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Labour-based roadworks

The Labour-based Road Maintenance Demonstration Project implemented by the Roads Department of the Ministry of Works, Transport and Communication, with funding from Norwegian Agency for Development (NORAD) was initiated in 1999 and concluded in 2002. The labour-based road maintenance strategy was developed to contribute to the implementation of the Government of Botswana's policies on poverty alleviation through employment creation, and increasing private sector involvement in the building of the economy. The aim of the demonstration project was to develop experience and collect information on the application of labour-based methods to the maintenance of sealed roads, with a view to expanding the approach to 520 km of sealed primary and secondary roads. ASIST was engaged to carry out technical audits and special studies to highlight problems and constraints that need to be resolved for a large-scale application of labour-based methods using small-scale citizen contractors. Following the successful completion of the three pilot projects to assess the viability of using small-scale local contractors in labour-based road maintenance works, the programme is being expanded to the national road network. At least 16 contractors have been engaged to carry out routine road maintenance on various sections of the road network and the government has expanded the road length under labour-based maintenance from 252 to 520 km. This is expected to boost job creation and the participation of small-scale contractors in the construction industry.

A socio-economic impact study was carried out in 2002 to assess the positive (and negative) impact of the labour-based road maintenance on the working and non-working households, and the participating communities as a whole. The study reviewed:

  • the labour-based maintenance works carried out by the Roads Department in relation to the achievement of the development objectives, which include employment creation and poverty alleviation;
  • assessed the socio-economic benefit realized through the implementation of the labour-based road maintenance project;
  • assessed the effect of the labour-based maintenance project on women and men in relation to their status in community, total workload, family life, health and welfare and how this affects the traditional way of living in the project areas.

The findings of the impact assessment demonstrate that when a significant number of households are earning a reasonable wage, the income flowing into a community through those employed households does have a spin-on effect. Although households were employed in blocks of time, rather than continuously, the level of earnings was sufficiently high to enable them to meet immediate basic needs and make other ‘investments'. These investments often created casual employment opportunities for other people in the community. This appears not to be the case with other labour intensive government projects such as drought relief. This difference is significant in terms of the impact on the socio-economic situation of individual households.

District Roads Improvement and Maintenance Programme

In eighties, the Ministry of Local Government, Lands and Housing established a District Roads Improvement and Maintenance Programme. After an initial implementation period with demonstration and training in Serowe, the programme expanded gradually to cover all nine districts in the country, employing some 3200 casual labourers. A Field Training Unit was set up in Molepolole as a part of the Roads Training Centre under the Roads Department of the Ministry of Works, Transport and Communications. During the first years of the programme, the ILO was responsible for both programme management and training, but it subsequently focused on labour-based training at the Field Training Unit. This included the further development of labour-based technology and in particular, the introduction of effective systems and procedures for routine road maintenance. The ILO/ASIST provided technical assistance and advisory services to the programme since its inception until 1995 with funding from different sources (i.e., the World Bank, Norwegian Agency for Development (NORAD) and Swedish International Development Co-operation Agency (Sida)).

In 1998, further support was provided to the Roads Department on a project to further the application of labour-based methods in maintenance and construction with funding from NORAD. Intrinsic to this and in line with Botswana National Development Plan and Roads Department's policy, the programme was aimed at increase the use of and support to the development of the domestic contracting capacity. ASIST is engaged in:

  • providing advice on project planning and management; and in reviewing factors influencing the contracting environment including the sustainability of contract documents;
  • conducting regular technical audits on both subcomponents (maintenance and construction) as regards systems and procedures as well as contract execution;
  • participating in task force (reference group for all stakeholders) meetings as a regular member.

Further reading

  • Socio economic impact study labour-based road maintenance demonstration project - Final report
    September 2002.
  • Training and establishment of labour-based contractors in Botswana - PDF 703 Kb
    E. Rametse, ASIST Bulletin Issue no. 12. September 2001. Harare. ILO/ASIST
  • The District Road Improvement and Maintenance Programme – Better roads and job creation in Malawi
    Hagen, S and Relf, C., ILO, 1988

Last Update: 21.07.2009 ^ top