The transport sector has been directly hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, with disruptions to rural transport creating challenges for safe activity throughout the rural economy. (Transaid/ReCAP) Rural areas are closely integrated with regional, national and global food supply chains, and thus global demand shocks are transmitted back to rural areas, with restrictions on labour movement and goods transport directly and indirectly impacting rural incomes and production. (FAO)
As a result, it is critical to facilitate the transit of migrant and informal workers to prevent the spread of COVID-19, while maintaining food security, transport of essential goods and rural livelihoods. (FAO) Evidence suggests that COVID-19 has spread along transport corridors, with many initial cases in Kenya and Uganda believed to be propagated by long-haul truck drivers (Transaid/ReCAP). In response to this phenomenon, the World Bank and other partners (e.g. Abidjan Lagos Corridor Organization in West Africa) have designed interventions targeting truck drivers, which include establishing “container clinics” along key transport routes to provide needed health services and reduce possible vectors of transmission. (World Bank)
While many rural regions are vulnerable to shocks to global value chains, the pandemic may open new opportunities for some through an increased demand as production moves closer to end users. (OECD) For example, Sri Lanka operates a cooperative network which enables the private retail network to supply agricultural products directly to customers, along with a distribution mechanism to supply farm products to customers in rural areas as well as in larger settlements. In addition, the government provides health services to operators of vehicles transporting essential goods, including lorries, three-wheelers, buses and motorcycles. (Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport)
While it is essential to maintain local food supply chains during lockdowns, governments can establish online markets linking small-scale farmers to consumers. Governments can also purchase surplus produce from a rural workforce driven by women and provide means of transport to consumers in neighboring towns and cities” (WRI) For example, in India, the Rural Urban Distribution Initiative, a women-led agricultural cooperative, increased procurement of seasonal produce from smallholders and created app-based linkages to provide last-mile delivery in urban areas. Further, the UN Women’s Buy from Women platform connects small-scale female farmers and cooperatives to national and global supply chains and critical financial services. (WRI)
Governments can use innovative strategies to protect rural workers in essential jobs that are difficult to undertake from home (e.g. agriculture, food processing) and to improve transport options to access health services and improve rural health outcomes (OECD). In addition, governments can prioritise and protect nutrition services by adopting robust measures to facilitate food access, in order to increase access and resilience of rural communities in the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, and under emerging pandemics or global stresses in the future. (UN Office of Secretary General)
This section was developed by SLOCAT Partnership on Sustainable, Low Carbon Transport with contribution from Cardno.