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Regional Seminar Proceedings 1997

Summary of papers presented

Labour-based programme — Uganda country paper

Eng. W E Musumba, Ministry of Works Transport and Communication, Uganda

Under the Road Maintenance Initiative, the Government of Uganda has adopted a deliberate policy of increasing the use of labour-based contractors for roadworks, and promoting the development of a local contracting industry. This paper describes the government's highway network policy and various labour-based programmes involving small scale contractors under the Ministry of Works Transport and Communications, the Ministry of Local Government and the Ministry of Planning and Economic Development. The projects described include:

The labour-based contracting programme, which is targeted at manual routine maintenance activities

The fixed unit rate mechanised contracting programme, which is targeted at providing affirmative support to emerging contractors to develop their capacity to undertake routine mechanised maintenance

The Uganda Transport Rehabilitation Project, aimed at the rehabilitation and maintenance of feeder roads in the four districts of Mbale, Pallisa, Tororo and Kapchorwa in Eastern Uganda

The African Development Bank (ADB) rural feeder roads rehabilitation and maintenance project, involved in routine maintenance of rehabilitated roads

Reintegration of demobilised soldiers programme, aimed at providing demobilised soldiers with skills and employment in rehabilitating feeder roads in ten districts

Projects under the Ministry of Planning and Economic Development labour-intensive project, which include the multi-sectoral project in Karamoja; the rehabilitation project in Luwero district; promoting local building materials project; South-West feeder roads project; and Masulita development project.

For each project described, a brief summary of the objectives, funding, project activities and details pertaining to equipping of the contractors is provided. The paper concludes that the experience from the various projects indicates that the prospects for labour-based technology are good, and the high level of government funding enhances the sustainability of small-scale contractor development. However, the following issues are noted as requiring attention:

  • Co-ordination between different implementing agencies, particularly in the areas of policy and training
  • Equipping of contractors: the leasing of equipment and plant hire pools requires further assessment
  • Correct tool usage
  • Standard guidelines for management of labour-based works
  • Follow-up of projects on completion.

These issues, it is hoped, will be addressed by the new project ‘support to labour-based policy promotion initiative', which aims at the integration of labour-based approaches in national planning and policy, development of the capacity to implement labour-based works, and research and development.

Discussion highlights

Use of fixed unit rate contracts There is need, in the short term, to maintain the use of fixed unit rate (FUR) contracts in order to develop small scale contractors. However, this should give way to competitive biding once small contractor capacity has developed.

Co-ordination of labour-based initiatives The need for harmonisation of the activities of various implementing agencies and donors involved in labour-based activities. For example, in Kenya a donor secretariat was established where the ILO played a co-ordinating role. A co-ordination unit co-funded by the ODA (now DFID) has been set up in Uganda to help resolve this issue. Provisions have also been made in the ten year road sector plan (1997-2007) for a co-ordination unit to be financed by DANIDA. A national road authority is now also being considered and should be in place in two years.

Lengthman contract systems It was observed that the use of lengthmen contracts in many countries was fraught with problems of supervision, delayed wages and lack of handtools. To overcome this problem Uganda is planning to increase the length of road being maintained by each lengthmen contract from 2km to 50km. In addition, the problem of supervision could also be addressed through the transfer of part of the supervisory role to the contractors themselves. Term contracts of six months to a year are also being floated.

Equipment leasing The idea of setting up an equipment leasing pool has been considered in various fora and is still under debate. It was noted that leasing of equipment to contractors should be considered as it would guard against misuse and poor maintenance of government equipment.

Training The need for training, which is crucial and indispensable to successful implementation of labour-based roadworks.

MART questionnaire on tools and equipment

Paul Larcher, MART, Institute of Development Engineering, Loughborough University, Loughborough, UK

The paper defines the objective of the ILO/MART hand tool and intermediate equipment questionnaire, which seeks to obtain data on handtools use and performance, commonly used items of equipment and their availability, the manufacturing capacity in different countries, available standard equipment designs and specifications, and the problems associated with use and procurement.

The main observations from the returned questionnaires are presented. It is observed that good quality tools are important in achieving good productivity. Respondents expressed satisfaction with the productivity of the handtools used. It is noted that when tools are new, there appears to be little difference in the productivity of different quality tools. However, as tools wear out and distort, the productivity of lower quality tools will drop off more rapidly. Further investigations into this are currently being carried out.

The main criterion for selecting and procuring handtools is reported to be their ready availability ‘off-the-shelf'. Where a number of brands are available, if technical staff handle procurement, brands which best meet specifications tend to be chosen, whereas if a tender board is responsible there is more emphasis on lower cost. If use of better quality tools is to be encouraged, they would need to be readily available ‘off-the-shelf'. From the responses to the questionnaire, acceptability is usually limited to visual inspection. None of the respondents reported the use of strength or hardness tests as recommended in the ILO guidelines. The overall impression gained from the questionnaire is that projects ‘make do' with the handtools that are readily available and that these are adequate for the task rates being set.

In the case of intermediate equipment, responses show a serious underdevelopment of the intermediate equipment sub-sector. Many decision-makers do not have the knowledge or the supporting environment to make rational decisions and cost-effective decisions regarding whether to use labour, intermediate equipment, or heavy civil engineering plant. Manufacturers and suppliers are also not aware of the exact needs and potential for intermediate equipment. As such, they are not able to provide optimal solutions for their clientele. The paper concludes that the most serious problem is the lack of cost-awareness regarding the real owning and operating costs of all equipment. This is compounded by the lack of genuine management pressure on road authority personnel to seek cost-effective solutions and performance, thus reducing inclination to change to a more rational approach regarding equipment selection and use. The following are the principal issues identified for further research and development:

  • Lack of awareness regarding intermediate equipment
  • Poor cost awareness regarding all equipment (particularly intermediate equipment)
  • Non-availability of designs and specifications for procurement of intermediate equipment
  • Weak procurement arrangements for intermediate equipment
  • Inadequate training in the use of intermediate equipment
  • Poor availability of finance for intermediate equipment
  • Poor availability of intermediate equipment for hire
  • Poor dissemination of information about intermediate equipment.

The paper suggests initiatives towards solving these problems and outlines the MART programme initiatives in addressing the problems.

Discussion highlights

Procurement There is a need for a centralised procurement system to guarantee manufacturers a market for improved quality implements and equipment. Some participants felt centralisation stifles the growth of small enterprises.

Local manufacturers Most tools used on labour-based projects are designed for agricultural use or adapted from agricultural implements. The market for tools that are specific for roadworks is limited. In order to encourage manufacturers to produce tools suitable for roadworks, it was suggested that the tools should be manufactured to be suitable for agricultural work as well.

Handtools and productivity It was noted that the effect of hand tool quality on productivity in labour-based work where task rates are used may not be significant. However, it was pointed out that a good tool improves the morale of the worker and the speed at which a task can be completed. This would enable the setting of higher task rates which would consequently lead to higher output.

Use of the agricultural tractor A debate ensued on the applicability of the agricultural tractor. Two schools of thought emerged. One in support of the use of the tractors, as they are multipurpose and are readily available in the market throughout Africa. The other argued that the agricultural tractor is a ploughing device and not a pulling device suitable for roadworks.

Information dissemination It was suggested that the advantages and disadvantages of various pieces of tools and intermediate equipment need to be published and disseminated.

Feeder roads project in eastern Zambia
experiences with procurement of equipment and handtools for labour-based road maintenance and rehabilitation works

Alfred Sakwiya, Ministry of Local Government and Housing, Zambia

The paper describes the procurement experiences of a rural feeder roads project in Eastern Province, Zambia. The project was co-funded by the Government of the Republic of Zambia (GRZ), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) at a cost of US$ 6.9 million, of which US$ 0.8 million was for procurement of handtools and equipment for labour-based road maintenance and rehabilitation works.

The main objectives of this project were to develop capacity at district level to plan, design and manage road rehabilitation and maintenance works using small scale labour-based contractors; to develop the private construction industry to undertake roadworks using labour-based methods; and to improve rural access and create employment. The expected outputs of the project included: district and national staff trained in design, planning, management, supervision, and inspection of rehabilitation and maintenance contracts; an efficient system for contract management, monitoring and evaluation; the development of small-scale road maintenance and rehabilitation contractors; the rehabilitation of 500km of road and the maintenance of 700 km of roads; and the creation of 900,000 worker days of employment.

The project has registered considerable progress. Fifteen maintenance contractors and ten rehabilitation contractors have been trained and are performing satisfactorily. Fourteen council supervisors in seven districts are under training. In terms of actual roadworks, 21km have been rehabilitated and 60km of roads maintained. About 70km of rehabilitation contracts and 190km of maintenance contracts have been prepared. A total of 15,000 worker days have been generated on maintenance works and 30,000 on rehabilitation works.

Procurement was successfully undertaken and completed within a record time of only six months. The procurement was done for three main purposes: to equip district staff involved in design, preparation and management of labour based contracts; to equip the contractors with handtools for maintenance and rehabilitation; and to procure equipment required for the project office. Four procurement options were available to the project:

  • Through the executing agency (MoLGH)
  • Through the funding agency (UNDP and ILO)
  • Through IAPSO (UN procurement agency)
  • Through direct purchase in the project area.

The procurement process for each of the different purposes is described in detail. Based on the experience of this project, the following recommendations are made:

The ILO guide to tools and equipment needs to be revised to include engineering survey and soil testing equipment; to list manufacturers of good quality handtools in different project areas and to provide contact details

A checklist should be prepared to ensure that clients are equipped with correct tools and equipment

Current information on manufacturers and suppliers of survey and soil testing equipment in different project areas should be readily available

Detailed construction drawings and specifications for water bowsers, steel compaction rollers and culvert moulds, with practical tips for the manufacturing process should be made available

Procurement regulations should be simplified to facilitate planning.

Overall, the project did not encounter severe problems with procurement. Handtools were procured within three months and equipment within six months after initiating the process.

Discussion highlights

From the discussions, it was generally evident that successful procurement is a function of consultation with, and involvement of, all stakeholders. The main stakeholders are: the government, local councils, manufacturers, contractors and the project itself.

During equipping of labour-based contractors in Zambia the project itself was allowed to procure equipment, thus bypassing the usual bureaucratic bottlenecks. The procurement period was about six months. Usual procedures could have taken up to two years. The procurement process was successful because of the absence of procurement blueprints. Most projects start late, hence a blueprint for procurement may not be applicable two or three years later after the project is actually implemented. Others felt bypassing set regulations may promote corruption.

Developing equipment needs prototypes and entails a long time frame. Due to limited funds and time available the Zambian project bought equipment available off-the-shelf. This led to the question, when will the time be right to start developing appropriate equipment, especially if we want to promote the local industry?

It was also evident from the discussions that while the ILO's Guide to Tools and Equipment has been useful in facilitating the procurement process, there is a need to review and update it. This would go a long way in facilitating the procurement process.

Equipment procurement for the DNEP/DFID Feeder Roads Project, Mozambique

Rob Geddes, Scott Wilson Kirkpatrick, Zimbabwe


The paper provides a general account of the procurement process for equipment ordered by the Mozambique National Directorate of Roads and Bridges (DNEP) for a feeder roads project in Zambezia Province, Mozambique. The project is jointly financed by DNEP and the Department for International Development (DFID) of the United Kingdom. The project's main objectives are the rehabilitation of tertiary roads and the development of capacity in the local construction industry. Works are to be implemented by emerging small-scale contractors, being trained by the project. The project is relatively equipment-intensive, with the cost of equipment estimated at 25 per cent of total project costs. The project provides an opportunity for contractors to eventually purchase the equipment. It is nationally implemented, with support from DFID-funded consultants. The project duration is five years, ending in September 2000.

Selection of contractors was undertaken by DNEP, on the basis of their experience, calibre of staff, equipment already owned, financial status and perceived entrepreneurial ability.

As of July 1997, 60km of roads had been rehabilitated to all-weather standards and 40km were under routine maintenance. Six contractors are currently working at different sites.

The list of equipment for the project was based on the standard list for Feeder Roads Programme brigades. The quantity was calculated to allow for some contractors purchasing more equipment when their operations expanded. The full purchase price, including taxes, was used in deriving rental and hire-purchase rates. Items of equipment not bought by the contractors are to be held centrally and will be available for hire. At the end of the project, this equipment will either be disposed of or retained for hire.

The procurement of equipment was done by the consultants through an associated company. The equipment was ordered in two consignments to reduce the risk of over-supply. All items of the first consignment have been received. However, the preparation of documentation for some items was delayed in Mozambique due to the large numbers imported and the need for translation of documents into Portuguese. The ordering and delivery of the second consignment has commenced, with some items already being received. The key to success was the decision to manage the process at a local level. A Mozambican administrator was recruited who had a thorough knowledge of Quelimane (a port some 1600km north-north-east of Maputo) and some experience in dealing with the various agencies involved in the process of importation. Through DNEP, the project undertook to pay some customs obligation in Quelimane, thus reducing delays in deployment of equipment to the sites.

The cost of procurement is estimated at US$3.0 million, of which 74 per cent has so far been spent, while a further US$300 000 has been committed in orders for the second consignment.

The equipment is owned by DNEP, which hires it to contractors. The hire rate has been calculated to reflect the true cost of owning and operating the equipment and includes 12 per cent interest per annum. Payments are made by the contractors through deductions from their monthly certificates. The contractors are free to buy equipment according to their requirements. The plant is managed by the Provincial Department of Road's (DEP) Plant Manager, who is also the counterpart to the consultant. The Plant Manager supports the mechanical technicians, employed by the contractors, in plant maintenance and repairs.

Most of the tractors ordered for the project are Massey Ferguson 240s (50hp), which have sufficient power for most site activities. However, severe problems have been experienced on site with the tow hitches. The design of the 3m3 Herculano trailer, with 20-inch wheels located towards the rear of the trailer, results in the transfer of excessive weight to the tractor. This leads to shearing of bolts on the tow-hitch and even breaking of the tow hitch. Modifications are being considered to rectify these problems.

From experience, pedestrian rollers have proved unreliable in the long term in remote places where service back-up facilities are not available. To counter this tendency, a decision was taken to provide towed rollers as well. Because of the low level of traffic on the roads, the alternative approach of simply allowing traffic to facilitate compaction is not appropriate in Zambezia.

Discussion highlights

The discussion was mainly centred on local procurement and its associated problems. It was generally observed that while local procurement may seem an attractive proposition, it has serious limitations. The main bottlenecks to local procurement identified include:

lack of know-how and capacity on the part of local officials
bureaucratic tendencies
absence of some goods or services from the local market. Where goods or services are locally available, they tend to be overpriced.

Mobilising the private sector to engage in labour-based infrastructure — a South African perspective

Ron Watermeyer, Soderlund and Schutte Inc., Consulting Engineers, Johannesburg, South Africa

South Africa has undertaken reforms aimed at facilitating job creation through private sector involvement. A Green Paper on public sector procurement reform has been formulated. It focuses on ensuring that the foreign content in contracts involving goods and services is minimised. The other aspect of the Green Paper focuses on employment of small-scale entrepreneurs, and on encouraging technologies that substitute labour for capital. These initiatives are in line with constitutional provisions. The new South African constitution requires that all organs of state employ contracting systems that ensure fairness, equity, transparency, competitiveness and cost-effectiveness.

Presently, employment-intensive practices involving mainly small scale private contractors are in use in a wide range of infrastructure works. These range from rural gravel roads, bridges, dams, townships, low voltage electricity reticulation and storm drainage to construction and building works.

Implementing employment intensive technologies

Currently in South Africa it is evident that, while small-scale enterprises readily implement labour-intensive policies, established companies need to change their work methods so as to reduce reliance on capital-intensive technologies.

The number and location of employment opportunities generated are dependent on the choice of technology and the construction and manufacturing methods adopted. Implementing employment-intensive technologies in construction may be indirectly achieved using one of two methods:

Specifying the technology and method of construction or manufacture. This method usually achieves stated objectives, but is subject to the designer's ability to forecast costs, if economic viability is to be retained

Allowing tenderers to choose their own technology and methods. This method calls for creativity on the part of the tenderers to arrive at the optimum mix.

One of the main aspects that comes into play in implementing employment-intensive technologies is the tendering process. Experience so far has shown that, in force account works, there is a danger of ignoring the true construction costs, as records are often limited to outsourced items, e.g. materials and labour. The costs of supervision, plant, establishment, etc. are invariably absorbed in the overall running cost of the organ of state, and are seldom separated.

The tendering and contracting system, on the other hand, allows for cost comparisons of labour- and plant-based works.

Successful involvement of the private sector in labour-based infrastructure works requires, on the one hand, appropriate specifications and contract strategies involving tools and earthworks, as well as construction materials. On the other, it involves some form of affirmative action that focuses on small enterprises owned by disadvantaged groups. This should be aimed at increasing the volume of work available and increasing income generation. In pursuing affirmative action, it is recognised that procurement is a policy issue and that "value for money is not necessarily the lowest price". Issues of human resources and technical specifications come into play in the procurement process. Human resource specifications set goals for the engagement of targeted labour and local resources. The performance of contractors in achieving these goals should be definable, measurable, quantifiable, verifiable and auditable. In turn, it is necessary to classify contracts depending on the human resource and technical elements involved. This should help in allocation and targeting of contracts to achieve desired development objectives, as well as setting levels of performance bonds.

A mix of development objectives and price mechanisms are employed. The terms of these mechanisms mean that tenderers are awarded points for, in the first instance, their financial offers and, in the second instance, the extent to which their offers achieve socio-economic objectives. This enables tenderers to use their skill, knowledge and creativity in arriving at a favourable mix between economic and development objectives. This system also penalises those persons who fall outside the targeted groups, or who offer to meet certain socio-economic objectives to only a limited degree. However, the system does not preclude them from tendering in a meaningful manner. Those who fall within a targeted group are prevented from presenting grossly non-competitive tender prices. This is because the reward for compliance with socio-economic objectives will be outweighed by the loss of points incurred through non-competitive tender prices.

Appropriate standards and innovative contracting systems are the key parameters for successful private sector involvement in labour-based works.

Discussion highlights

The discussion centred mainly on the need for a conducive policy environment that would successfully involve the private sector in labour-based works. At the centre of this policy environment there should be a contracting system that ensures that the often disadvantaged small-scale contractors are not excluded. The issue of specifications and standards featured prominently in the discussions. Some participants thought specifications and standards ought to be emphasised, while others felt that the issue should be left to the competitive market.

A proposal was made for the classification of contractors to match equipment they possess, and work they can undertake, to ensure that small-scale enterprises are not excluded from labour-based works contracts. Others observed that classification of contractors and the application of fixed rates could be counterproductive to their growth and development. Instead they should be subject to competitive bidding right from the start.

Concern was raised about the possibility of performance bonds leading to the exclusion of micro-enterprises when awarding contracts. It was clarified that in South Africa a system of variation in percentage of performance bonds is applied, depending on the classification of enterprises and contracts. The micro-enterprises are usually not required to provide performance bonds.

On procurement it was noted that the contractors are allowed to choose their own tools. Nationally applied standards and specifications tend to stifle innovation. Setting out deliverables and measurable outputs rather than standard specifications on tools used would be preferred. It was further noted that the contractors in South Africa are perhaps innovative enough to determine their own needs, hence standards may not be an issue.

South African is atypical of other African countries. It is a relatively high-wage economy and has the advantage of being able to finance most of its projects. As such, it can specify whatever procurement systems it deems fit. Other African countries, because of dependence on foreign funding, do not have the leverage to specify which system of procurement is used. The World Bank, for example, tends to set standards that do not favour local companies, contractors and goods.

It was noted that small-scale contractors can benefit from partnerships and joint ventures with established contractors. In South Africa it was noted that as much as 60 per cent of capital is often locked up in joint ventures.

Equipping trained labour-based contractors — the Ghanaian experience

E. N. K. Ashong, Department of Feeder Roads (DFR), Ghana

Ghana has had considerable experience with equipping trained contractors, dating back to 1986. Starting with seven contractors, the number has steadily risen to 96 to date. However, 36 of them are yet to be equipped. The paper describes the Ghanaian experience with training and equipping contractors for labour-based roadworks.

To begin with, an argument as to whether or not to equip trained contractors is presented. The two schools of thought on the issue are:

"Trained labour-based contractors should be ‘thrown' straight into the competitive environment. Success here will be a real measure of ability".

"In order to develop a successful and sustainable labour-based programme, there is a need to initially guide and guard the contractors, while their capacity is allowed to grow".

Ghana subscribes to the second school of thought, upon which this presentation is based.

Status of the Ghanaian Programme

With technical support from the ILO at the onset, seven contractors were supplied with equipment worth a total of US$ 150 000, recoverable in four years with interest. Each contractor was equipped with three tractors, six trailers, one tipper truck, one towed water bowser, one pedestrian roller, one chain saw and a set of handtools.

Later packages however, were expanded to include a pick-up and another tipper truck. Typically, less than 10 per cent of the equipment supply is funded by government. This represents a high level of donor dependence.

Factors affecting equipment loan recovery

While it is often assumed that contractors will be guaranteed continuous work, experience in Ghana and elsewhere has shown that budgetary constraints render this assumption unrealistic. On the part of the contractor, experience has shown that his ability to repay the loan is influenced by his own actions, the client's actions as well as the loan management bank.

Ghana's experience with competitive tendering (which also has a bearing on loan recovery) has shown that this system leads to procurement of equipment that has not stood the test of time or equipment that is inappropriate for the intended use. This has often led to the realisation of low outputs. For example, a tipper truck costs about 32 per cent of the equipment loan, but does not contribute significantly towards the physical output. This is because it is basically used for long distance haulage of inputs like cement and fuel. A cheaper low-bed truck would be preferable.

It has also been observed that the actions of the contractor have a direct bearing on his ability to repay the loan. The use of worn-out tools, delays in servicing equipment, and diversion of funds are some of the factors that tend to lower contractor productivity.

From experience so far it is recommended that, in order to improve loan recovery, selective bidding methods be employed. In so doing, it is possible to ensure procurement of equipment that has stood the test of time. Also, it is recommended that loan repayments be in local currency, and the interest payments be on a quarterly rather than on a monthly basis.

In spite of the problems encountered, loan recovery was generally good in the case of Ghana. So far, over 70 per cent of the contractors have completed payments on their loans for equipment. The outstanding 30 per cent have only small balances to clear.

The Department of Feeder Roads (DFR) is still faced with the challenge of 36 trained contractors yet to be equipped. On top of this, 17 new districts have recently been created. Consequently, 17 more contractors will need to be trained and equipped.

The main thrust for the future for DFR will be towards maintenance activities. Contractors will be classified into three groups based on equipment holding and type of work to be executed, as follows:

Category I: Equipment holding of US$150 000
Category II: Equipment holding of US$70 000
Category III: Equipment holding of US$30 000

This will be done with the objective of encouraging healthy competition, early loan repayment, maximisation of the use of limited funds and larger coverage for contractors. At the same time, the DFR intends to cautiously create protected plant pools to specifically support non-equipped contractors.

In conclusion, it is observed that trained labour-based contractors definitely need equipment. However, correct packaging of equipment and assured work availability are necessary to avoid waste and an excessive burden of loan repayment.

Note There was no discussion on this presentation because of time constraints.

Choice of haulage equipment for labour-based works

Walter Illi and Bruno Illi, Norconsult, Kenya

This paper attempts to introduce the factors to be considered in selecting haulage equipment based on sound economic reasoning. The choice of haulage equipment is important because it represents a significant component of total construction costs. In some projects, it has been calculated to be as high as 35 per cent.

Looking back at the history of equipment choice for labour-based rural roadworks, it appears that the use of the tractor-trailer combination to haul material has always been considered to be the cheapest and most appropriate technology. This approach was very much in line with common donor policies. It was also supported by a number of publications and studies that were conducted in the mid-1970s and early 1980s, such as the World Bank, Labor-based construction programs. A practical guide for planning and management, published in 1983.

However, as detailed in the paper, with the passage of time together with changes in technology, prices, the economic environment, etc., this assertion may no longer hold true. Besides, the assumptions employed then are no longer relevant to the present situation. This warrants a critical look at the various aspects of haulage if solutions suited to the present circumstances are to be derived. For example, today's tractors have higher-powered engines, while their trailers are more sophisticated and are smaller. Again, recent evidence from some field studies has shown that tipping trailers are a non-viable option. It has also been established that the lifetime for some trailer models has proved shorter than was anticipated. Evidence so far points to the need for purpose built trailer designs and hitching methods.

In terms of changes in the market environment, it is observed that, in the past, the supply of trucks was limited to a few manufacturers. Today, in the increasingly liberalised economy, monopoly is giving way to competition. Indicative figures from Kenya, Zambia and the World Bank Guide reveal that costs for tractor/trailers have risen by 350 per cent, while the price increase for trucks has only been about 260 per cent. Pricing policies, taxation, etc. in the most countries have changed significantly over the years. All this necessitates a review of the various aspects of haulage.

Conclusions and recommendations

Significant changes have taken place over the past 20 years. The choice of haulage equipment should be assessed in light of current trends, relevant to the actual situation on the ground.

The use of computer spreadsheet programmes is recommended for calculation of haulage rates, which should be separated into fixed costs, operating costs, overheads and profits. Calculations should be based on actual equipment running times rather than estimated annual average utilisation.

In terms of haulage equipment, it has been established that a tractor-tipping trailer combination for haulage between 5-6 km appears to be viable. Haulage costs using trucks and tractor-non-tipping trailer combinations over distances less than 2.5 km are apparently equal. Trucks are 50 per cent more economical over distances greater than 12 km. The highest possible output is achieved by 7-8 tonne tipper trucks. The flat bed or tractor/tipping trailer combinations can achieve 40-80 per cent of the tipper trucks' capacity. Finally, it is now apparent that there is little evidence of successful use of tipping trailers. These are considered as not viable.

Discussion highlights

The discussions emphasised the need for researched and documented conclusions on the choice of haulage equipment. Comparative cost analyses of various equipment types and trials of new methods of haulage were called for. In doing this, emphasis was laid on realistic assumptions, based on the situation presently found in different countries.

Tractor-trailer combination versus truck There is still a need to carry out practical cost comparisons between tractor-trailers and trucks considering such aspects as utilisation rate and availability.

At the current price levels, trucks are relatively cheaper than the tractor-trailer combination. Further research is necessary.

It was generally observed that trucks are hostile to hand-loading, but if equipped with a tipping mechanism this facilitates off-loading. Tractor-trailer combinations, on the other hand, are more easily loaded by hand and have the advantage of being able to leave the trailer being loaded/unloaded, while the tractor is deployed elsewhere.

Tipping trailers It was generally agreed that traditional hydraulic tipping trailers were not durable and that the tipping mechanism has tended to pose problems during operations.

In Kenya, manual tipping trailers have been used with reasonable success, although some problems were experienced when dealing with cohesive material. The tipping angle was not adequate and restricted off-loading.

Other haulage options Suggestions for investigations into other haulage options were given, such as tractor-drawn scoops (used for dam construction in Zimbabwe) and dumping ox-drawn carts (used in Swaziland).

Agricultural tractors in roadworks — slide show presentation

Rob Petts, MART, UK

The slide show illustrated tractor applications in paved and unpaved roadworks. Slides shown included:

  • Tractor technology used in the UK for rehabilitating bitumen roads: heated bitumen distributor; towed bitumen mix spreader
  • Heavy and light towed graders: Arthur Garden towed grader manufactured in Zimbabwe; Turbograder manufactured in Kenya
  • Trailers: trailer with side doors used for gravel haulage suitable for labour loading and unloading used in Zimbabwe (manufactured by Tinto); tipping trailers
  • Towed drags; water bowsers; and dead weight compaction equipment were also shown
  • Reconditioning of old trucks at a cost of approximately US$7000 each has been successfully carried out in Cambodia.

Discussion highlights

It was stressed that agricultural tractor technology, particularly as regards maintenance, offers a cheaper and more flexible investment which is better suited to the situation in developing countries. The costs of owning and operating tractor equipment can be considerably lower than for heavy plant to achieve the same work output.

Experience from the Roads 2000 Project in Kenya indicates that both the 100hp 4 WD tractor with a towed grader and an 120hp motor grader are capable of similar physical performance. However, a cost comparison in terms of utilisation has shown that the motor grader is more expensive in US$/day terms, other things remaining constant. For contractors, this finding is of significance as it means that it will be cheaper to repay a loan for a tractor/towed grader than for an 120hp grader.

Advantage of agricultural tractors over specialised equipment

Sophisticated imported heavy machinery is often characterised as being dedicated in function (can only be used for one operation); interdependent (operating as a fleet); consuming foreign exchange for purchase, spares, etc.

Imported heavy machinery is often associated with a limited local market and consequently few dealers able to provide back-up service. Besides, frequent model improvements create problems in stocking spare parts and bring about procurement problems which result in high overall costs.

Tractors, on the other hand, provide options for both paved and unpaved roadworks. They represent a natural progression from labour to machines. They are versatile and have low capital requirements as well as low operating and maintenance costs. In spite of these advantages, there is still a need for further investigation into the appropriateness of tractors for labour-based works.

Rehabilitating and maintaining surfaced roads

A O Bergh, P J Hendricks and I Cassiem, Division of Roads and Transport Technology, CSIR, South Africa

This paper describes the labour-based upgrading methodologies used in a pilot project in Phuthadithaba, North East Free State, South Africa, for upgrading gravel streets using the existing structure as a sub-base. Traffic volume on these streets is generally less than 500 vehicles per day, of which heavy trucks account for less than 10 per cent. The detailed techniques are serialised in teaching manuals published by the Division of Roads and Transport Technology of the CSIR.

To begin with, a centre line for an existing street is established using the best applicable features. These could be boundary beacons, fence-lines, electricity poles or fronts of houses. Once the centre line has been established, a smooth rolling grade is then determined, using pegs and a sisal string. Adjustments are made to reduce the amount of earthworks at later stages. Prior to surfacing, the main storm water spinal drain is put in place. Where relatively flat slopes obtain, they are checked with a dumpy level to ensure that sufficient fall has been obtained. The appropriate cross fall, usually varying between 2 per cent and 2.8 per cent, is selected. This determines the amount of earthworks to be done by hand labour. The final concrete level of the drain is used as reference points along the length of the road for determining the levels of the opposite edge. Levelling of the sub-base, filling, watering and compaction (by existing traffic), are then undertaken. Compaction is further reinforced using a BOMAG 65 pedestrian roller. Care is taken to ensure that the levels of the sub-base are accurately constructed, to assist in the laying of steel shutters when the emulsion treated base is placed.

In-situ material thickness (10mm desirable) is checked by carrying out a survey using a Dynamic Cone Penetrometer (DCP). From an economic point of view, use of locally available materials (decomposed dolerite in this case) is recommended. Tests are carried out on gravel from site and elsewhere to determine plasticity and to arrive at the appropriate treatment for the materials (2 per cent emulsion, 1 per cent cement and 1 per cent lime selected for this project).

When it comes to construction, each street is split into half widths, to facilitate hand screeding of materials. The concrete side drain forms a continuous level to which the emulsion treated base (ETB) is placed. To overcome the problem of coarseness, grading of the material is done using coal forks from which alternate tines have been removed. By using various measuring containers, appropriate measurements and mixtures of materials are achieved. The amount of water in the gravel is also taken into account in determining the optimum degree of dilution and moisture content.

Once the road is ready for placing the ETB, the correct level of compaction should have been undertaken. The ETB is applied in two layers. The first layer is placed level with the shuttering and the second layer of ETB is placed level with the top gauges, to ensure uniformity of the constructed level of the final base. Use of ETB is advantageous in that, because of the time lag in labour-based methods, the ETB is capable of carrying traffic without surfacing for extended periods.

The last stage in the process of upgrading the road is surfacing. One of four types of surfacing will be applied on the road, depending on anticipated traffic volumes, economic considerations, etc. The following observations have been recorded for each type of seal:

  • Single seal: suited to labour-based application if well controlled
  • Double seal: probably the most difficult seal to apply efficiently with hand labour. Its success is highly dependent on experience with the efficient use of rollers
  • Cape seal: strong, tough and suited for bus and more heavily trafficked roads
  • Slurry seal: sound and uniform; user-friendly for labour-intensive works.

Discussion highlights

Labour-based techniques of road construction are particularly useful in the built-up township environment. Labour-based methods were preferred for rehabilitation of township streets where access is limited. Use of labour-based techniques should be encouraged for major road construction as well.

The importance of careful selection and positioning of materials for successful labour-based roadworks was highlighted. The rest of the discussion centred on clarification of the various techniques employed by the project.

Labour-based surfaced road and canal construction with Geo-Cells

Paul Malopa, Hyson-Cells, Muldersdrif, South Africa

The paper describes what Hyson-Cells are, and lists the various applications in which they can be used as well as their advantages. Hyson-Cells are a 3-D honeycomb geo-cell mat made from plastic sheeting. Hyson-Cells vary in size from 25mm to 4 metres deep and measure about 7 x 30 meters in width and length. This technology (from South Africa) has been around for over 10 years now. Hyson-Cells offer unique solutions for civil construction.

During application, they spread to a unique three-dimensional interlock, offering cell slab stability. They are watertight, but allow venting of hydrostatic pressures. Hyson-Cells are easy to use, are cost-effective and applicable even where clay or sand soils are a problem for normal construction. Where applied, traffic flows can resume in a matter of hours, thus causing less disruption to community life during construction. Hyson-Cells allow for use of local materials, and are ideal for varying water tables and unstable soils. Above all, they offer opportunities for community involvement in construction, promote small-scale business and are suited to labour-based technologies.

In terms of application, Hyson-Cells have proved useful in various construction fields such as labour-based roads, storm-water drains and canal linings, embankment protection, erosion control, dam, weirs, spillways and maturation ponds. They easily overcome problems associated with terrain and soil conditions. To date, over 1000000m2 of Hyson-Cells have been installed throughout Africa, and demand is growing.

Discussion highlights

During discussions, it was emphasised that engineering considerations at the preparation stage are very important, if successful laying of the Hyson-Cells is to be achieved. For example, for roadworks an in-situ compaction of a 150mm layer is required before cells are laid.

The rest of the discussion was mainly concerned with some of the technical aspects of Hyson-Cells and their applications.

Appropriate handtools for labour-based roadworks

Gary Taylor, IT Transport Ltd., UK

The paper discusses factors affecting handtool quality and the influence of tool quality on the productivity of the labour force. A review of the results from recent tests in Ghana and Kenya on the effect of tool wear on productivity is also presented.

The paper reaffirms that productivity is a function of effective organisation, supervision, motivation and quality of tools and equipment used. However, although it is generally agreed that handtool quality is very important to the cost-effectiveness of labour works, there appears to be virtually no documented experience to support this view. (The presenter expressed the hope that the seminar would be able to provide some evidence from the wealth of experience of its participants.) The presentation goes on to define the factors that determine quality of handtools. These are: ergonomic efficiency (angle); strength of the tool; and wear and durability.

Analysis of a number of labour-based projects in Ghana, Lesotho and the Philippines has shown that labour costs are typically 40 per cent of total construction costs in labour-based roadworks. At least half of this cost is from earthworks. With earthworks and gravelling activities making up over 80 per cent of labour costs, the impact of productivity on the cost-effectiveness of labour-based works becomes quite obvious. The relationship between quality and productivity of the main tools used — hoes, shovels, pickaxes/mattocks, wheelbarrows and rakes/spreaders — is therefore very important. Since the cost of handtools is typically between 2 per cent and 5 per cent of overall construction costs, increased labour productivity achieved with good quality tools will have a significantly greater impact on overall costs than the purchase cost of the tools themselves.

The paper asserts that better quality tools are likely to have a longer life span, and to cut down on replacement costs, and to impact positively on productivity. The potential improvements in productivity however will depend on labour relations, effectiveness of supervision, and the way payments are effected in the field. For example, where daily rates are used, with effective supervision, daily output should increase. For task rates, to achieve improved productivity, daily task rates should be increased. The potential for this depends on effective supervision and labour relations. In the case of piecework, improved productivity will increase volume of work per day, but direct cost savings can only be achieved if unit rates are reduced – which may be difficult to justify. Moreover, even where better handtools application on site does not necessarily produce cost savings, it motivates workers (reduced time and effort).

Field experience

In terms of documentation, the paper asserts that the tendency has been to emphasise specifications and procurement rather than performance and impact on productivity. Only a few field tests have been recorded, such as tests on handtool quality in Kenya.

From ergonomic efficiency and strength tests so far undertaken to compare quality of farm and construction tools, the only significant difference found in worker productivity was for hoes. The construction hoe recorded 12 per cent higher productivity, compared to the agricultural hoe. For strength, considerable differences were recorded. The farm type experienced far more failures. Losses in productivity due to broken tools varied with working arrangements. However, generally speaking, losses are likely to be significant where tool failure is more common.

Tests on the effect of wear of handtools in Ghana compared two work forces, one with badly worn-out tools and the other with new tools. The time for completing the daily task for each worker was recorded. Workers were also asked questions on tiredness, difficulty in completing the task and performance of tools. It was established that, for ditching and sloping, the average increase in time taken to complete daily tasks using worn tools was 22 per cent and 6 per cent respectively. Ditching is more strenuous; hence the greater loss of productivity recorded.

In tests on the effect of wear on handtools in Kisii, Kenya, three groups of tools were used: new, partly worn and badly worn. The results showed that, because of competition between workers to complete the tasks, those using worn tools worked considerably harder to keep up with those using new tools. At the end, those using worn tools were found to be considerably more tired. It would appear that, if all workers were to use worn tools in this experiment, the increase in task time would have been 15 per cent to 20 per cent for worn tools, and 5 per cent to 10 per cent for part-worn tools.

The paper concludes, on the basis of these test results, that ergonomic efficiency may not be a significant factor affecting productivity. The main problem experienced with poor quality tools is probably inadequate strength — arising from inferior steel that may not have been properly hardened and tempered — as well as breakage of handles. This conclusion appears justifiable, given that all test results on wear of handtools seem to be consistent. Clearly, there is a benefit in changing tools at about 60 per cent to 70 per cent of their current life.

The presentation ends with the proposals on improving quality of handtools for labour-based works contained in the MART programme. These include: encouraging the wider use of good quality handtools through producing and disseminating an illustrated brochure on the advantages of such tools; preparing clearer and more accessible specifications; and informing hand tool suppliers about the potential and increasing demand for good quality tools.

Discussion highlights

The discussion covered inter alia the issue of handtools not having received as much attention as equipment. Concern was voiced at the lack of awareness, non-availability of guidelines and procurement difficulties.

It was observed that, in many Sub-Saharan countries (and also as observed during the field visit), handtools management on site is generally poor. Incorrect tool usage is prevalent, i.e. the wrong tools are used to perform various tasks. Lack of maintenance and use of worn-out tools has also been observed. There is a need to emphasise proper management of handtools on site, involving all parties concerned (government, contractors and workers).

Training of contractors, workers and the client (government) is essential to improve tool quality, application, and tool management on site. Good quality tools, it was argued, may have a limited impact on force account operations, but for a contractor, good quality tools have a major impact. The need to educate contractors on the benefits of good quality handtools — such as increased productivity and increased profits (because of increased time savings and reduced overheads) — was stressed. For the worker, good handtools result in improved worker morale and reduced exhaustion and injury.

The issue of poor quality tools was partly attributed to inadequate specifications, poor procurement systems, lack of awareness as well as poor planning. Even where specifications exist, it was observed that they are often not enforced. On the other hand, it was suggested that procurement systems are a long term problem and are difficult to change in the short run.

It was argued that task rate systems do not necessarily encourage productivity. Since tasks are pre-defined, good quality handtools are not the most important consideration for the contractor. Contractors will not be motivated to increase productivity as they are in no hurry to complete their tasks ahead of schedule. The reason given for this trend is that often they are not guaranteed further works. In piecework systems on the other hand, increase in productivity from using good quality tools means that a worker can carry out further pieces of work during the same day.

It was evident from the discussion that there was scope for both task rate and piecework systems in contracting, depending on various factors. The need for further investigation to determine which is more conducive to improved productivity of the labour force was emphasised.

Handtools in the urban infrastructure project, Addis Ababa

Tesfaye Kunbi, CARE, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

This brief presentation is based on experiences of implementing a community development project in the poorer parts of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The project is set against a background of constant influx of people into the town (because of wars and diminishing opportunities in the countryside), leading to the population of Addis Ababa growing to 3.0 million over a short period of time. This has tended to perpetuate the development of slums, with their attendant problems — lack of infrastructure, lack of employment and rising crime.

The Community Infrastructure Development/Urban-Food-for-Work Programme, funded by USAID, was developed by CARE Ethiopia in 1993 to address the needs of the urban poor in relation to the lack of basic primary infrastructure and excessive unemployment. The project targets marginalised communities, providing food rations in the ratio of 3:2:1 for skilled, semi-skilled and unskilled workers respectively. One ration is equivalent to 3.5kg of wheat and 175g of vegetable oil.

At the community level, the project is managed through task force committees. These committees consist of representatives from the community, the municipality disaster department, local NGOs and CARE. They liaise with the project and government.

Priority is given to workers from within the locality of the project. The beneficiary community's contribution is 10 per cent of construction material costs. Community contributions are meant to encourage ownership and subsequent maintenance of project activities at the close of the project.

So far, the project is reported to have realised 80km of stone paved roads, 65 communal latrines for 1560 households, and eight protected springs. At the same time, about 135 unskilled labourers have been promoted to skilled grade. On the other hand, some problems have been encountered, the main ones being difficulty in acquiring land for an on-site sanitation scheme, owing to the government's policy on land ownership; finding immediate re-employment for participants after the one-year period of the project; and lack of follow-up maintenance. Negligence on the part of some committee members has also been observed.

Experience with labour-based works and handtools

The paper observes that project activities are labour-intensive, employing machinery only to the extent necessary. The handtools used are mainly locally manufactured. The life span of most of the tools is between one and two years, and they are subject to constant breakage as a result of poor grade steel, improper heat treatment, as well as improper grinding and application. On site, it was observed that low productivity is a result of the use of excessively worn cutting and working surfaces of handtools. Application of poor handtools results in loss of productivity mainly through time loss, fatigue and injury to workers. Low productivity also results from poor organisation, poor supervision and lack of motivation.

Experience in the use of agricultural tools for labour-based works construction in Addis Ababa has shown that they yield low productivity, since they are not appropriate in terms of size, weight and finish.


There is a need to create awareness on the importance of good quality handtools. Specifications are needed in a more concise and readily available manner. Testing of tools is vital and co-ordination of the market within countries to ensure sufficient demand for good quality tools is required. Finally, because of difficulties associated with the testing of tools, the use of selected brand names with proven performance is encouraged. Procurement, on the other hand, should be done well before project activities start. This will ensure proper storage and good records management.

Discussion highlights

The discussion centred on understanding the unique problems of applying labour-based technology in urban settings. Emphasis was made on the need for further studies within the urban sector to develop appropriate solutions, including community participation.

Demonstration of soil testing equipment

Mike Vlok, CSIR, South Africa

The demonstration involved a piece by piece presentation of the Gravel Road Test Kit, assisted by overhead slides. The presentation reiterated that the implementation of labour-based construction techniques is beneficial in that it creates employment opportunities and assists with socio-economic development. Secondly, the performance of a gravel road is primarily a function of the material selected, as well as the testing and control of construction work.

A gravel material test kit has been developed by CSIR in collaboration with ILO/ASIST. The kit comprises simplified tools for on-site materials testing and quality control. The kit is available in three options as listed below:

  • Option 1: Full kit, US$2500
  • Option 2: DCP not included, US$2200
  • Option 3: Soils test kit only, US$2100

Depending on the type of measurement/test to be performed, the soils test kit apparatus ranges from test sieves, brushes, solar oven, balances and bottles, to clipboards. The solar oven can sustain temperatures of between 90-100°C; the sample is heated for at least three hours. Details are provided in the CSIR Field Testing Kit Manual.

Strength is measured by either a Rapid Compaction Control Device (RCCD) or DCP. The RCCD is spring loaded, and the spring is recommended to be re-calibrated after one year.

Discussion highlights

The main issues of discussion included: comparability of the test results with more conventional or laboratory ones; applicability of the kit to labour-based works; and the costs involved.

It was noted that the RCCD results are comparable to laboratory results. It was emphasised that the gravel road test kit is meant for quick analysis in the field. With the continual depletion of ideal gravel material the kit provides a valuable quick assessment in identifying the best gravel available.

Compaction for gravel roads, tracks and embankments

Tony Greening, Transport Research Laboratory (TRL), Zimbabwe

Note: There was no paper circulated. This summary is based on notes taken during the actual presentation, and on the overheads.

The presentation highlighted the importance of compaction on gravel roads. Compaction reduces the rate of deterioration, e.g. in terms of roughness and loss of shape, and minimises gravel loss, surface erosion and dust emission. The role of compaction is to increase density and reduce permeability and thereby reduce future settlement and increase the bearing capacity and shear strength of the gravel road.

Water plays an important part in improving compaction efficiency and thereby improving the strength and density, and mobilising cohesive properties, both of which increase resistance to erosion. The moisture content is key to good compaction.

Road performance

Typical results indicate that where compaction is not used, extreme roughness levels may be reached at low traffic levels (<50ADT) and approximately four times faster than normal. Where water is not used in compaction, in particular circumstances, maximum roughness levels may be attained after one fifth of the normal rate.

The key performance factors are adequate water, the properties of the materials, the required standards, and appropriate equipment. Typical results indicate that dry cohesive soils and granular materials require 25 per cent to 200 per cent more effort than wet cohesive soils. Given the same soil conditions and compaction equipment, actual output in cubic metres can be two to three times lower if the compaction moisture content is below optimum.

The key factors in quality control are density and moisture. Key measurements and tools are in-situ density measurements, strength tests (using DCP, RCCD, or Clegg hammer), and moisture measurements (using balance and pans, etc.). For each change in soil type, these measurements are essential for quality control.


The following considerations should be taken into account when selecting compaction plant: availability and maintainability; suitability in relation to dimensions and condition of the site; efficiency and cost effectiveness in meeting standards and output compatible with other operations.

On the role of compaction on labour-based roadworks, some issues for consideration are:

  • Striking a balance between the use of labour and output
  • Importance of local studies and field trials
  • Incorporating compaction standards as a factor in decision-making
  • Costs and availability of different options
  • Guidelines for planners and practitioners

It is observed that there is always a danger that, in an attempt to cut costs and maximise profits, contractors will cut back on water costs. The result is low densities, thereby reducing durability and greatly increasing the road maintenance burden. There is a need for quality control of compaction.

Discussion highlights

In the discussions, it was generally observed that compaction plays an important role in determining the performance of the road. However, from the various experiences detailed in the discussion, it was evident that compaction is often not given due attention.

For appropriate compaction levels to be achieved, the correct moisture content is crucial. A problem is how to ensure that contractors adhere to the particular requirements, while remaining cost effective.

Information technology developments

David Mason, ILO/ASIST, Nairobi, Kenya

This presentation updated participants on what information resources ASIST has on offer and how these can be accessed.

ASIST provides written, researched replies to technical queries at no cost. Access to other types of information however is at cost. This includes published reports, text books, and photocopies of unpublished and out-of-print material. Also available at cost are videos on labour-based works and rural travel and transport, technical briefs, working papers and training materials. The ASIST Source Book of key publications is available free.

In the past, requests from clients and replies from ASIST were made via the traditional means, i.e. post, telephone, fax, courier or telex. Currently, ASIST continues to provide information via the media mentioned above, except telex. In addition to this, information can also be received and sent via email and the Internet.

Email is a system for sending electronic messages via computers linked together through telephone lines.

For email access you require:

Typical costs

  • A Personal Computer (a 486, or a Pentium)
  • A telephone line
  • A modem (to connect the computer to the telephone line)
  • A suitable operating system (Microsoft MS-DOS 6.x, Windows 3.x, Windows 95, Windows NT)
  • An Email Service Provider (a company to link you by telephone to the world-wide Email network)
  • Email software (FrontDoor, Eudora, Microsoft Internet Explorer)
  • Training in how to set up and use the software


$3 per month


Free with computer

$10 to $15 per month

Free from your service provider


Internet The Internet is a network of computers around the world, sometimes referred to as the World Wide Web. The Internet can be used to send and receive email messages and attached documents.

For Internet access you require:

Typical costs

  • A Personal Computer (a 486, or a Pentium)
  • A telephone line
  • A fast modem (to connect the computer to the telephone line)
  • A suitable operating system (Microsoft Windows 3.x, Windows 95, Windows NT)
  • An Internet Service Provider or ISP (a company to link you by telephone to the Web)
  • Internet software (Netscape, Microsoft Internet Explorer)
  • Training in how to set up and use the software


$3 per month


Free with computer

$50 to $100 per month

Free from ISP


ASIST has its own Website, and the address is: When connected to the Website you can browse, (i.e. search), view and print information while connected. Alternatively, you can download material, i.e. copy information to your own computer, or send an email to place an order or to send comments to the site editor.

The ASIST Website offers you general background information about the ILO and ASIST to browse or download; the ASISTDOC database to browse, select documents and send an email order or download the database; the full text of key documents to browse or download.

In the absence of an Internet connection, everything on the site will be available on CD-ROM (scheduled for late 1998). Electronic files can also be sent via email, on diskette or as hard copy.

Clients who are near UNDP offices can also receive documents from ASIST through the diplomatic pouch system.

Considerations for the design of tools for labour-enhanced road construction and maintenance

Crispin Pemberton-Pigot, New-Dawn Engineering, Manzini, Swaziland

The paper highlights several basic issues ranging from the human aspects of tool use to appropriate design and use of tools in labour-based roadworks.

The paper states that ergonomics (the study of the movements, condition and efficiency of the human body) is central to the designing of tools that enhance the efficiency of the road worker. The modern truck or cart, for example, is designed contrary to this principle. It is designed for the road it travels on, rather than the people who build the road. Design of transportation taking into consideration the worker and the animals who work side by side with him is critical in labour-based road construction.

The paper then details issues connected with road construction. It observes that it is a complex process involving movement of heavy material, maintenance, upgrading, etc. under different climates, terrain, etc. For this reason, the need for contractors to be able to match the correct tool to the labour for the task at hand is very important. In the case of tool design, designers must effectively match four factors: the task at hand, the materials at hand, the tool-making skills available and the type and skill level of the labourers.

Apart from the issues already highlighted, basic design criteria are discussed. It is asserted that what a person can do with a particular tool greatly influences how much net work can be accomplished. Working against a constant resistance, gripping a handle, is hard on the human body. Using a single-wheeled wheelbarrow is also hard work, increasing the wheels to two or three improves work efficiency, as does letting the labourer expend energy on pushing only rather than pushing and lifting as well.

Animals, such as oxen, should work for only five hours a day, with a continuous pull not exceeding 50kg (equal to about 245 watts of continuous power). Yoking two oxen together only increases their available output by 50 per cent. Donkeys, on the other hand, are more robust than oxen and can work up to eight hours a day, pulling 25kg loads and turning out about 135 watts. However, to achieve their efficient use, the tools (harness, yoke, etc.) have to be suited to the weight, speed and temperament of the animal. Therefore, the optimal use of available labour requires deep thought about speed, load, rest, type of task at hand and motivation. This is a subject for serious research, because economic success through revitalisation of the rural economy can be enhanced by reliable labour-based civil works projects.

The paper then goes on to offer basic technical advice for Africa (which is hard pressed for equipment), arguing for tools that are durable, with parts that are easily replaceable locally. The need for simple, rugged, but largely maintenance-free machines cannot be over-emphasised.

The design of tools should ensure as much as possible that they cannot easily be broken on account of human effort. This is the case with the rock crusher from New Dawn Engineering. The use of easily replaceable substitutes such as wood and vescanite nylon for bearings, etc., is recommended. Design of tools should as much as possible result in lower-cost tools that last as long as more expensive ones.

Governments are encouraged to ensure that materials for tool making are locally available, even if it means importing them. It is far cheaper to import materials for making tools than it is to import heavy equipment and feed and maintain it for years. Capital equipment is imported all the time into many countries. A lot of effort is made to see that fuel is available and staff trained. Why shouldn't this effort also be made to create mass employment? The socio-economic benefits of a high-employment rural economy will surely attract the interest of importers and economic regulators. Taxation policies in favour of imported tool-making materials rather than heavy machinery are required.

On the practical side, it is argued that all fencing made from wire can be handmade. Wire products are easy to make on a small scale. Road fences, where they are put up, should be made and erected by the people living along the particular road. Gabion structures are more common in mountainous areas where erosion is a problem. All gabion baskets, cages and Reno mattresses can be hand-made. It is possible for all the gabion-making technology to be locally produced in a welding shop. Swaziland has been implementing all its fencing and gabion works by hand and labour-based means.

Lastly, on management of construction and maintenance, it is asserted that capital-intensive projects tend to be professional-intensive, while labour-based projects are management-intensive. For each type of tool, there is a need for training workers to achieve the optimum levels of efficiency. Management of tools and workers will make the difference between the success and failure of a project. Training of workers by other workers rather than by professionals is important in labour-based roadworks.

Discussion highlights

The discussion mainly emphasised the need for more local research in the area of tool design, manufacture and use. Other areas featuring in the discussion included the need for more purpose/objective oriented interaction between tool and equipment manufacturers, contractors and workers. Governments, organisations and projects with an interest in the development of labour-based works would be suited to facilitate such interactions.

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Updated by BC. Approved by TT. Last update: 03 Decemberr 2001.