Rural Accessibility Planning

 Compiled with the assistance of Chris Donnges, ILO and Doekle Wielinga, World Bank. Images by Doekle Wielinga.
Rural accessibility and its translation into a planning process has its origins in the work of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) in several African and Asian countries during the 1980's. The major work on accessibility planning took place in the Philippines during 1990-95, where an Integrated Rural Accessibility Planning (IRAP) procedure was developed as a planning tool for use by local level planners to make the most appropriate investments with the limited funds available to them.
The IRAP methodology defines the access needs of rural households in relation to the basic, social and economic services that a household requires (water, fuel wood, health, education, markets, employment, agricultural fields, etc.). It is a simple-to-use participatory and integrated planning methodology that has been successfully applied in over 15 countries, in certain cases leading to its nationwide incorporation into local level planning systems. The IRAP methodology leads to the development of comprehensive information on the location, condition and use of rural infrastructure and services, identifies appropriate access interventions and prioritises investments.
Although the IRAP process varies slightly by country, it generally consists of the following three stages:
Data collection - In the data collection stage, the aim is to collect the information required for determining the existing access situation. This data is collected as much as possible from existing secondary information obtained from local authorities and other sources. However, very important in this stage is the collection of primary data through questionnaires, which are generally carried out at village level and are sometimes complemented by a limited number of household interviews. In some experiences the questionnaires are carried out at a higher level (e.g. village development committee, municipality, district). Data collection is key to a proper analysis of the access situation, and as such a balance needs to be sought between the cost of the data collection and the quality and detail of the data collected. The data collected relates to travel and transport patterns of the households with regards to different services and facilities, as well as to the characteristics of the existing infrastructure and services. The use of mapping tools is an important feature of this stage, generally facilitating the collection of data regarding the location of different services and infrastructure. Ensuring the participation of representatives of the different communities is crucial in obtaining appropriate data, required for the further IRAP process. This stage also includes the processing of the data in order to facilitate its subsequent analysis.
Data analysis and prioritisation - In this second stage, the collected data is analysed in order to allow the planner to understand the main access problems and identify possible interventions that will improve rural accessibility. This process consists of a spatial and a sectoral analysis, where priority communities are identified for each sector, and priority sectors are identified for each community. Two important tools are used in this stage: the Accessibility Indicator (AI) and Access Mapping. The AI is a formula calculated to determine the level of access of a certain community or group of communities to a particular service or facility. In its most basic form, it is the product of the number of households seeking access and the average travel time required to access the particular service or facility (AI=HH*TT). However, many variations exist of this formula, depending among other factors on the data available to the planner. Generally additional factors are added on to the formula, such as the target travel time, mode of transportation, trip frequency, weighting factors and scoring systems depicting the importance of the particular service, quality and capacity factors of the service, etc. The general conclusion has been, however, that the inclusion of additional factors tends to complicate the calculation, without necessarily improving the outcome. More specific information regarding the calculation of the AI can be found in the different documents reviewed in this publication. Accessibility Mapping is the second major tool of the IRAP process, and is a prerequisite for visualising the spatial nature of rural accessibility. Mapping helps both the planner and the communities concerned to explain, discuss and understand the different aspects of access, as well as the impact of potential interventions. The application of Accessibility Mapping varies from simple sketches on the ground, to professional paper maps with overlays and full Geographical Information Systems (GIS). Representatives of the communities are strongly involved in this stage as well, resulting in a consensus regarding the prioritisation of the encountered accessibility problems.
Project identification and preparation - In this final stage of the IRAP process, interventions are identified and prioritised that will improve the accessibility of the communities in the area for which the planner is responsible. These include interventions aimed at minimising the need for transport (non-transport interventions including the improvement and siting of services - proximity), and at making that transport which is essential, as efficient and cost-effective as possible (transport interventions including transport infrastructure, means and services - mobility). It is herein important for the planner to identify interventions that may have an impact beyond the single community, thus optimising the impact of the limited investment funds available at local level. The result of this stage is a prioritised list of interventions, which again is shared and discussed with representatives of the communities. For each intervention a project is subsequently prepared, and systems are developed to monitor the impact on accessibility. In the project design it is important to take into account the participation of local people and contractors in the implementation, thus resulting in additional benefits in the form of employment and incomes. Also an appropriate maintenance system needs to be put into place to ensure the sustained improvement of the access situation.
IRAP has proved to be a very useful tool for local authorities in determining the access needs of rural communities and in identifying and prioritising possible interventions. It has demonstrated its adaptability to different contexts and objectives, as is clearly demonstrated by the variety of formulas that exist for calculating the Accessibility Indicator, all of which are based on the same foundation. The simplicity of its use in combination with the strength of its analytical ability, has resulted in various countries in its nationwide incorporation into local level planning systems.
Rural Access and IRAP
The following documents refer to the transformation from the rural transport to the rural access approach and the subsequent development of IRAP. The documents also show how the IRAP tool has evolved over time, and how its application varies in different countries according to the context. Reports on expert group meetings are included, in which current practice and specific issues were discussed by IRAP practitioners from different countries.
Some of these documents may be downloaded here:
Integrated rural accessibility planning (IRAP) - Fourth expert group meeting (RATP 10), 2004, ILO
Integrated rural accessibility planning (IRAP) - Third expert group meeting (RATP 9) 2003, ILO
The value of time in least developed countries - Final report 2002, DFID and IT Transport
Rural transport and local government units - How to improve rural transport for the rural poor?, Donnges, C. 2001, Transport and Communications Bulletin for Asia and the Pacific, No. 71
The key documents listed below describe in detail the different steps and activities of the IRAP process, and have been developed for different country contexts. Most have a similar structure, describing the existing planning system of the country concerned, introducing the rural accessibility concept and the IRAP tool and subsequently describing the different activities in detail. Of particular interest are the different formulas that are used in the different countries for the calculation of the Accessibility Indicator, which forms the basis of the prioritisation process. The guidelines also form a rich source of sample questionnaires and other forms, as well as examples on how to carry out data collection, mapping and prioritisation.
Integrated Rural Accessibility Planning at the Gram Panchayat Level, Orissa State, India - Operation Manual Pearse, C; Pattanaik, P. 2006, ILO
Case Studies
The documents reviewed below provide detailed background data on specific experiences where IRAP or certain of its elements have been applied. As such they provide a rich source of information for better understanding the IRAP process and the use of its outcomes, as well as showing the various forms in which IRAP has been applied in different countries.
Smart Planning – Smart Decisions, Doekle Wielinga, 2009
Training Workshops
The documents presented below are related to IRAP training workshops, either describing training courses that have been carried out, or describing how a training workshop should be implemented. The documents generally include a description of the IRAP process as well as additional information on rural access, and include exercises that can be used to practice different elements of the IRAP process. Most also include examples of questionnaires and case studies.
Integrated Rural Accessibility Planning (IRAP) - Modular Training Package, Cartier van Dissel, S. 2003, ILO
Training of trainers workshop on integrated rural accessibility planning in Uganda, Mbara, T; Mashiri, M 2001, Government of Uganda and ILO
Training of trainers in accessibility planning - workshop report Dingen, R2001, ILO
Local level planning and the identification of access interventions -Workshop report, Mbara, T.; Sakko, J. 2000, Ministry of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing and ILO
If you would like to make a contribution to this topic or help to 'sign-post' any key documents on the topic for gTKP partners and users, please contact Rob Petts:
Updated December 2009