10 and up to the first fifteen given in order of importance. There was
consensus on the outcome and local leaders welcomed the exercise as effective and

 The Smallholder Development Project in Ndola Rural East in Zambia described by Nick Osborne in
‘Who should choose? Community participation in prioritizing road network rehabilitation’.
 In the three sub-counties the most important criteria were: access to farmers/farms, bad/impassable road,
access to schools, size of population served and links to administrative centres.

Prioritising a process                                                Jo Leyland

transparent, producing a list of their priority roads that were well-justified. With every
village represented, details of the outcome and means of reaching it could be conveyed
back to the villages. The whole exercise took less than a day. The process is shown in
illustrations at annex 1.

The project team together with sub-county officials then inspected the top 10 prioritised
roads and prepared a plan of action for selected road improvements with approximately
Ush30 million (approx £12,000) being spent per sub-county. Roads where very
substantial works were involved e.g. long swamp crossings, were excluded on the basis
of lack of time and money. The no. 1 priority road was included for critical spot
improvements and two roads in different parts of the sub-county were selected for
carrying out ½ km of labour-based rehabilitation works. Their function was to be
demonstration sites4. Further spot improvements were made on other roads depending
on budget availability5. A meeting was then held with the sub-county to discuss and
agree the recommended improvements before properly costing the interventions. The
exercise was undertaken at a time of political campaigning and it was important to be
clear about the grounds on which the roads were selected for spot improvements and to
ensure that the local councilors/officials agreed the outcome. The distribution of roads
funded for improvement were reasonably spread throughout the sub-county area. At least
one of the sub-counties gave their list to another donor who selected a road determined
by the sub-county’s ranking for support.

In summary, the process used was for a broad group of local community representatives
to identify their main road network and use their own collectively defined criteria to
determine the most important roads in order of importance. Their criteria included social
and economic indicators but not costs of improvement. Then, being clear about the scale
of financial assistance available, a brief assessment was jointly made of the top 10 roads
to identify required interventions. This followed with agreement on the interventions and
the signing of a memorandum of understanding. Accurate costings were made and works
commenced using local contractors, sub-county fundis and village paid labourers, one
third of whom were women.

The case of the UNCDF/UNDP District and Feeder Roads Project (DFRP) Tanzania
The seven year project covers the six districts in Mwanza Region with the objective of
promoting economic development and alleviating poverty by improving rural
communities’ access to economic and social facilities. During the project’s
‘Stakeholder’s Workshop’ in 2000, a key concern of the DFRP was its participative

  Study tours were organized by the sub-county for local village leaders to go and learn about road
maintenance from the demonstration site activities and how best to improve their community access roads.
  One lesson learnt was that when assessing the spot improvements required along the prioritized roads,
there should have been some agreed criteria for defining how critical each spot improvement was for the
passability of the road.

Prioritising a process                                                Jo Leyland

approach and the selection of the roads for rehabilitation was identified as a main area
where stakeholders would have a chance to participate in the decision-making process.

The road selection workshops brought together stakeholders from the District Council
(District Management Team members), technical staff from the District Engineer’s
Office and representatives from the communities. Divisions are the next administrative
level below districts in Tanzania and three participants were invited from each division
who were regarded as being able to represent the interest of the people there. The criteria
for ranking were pre-determined and based on economic, social and technical aspects.
Points were given for number of villages served by the road, schools, health centres,
markets, industries and areas of high agricultural potential, the latter three scoring two
points each. Scores were given for the passability of the road, availability of laterite,
requirement for major structures, difficult sections (e.g swamps/rocky terrain) and
availability of labour. The totals were summed and then divided by the road lengths to
give an average ranking score. The criteria and scoring was meant to be easily
understandable so that the exercise was relatively simple and participants were able to
clearly brief their communities on the process when they returned.

Presentations at the start of the workshop included that by the District Engineer (DE) on
the status of the district road network. Following other presentations on the criteria and
intervention strategy options, the participants split into division-based groups and
endorsed/corrected the division’s list of essential roads before assessing each of them on
the basis of the pre-defined criteria and computing the scores. The groups also decided
whether they thought the final ranking should be division-based or district-based and
what intervention strategy should be adopted – full rehabilitation or sectional
improvement. Groups presented their scores and choices and the plenary combined the
group recommendations into District priorities. All workshops agreed that the first
priorities of each Division form the set of highest priority roads for the District, the
second priorities of each Division form the next set of District priority roads until a cut-
off length was reached. Finally, the District Executive Director (DED) was given the
opportunity to confirm his agreement with the participants’ recommendations. In a few
cases the DED requested a slight shifting of a road’s ranking and, in those cases, the
workshop agreed to the request. Workshop recommendations were then submitted to the
District Full Council for endorsement and approval. Five of the six Districts opted for a
combination of full rehabilitation and sectional improvement as their intervention
strategy. The selection of roads for rehabilitation works in each district was then taken
from this list following order of priority and ranking. In all cases, the District leadership
expressed satisfaction with the process and outcome.

The two examples of prioritizing roads cited above both adopted a relatively simple
approach for prioritizing their most important roads without spending much time on data
collection and computing complex scores for social and economic benefits. On the basis
of the prioritization, the project team went on to select the roads and cost out the
improvements required that could be accomplished with the financial resources available.
The emphasis was to let the local stakeholders determine the priorities and generate wider

Prioritising a process                                                Jo Leyland

understanding and consensus on the choices made. Thus, the important elements in
prioritizing the roads were to have good representation in the prioritization forum, of
people who knew the roads well and how they were used/could be used. With a spread of
interests and enough people in the smaller decision-making groups, biases of prominent
individuals could be offset. Secondly, it was important to facilitate the whole decision-
making process well, using a local, experienced facilitator respected by the forum.

In both cases, an initial decision was taken to allocate the funds available for road
improvements equitably amongst the sub-counties or districts given that there were
insufficient funds to address more than the main priorities, and that politically and
practically it would have been difficult to argue for some to have more than others.
Obviously in a larger programme, eligible administrative areas such as ‘poorer’ ones can
be selected for inclusion in a road improvement programme using relevant socio-
economic criteria and depending on the area data available6. If the financial support is
targeted towards a particular needy group, such as resettlement communities then the
roads selected will obviously be aimed at largely optimizing those communities’ level of

In conclusion, and with particular reference to the situation in East Africa, the assessment
procedures for prioritizing rural roads for improvement need to recognize firstly, the
importance of local communities’ role in the decision-making process and secondly, the
importance of the prioritization process in enhancing local planning capacity and overall
knowledge of the road sector. At the local area level, how the prioritization process is
carried out is as important as the parameters that are chosen to decide the road priorities.

Blockhuis, F. (2002) UNDP Mwanza Tanzania Presentation, in Report on Forum for
exchange of experiences in community participation and maintenance management in
road works, 19th – 22nd February 2002, Morogoro, ITECO, Morogoro, Tanzania.

Hajj, H. & Pendakur, V. Setty (2000) Roads Improvement for Poverty Alleviation in
China. Working Paper No.1, Transport Sector Unit, East Asia and Pacific Region, The
World Bank, Washington.

Hine, J., Ellis, S., Done, S. & Korboe, D. (2002) Ghana feeder road prioritization. in
Labour-based Technology: A review of current practice. Volume 2: Papers of the 9 th
Regional Seminar, ILO, Geneva.

Leyland, J., Mwebesa, J., Tumwebaze, B., Magola Wanume, J.J., Tumwine, F. & Drew,
R. (2002) Final Report: Community Participation Component, Western Uganda Road
Maintenance Project. DFID unpublished project report, Kampala, Uganda.

 These might be based on average income, poverty levels, agricultural & forest land potential, availability
of clean water, health workers etc as used by the Roads Improvement for Poverty Alleviation programme in

Prioritising a process                                                Jo Leyland

Leyland, J. & Lubega-Kagere, M. (eds) (2001). Roads are for People: Community
participation on Uganda’s road network. Ministry of Works, Housing and
Communications, Entebbe, Republic of Uganda, December 2001.

Osborne, Nick (1995). Who should choose? Community participation in prioritizing
road network rehabilitation. PLA Notes June 1995, IIED, London.

UNCDF District and Feeder Road Project (2000), Report of participative road selection
workshops held in all six districts of Mwanza Region.UNCDF D&FR Project, Mwanza,
Tanzania. (unpublished).

Were-Higenyi (2002) Opportunities for community participation in rehabilitation and
maintenance of district roads: The Uganda experience’ in Report on Forum for exchange
of experiences in community participation and maintenance management in road works,
19th – 22nd February 2002, Morogoro, ITECO, Morogoro, Tanzania.

Excerpt from final report of community participation component of WURMCBP                            Annex1

Illustrations of Sub-county ‘community access road’ programme

Map of Kyarusozi Sub-county main
                                               One of 3 groups matrix ranking the prioritized roads in Bukuuku
community access roads and district
                                               Sub-county as part of the road prioritization exercise. Meetings
roads. One of the first exercises with
                                               were held with each sub-county, attended by LCI, LCII and LCIII
the sub-counties was to make an
                                               chairpersons and other officials to make the inventory and prioritise
inventory of the roads and map the
                                               the roads in the sub-county in order of importance. The exercise
main ones.
                                               was perceived as being a fair, transparent method of reaching
                                               consensus on the sub-county’s most important roads.

  Ranking the ranking criteria           Inspecting a water crossing at Rusekere, Hakibale on the no.4 road that was
  used to select roads in order of       designated for constructing a ‘drift’. Once roads were prioritised, a joint
  importance in Bukuuku Sub-             inventory inspection was made by the project CAR team with Sub-county
  county.                                officials to inspect the top 10 roads in the sub-county to work out what
                                         improvements could be supported.


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