A Strategy for the Rehabilitation of the Rural Transport System in Tsunami-affected areas.


The rural transport sector has been badly affected by the December 2004 earthquake and tsunami. A large part of the rural road network in Indonesia and Sri Lanka needs to be rehabilitated or reconstructed. A recovery of the affected areas however requires far more than rebuilding roads and bridges. Large job losses occurred in productive sectors such as agriculture, fisheries and manufacturing. The local economy needs to be revived to restore the livelihoods of the people. Local governments have collapsed and need to be strengthened to perform their functions. An integrated strategy for improving rural transport is proposed that creates assets and improves livelihoods simultaneously.

Rural transport cuts across different sectors. Improving rural transport improves access people have to basic needs and social and economic goods, services and facilities including health care, education and income-earning opportunities. A successful rural transport recovery strategy contributes at the same time to the restoration of the local economy and livelihoods of the people.

Rural transport infrastructure is primarily made up of rural roads. This strategy will offer a set of principles for planning, designing, implementing and managing the rehabilitation and reconstruction efforts in the rural road sector in the aftermath of a natural crisis. Firstly, it advocates the use of labour-based methods which will provide immediate, but temporary, employment opportunities to unskilled people. The strategy differentiates between labour-intensive and labour-based methods as developing good quality infrastructure is the principal objective. Secondly, the strategy aims at rebuilding local governance. Due to the collapse of local governments in the most severely affected areas, it is difficult for them to fully contribute to the recovery effort. Restoring local governance is important for the future management of the sector. Thirdly, the strategy advocates the development of local entrepreneurship and use of local small-scale contractors in the rehabilitation and reconstruction efforts. This will have a positive impact on the local economy. Lastly, the strategy promotes horizontal and vertical participation. This will ensure that interventions to improve the rural transport system will address the immediate and real needs of the rural people affected by the disaster.

Rural Transport and Socio-Economic Recovery

The widespread destruction caused by the Tsunami brought a heavy toll on the livelihoods in the affected areas. Job losses are particular acute in the large informal sector in the affected areas due to the loss of productive assets and markets especially in agriculture, fisheries and small retail businesses. In Sri Lanka alone, an estimated 275,000 people have lost their livelihoods. The catastrophe also resulted in the destruction of the infrastructure assets in the areas affected. Communities and local governments have an immense task before them in the repair and rebuilding of infrastructure.

This strategy concentrates on activities in the rural road sector. The road sector has been selected because a well functioning local transport system providing access to key services is a pre-requisite for most other development activities. Transport cuts across most sectors. The sector was also one of the largest impacted by the disaster, in value terms, after housing. Lastly, it is one for which there is extensive international experience with labour-based methods. Indonesia, Sri Lanka and India have already adapted employment intensive approaches to local conditions.

Transport patterns between countries, within a country and between rural and urban areas differ considerably. Rural transport for the purpose of this article is defined as the movement of people and goods in rural areas by any conceivable means, for any conceivable purpose along any conceivable route. Research work has revealed that rural transport in developing countries has its own very distinct features. It is characterized by people moving themselves and their goods around in rural areas for a variety of subsistence, social and economic purposes. Some of this transport takes place in motorized vehicles along well maintained roads. Much of this transport takes place in and around the community often with intermediate modes of transport such as bicycles and motorcycles. Rural roads play a dominating role in the rural transport system. Rural roads enable motorized transport and link villages to each other and to markets and other important locations. Rural roads allow transport services to operate which increases mobility of people who do not own any means of transport.

The social and economic impacts of rural roads are well established. Communities and local governments often attach a high priority to rural road improvements. Rural roads improve rural access, which facilitates marketing, schooling and health services. Better access increases income and employment opportunities and also helps alleviate poverty in different ways. Investments in rural roads are often justified from a social and economic point of view. Although the link between rural roads and poverty alleviation seems to be more indirect, it can generally be concluded that areas with poor accessibility are generally worse off compared to areas with better road access.

The destruction of the rural road network has worsened accessibility. The flow of goods and people has been interrupted. Restoring local access will have immediate beneficial effect and facilitates recovery in the social and productive sectors. Large investments are now under preparation for rehabilitating the major infrastructure in the countries affected by the crisis. In particular the main road network will be improved. There are substantial potential gains to be realized if resources are also dedicated to improving the connectivity between the communities and the improved main road network. Rural roads are often forgotten but form an important part of the local transport system. Improving the local road network will contribute to the recovery of the areas affected. It is important however to underline that improving the local transportation situation is just one condition for local economic development and poverty reduction. Complementary actions in the social and productive sectors are equally necessary.

Damage to the Rural Road Network – Example of Aceh

The broad dimensions of the natural disaster are now clear in the countries affected. For example, in Indonesia the “Preliminary Damage and Loss Assessment Report (BAPPENAS/Donor Community January 2005)” assesses the largest public sector damages to be in the infrastructure sectors. The total damage of the road network has been assessed at 1.7 trillion Rp. About 10 percent of the road network in Aceh Province has been damaged or about 316 kilometres of national and provincial roads, over 1900 kilometres of local roads and over 400 bridges.

The following table shows an overview of the assessment of rural road damage at the district (Kabupaten) level.

Table 1: Overview damage to rural road network in Aceh, Indonesia




































































Map 1 shows the extent of the damage in different sectors for one district in Aceh, Indonesia.

The infrastructure sector in general is seen as a major facilitator in the reconstruction process. Without major investments in roads, water supplies, schools and health stations and housing the economic and social revival will not take place. The Government of Indonesia for example has defined three phases of this reconstruction process. The initial emergency phase in which basic necessities are provided such food, shelter and medical supplies and some input of funds in the form of emergency employment programmes lasted until May. In the second phase of rehabilitation some of the basic infrastructure will be restored. This will ensure that the basic needs of the Acehnese people will be met in terms of access to clean water, to decent shelter and to schools and health centers. This is expected to cover a period of 6-12 months. The final phase of reconstruction is intended not only to return the affected areas to a pre Tsunami situation but to provide the basis for the further development of the Province in economic, social and administrative terms. The reconstruction of the rural road network is part of this third phase although immediate activities are necessary to restore basic access as good as possible. These activities would fall under the emergency and rehabilitation phases.

Map of Aceh Barat

The rehabilitation and reconstruction of the entire damaged road network would require a large number of skilled engineers, technicians and small-scale contractors. Currently, this skilled manpower is in short supply and a fast track training programme is needed to establish this capacity. The strategy suggests to quickly building up local capacity for implementing the required works. If labour-based technology would be used for example across Aceh Province, assuming a daily wage of USD 3.5 per day, it could generate an estimated 4 to 5 million work days.

Overview of the Strategy for the Rehabilitation of the Rural Transport System

This paper outlines a strategy for restoring the rural road network. The main objective of the strategy is to rehabilitate the rural transport system and contribute towards the restoration of rural livelihoods and communities through labour-based infrastructure investments in the repair and rehabilitation of drainage structures, local roads, and small bridges. The main reason to emphasize on the adoption of labour-based technologies in rural road works is its huge employment potential. Employment creation is of critical importance in a situation wherein people have lost almost everything but their ability to work. Paramount to the intention of local income generation and enhanced work skills among the participating population however is the overall aim to restore the local road network to facilitate sustainable socioeconomic recovery in the affected areas. The strategy also aims at strengthening community institutions through participatory decision making processes in all aspects of the work. The strategy proposes to work through local governments and small-scale contractors and strengthen their capacity to partake in the rehabilitation and reconstruction efforts. The latter will enhance the performance of the local construction industry through training, on-the-job and in a more formal setting, of small-scale contractors and technical guidance during implementation of physical works.

The strategy responds to the main issues identified through recently completed assessments of the rural infrastructure and construction sector in Aceh and Sri Lanka and meets some of the intermediate and long term needs of the local people in terms of provision of infrastructure and production facilities which will enable them to recover their social and economic activities.

Restoring rural access is a critical factor in the socio-economic recovery of the areas affected. Without adequate access to social and economic goods, facilities and services, communities will find it difficult to return to normal. Rural transport services may have ceased to exist due to the destruction of the rural road network, people will have lost their transport vehicles and accessibility has generally deteriorated. Improving the rural road network will restore the rural transport system, with traffic picking up again, transport and consumer prices falling and access to markets and income earning opportunities improving. Improving rural access will bring immediate and long-term social and economic benefits to the areas affected.

Unemployment is another key concern. Efforts to address the vast needs of employment in the immediate and longer term is a central issue, which should be integrated in all reconstruction programs, in particular those related to the provision of infrastructure. Rebuilding and repairing the destroyed and damaged infrastructure involves a massive investment but also implies a huge employment potential. The promotion of employment-intensive practices will contribute to the restoration of livelihoods; greater capacity of the population to participate in the restoration works and improved accessibility to goods, facilities and services.

The strategy encourages labour-based technology to the rehabilitation and reconstruction of rural infrastructure in the disaster area. It concentrates on the local rural road system. The same approach however could be extended to other forms of local infrastructure (small-scale irrigation, land development and rehabilitation of fish-ponds). Labour-based methods are most appropriate for reconstruction of secondary and tertiary roads rather than the main roads.

From a more general local economic recovery point of view, the infrastructure reconstruction works will also help generate business opportunities for local enterprises. The mobilization of small scale contractors will contribute to the revival of the local economy. A great number of job seekers, in particular those who lost their livelihood during the disaster, can be absorbed during the reconstruction period, and when infrastructure has been reconstructed, there will be increased capacity in the construction sector to more effectively participate in the region’s future development programs.

As a result of the Tsunami, some government structures at the local level have suffered and their capacity to participate effectively in rural road reconstruction programmes has been greatly reduced. Improving the local government capacity to partake in the reconstruction process is an integral component of the strategy.

The key to this proposed strategy is a well planned capacity building process, integrated within the reconstruction programs, where all actors and stakeholders are adequately involved and benefit from the program in such a way that they can better implement programs with improved planning and implementation management, and a better use of local resources, while fulfilling the local community needs.

In short, the strategy will simultaneously contribute to the rehabilitation and reconstruction of rural roads, strengthen the capacity of local governments, small-scale contractors and communities and generate employment and income.

The strategy is fully in line with Government policies and strategies in the areas affected.

The Indonesian Government’s strategy for the rehabilitation and reconstruction of Aceh and North Sumatra for example is to recover the economy by creating job opportunities and productive assets. This has been expressed in the Master Plan recently prepared by its national planning agency BAPPENAS. The plan spells out the principles and approaches for rehabilitation and reconstruction. The Master Plan was officially launched on March 26. The Master Plan and an earlier report “BAPPENAS/World Bank Notes for Reconstruction” clearly show that the strategy would be fully in line with Government objectives. The documents state that: “the infrastructure should therefore be both asset-creating and employment-creating. Fortunately, the basic guidelines and training materials already exist in Bahasa for this purpose” and “in the reconstruction phase, infrastructure can only be developed if institutional arrangements and capacity are in place” and “the concepts of participation, employment creation, development of local skills and local entrepreneurs, developed in the rehabilitation phase, would be strengthened in the reconstruction phase”.

Implementing the strategy would require international Technical Assistance (TA). The main type of TA intervention will be institutional development through training and on-site supervision of demonstration works. It may also be necessary to raise the awareness of local decision makers and communities about new techniques and technologies introduced.

Implementing the Strategy

The strategy can be implemented through 3 different steps.

Step 1: Making Assessments

The immediate needs in the disaster area are food, sanitation, shelter and medicines. It is critical however to address the recovery process as early as possible to mitigate the direct and indirect impacts of the disaster on rural livelihoods and the local economy. Planning the recovery process requires some basic data on the extent and impact of the disaster. A first step is to generate this information to effectively plan for the reconstruction of the areas affected.

During the assessment stage it is necessary to, as quickly as possible:

  • Assess the damage to the rural road network
  • Survey and calculate quantities of work
  • Estimate the potential for employment creation
  • Prepare documentation on the work mentioned above, which will form the basis for (i) the bill of quantities, (ii) an estimate of tools and equipment requirements, (iii) labour inputs and (iv) a cost estimate for the total works
  • Make recommendations on how to recruit labour and secure the necessary tools and equipment, with an emphasis of securing most items locally
  • Identify needs for site supervisory staff and make recommendations for initial training
  • Identify local government institutions with which collaboration will be established (see step 3)
  • Identify local contractors for project implementation (see step 3)

Collection and compilation of information on the road network at the district level is not always an easy task. Usually road network inventories are not available or not updated. Little information is available on the extent of the destruction and impact on livelihoods. Initial assessments however should come up with quick results which will direct specific project interventions.

The initial assessments will have to look into more detail into the rehabilitation and reconstruction tasks that will be required in the areas affected to restore the transport system. Road maps and road inventories need to be prepared to assess the extent of the road network, classification, damage inflicted, rehabilitation and reconstruction needs and priorities. Inventories need to be made on the ground of the technical characteristics of the rehabilitation and reconstruction tasks required for roads and bridges. These can then be used to identify the suitable techniques and any complementary light equipment that might be necessary. For example, while most of the international experience with labour-based road works has been with earth and gravel surfaced roads, there have been significant recent advances with more durable bitumen. Similar design innovations can be found with low cost bridges, especially those suitable for community level structures. This is important as most district roads in Aceh are or were black-top roads, while village roads are often gravel roads. Different roads need different technologies.

The strategy seeks to optimize the use of labour during reconstruction works. It is therefore necessary to estimate the potential for employment creation through labour-based works based on the road network assessment. In Aceh, for example, it is estimated that, at a wage level of about USD 3 per day, a total of about 5 million work-days or 25,000 work-years could be created (defined as 200 workdays of 8 hours).

A key problem in the areas affected by the disaster is the mobilisation of the necessary local support to rebuild the rural road network. Communities, contractors and local governments have all lost skilled people, capital and assets during the disaster. It is necessary to first assess the scale of this loss before planning a programme to strengthen capacity of local governments, small-scale contractors and community groups to implement the needed rural road works and contribute to the reconstruction process.

Step 2: Planning and Participation

The reconstruction of the rural transport system must meet the immediate access and transport needs of the rural people. A planning process is needed whereby these needs can be swiftly identified. The process must be inclusive of the general needs of the community, and importantly reflect the needs of the poorest and most affected members. Access to essential social and economic services, and opportunities, are generally affected by the Tsunami. Improving access to health services, education, information, markets, water, employment and income earning opportunities are key factors in mitigating the effects of the crisis.

There has been an influx of goodwill and resources to the tsunami recovery programmes in both Sri Lanka and Indonesia. At this time there is not yet a planning or coordinating mechanism in place to assist the responsible authorities or the communities to guide this support to where it can achieve the greatest impact both in the short and medium term. Rural roads are part of this picture.

It is necessary to have an integrated planning tool to quickly establish investment priorities. This tool should be able to set priorities across sectors and within sectors. The process of identification and prioritization of investment priorities should be participatory. Communities need to participate to express their concerns and perceived priorities. Local governments and technical line agencies should participate to discuss these priorities, coordinate activities and prepare action plans.

Integrated Rural Accessibility Planning (IRAP) is a tool that produces comprehensive plans to improve the access situation for a community, an area, and/or a region. The planning process culminates in the creation of an Accessibility Action Plan (AAP) for a given administrative level. The AAP is based on a systematic consultative process with community informants, including leaders, vulnerable groups, responsible government authorities, and other stakeholders such as NGOs. It takes stock of the existing assets so that the repair and maintenance of these assets will be the first priority for investment. This is by far the best investment possible, especially when resources are constrained. It also avoids the production of wish lists for new assets while repair and maintenance of existing assets is neglected. It looks at the poverty levels among villages in the target areas. It estimates travel time, travel frequency and travel costs to social and economic activities. The AAP then prioritizes the needs for the different sectors, such as roads, water supply, health, education, markets. A detailed investment program is drawn up. Extensive use is made of special information tools and mapping for the presentation of the AAP.

Experience has shown that the AAP is a useful tool for guiding investments that will increase accessibility, which in turn will have a beneficial effect on the potential for people to move out of poverty. There is usually considerable “buy in” by the stakeholders and investors. Critically the AAPs are a tool to link the governments’ development program with those that are being carried out from other sources and by other actors.

IRAP is usually used in a “normal” development context. A reduced version of the process can be used in crisis situation to quickly identify priorities in a participatory manner.

The strategy adopts this “sanitized” version of the IRAP process to develop AAPs for tsunami affected communities. The AAPs will be formulated at the district level. These AAPs will be the central tools to guide immediate investments in infrastructure and will be also useful for the longer-term reconstruction programmes. The investments identified will include rural roads. Rural roads however will not be planned in isolation of the other infrastructure needed.

The outcome of the planning exercise is a list of rural road priorities.

Step 3: Implementation

Implementing the strategy starts with the rehabilitation and reconstruction of the rural road network. Special consideration will be given to the technology and involvement of small-scale contractors and local governments.

Labour-based technology

Tragically, the huge loss of life, number of displaced persons, and physical damage are the most obvious indicators, but crucially these translate into lost or severely impacted livelihoods. The rehabilitation and reconstruction processes that have been instituted by the different governments with support of the donor community are thus equally about replacing physical assets and the rebuilding of livelihoods and communities. It is possible to combine these aspects by using an employment intensive investment or “labour-based approach” to the rehabilitation and reconstruction of physical infrastructure wherever this is economically and technically feasible. Such an approach provides local people with the vital benefit of income and, because it uses participatory methods of decision making, assists in the process of community re-generation. The implementation of physical labour-based works can be done by small-scale local contractors supervised by local government units. Investment in infrastructure thus becomes both asset and employment creating, and assists the process of strengthening the local construction industry, capacity building of local governments and community development. Above all, it creates the much needed local short-term employment and injects cash in the local communities.

It should be noted that in the districts affected most severely by the Tsunami in Indonesia and Sri Lanka were generally those with poverty levels above the national average even before the Tsunami. Both, affected people and poor people who were not directly affected by the tsunami will have an opportunity to participate in the labour-based works. This will expand the inclusiveness of the reconstruction program for those directly affected as well as the poor people in the area.

The rural roads works needs to be based on existing specifications and standards available from the relevant line ministries and government authorities. In case the existing specifications and standards do not allow for labour-based works, then approval needs to be sought from government for the use of more appropriate designs and standards that favour the use of labour-based technology.

Cash-for-work projects are widely used to provide immediate income for the population affected. The main objective here is to distribute cash. In the immediate recovery phase following a crisis this could focus on the removal of debris blocking the roads and, to the extent possible, improve the transport system to distribute aid and kick-start the local economy again.

It is important here to differentiate community and public works and labour-intensive and labour-based technology.

Community works are works that create assets or reconstruct assets that serve a particular community and address their priorities exclusively. Community works could include such activities as improving the local environment through tree planting and soil conservation measures. The ownership of the outputs is held by the community rather than a line Ministry or some other Government Organization.

Community contracting is a preferred modality for implementation of infrastructure works in Sri Lanka. In Aceh, community contracting is not preferred as an implementation modality for rural roads as it undermines the construction markets for local contractors. Communities often lack the necessary technical skills which could compromise the quality of works. Community contracting however is used in Indonesia on a large scale for building community infrastructure.

Public Works are carried out on district infrastructure and will frequently benefit more than one community. A common example of public works is a road improvement project. The asset belongs to the government and thus to the public, not to the village or community.

Labour-Intensive technology relies primarily on labour and hand-tools only. In this context, their use addresses immediate social protection needs by means of short term employment through which essential infrastructure works can be implemented, albeit restricted to a narrow range of works. The main objective is to create employment while the construction of infrastructure is often of secondary importance

Labour-Based technology offers an optimal use of labour accompanied by equipment in a cost-effective manner, and to the required quality, thus creating a shift in balance between labour and equipment in the way the work is specified and executed. The use of labour-based methods will assist in addressing immediate job creation needs, but also in the longer-term be applied to recurrent works under regular budgets of the infrastructure Ministries. By shifting wisely and carefully from the current conventional equipment-based work methods to more labour-based approaches for selected works components, it will be possible to create significant numbers of jobs and reduce poverty in a sustainable manner without compromising on the quality of the works and without affecting the timeliness and cost of the works.

This strategy recommends the use of labour-based technology on public works (rural roads).

In support of the employment goals of the reconstruction strategies in both Indonesia and Sri Lanka, a high level of labour-intensity in the works to be carried out is desirable, but as the cleaning-up operations reduce and reconstruction increases, the labour-intensity of the activities will automatically reduce.

Small-scale Contractors

Works on roads and associated structures (bridges, culverts, drainage channels) can be implemented by the use of small-scale contractors. Using the private sector to carry out this work will be a stimulus for strengthening and expanding the local small-scale contracting industry. Small-contractors can be equally instrumental in securing the short and long term employment gains from labour-based rural road works.

There is often reluctance to include small contractors on the part of the local authorities due to a concern regarding their performance and potential deviation from standards. Local contractors however can be very cost effective, as they are most likely to practice labour-based techniques combined with local resources, thereby generating a multiplier effect for the local economy.

The strategy suggests working with and through small-scale contractors and developing their skills to administer and implement labour-based works. This will contribute to the strengthening of the local construction industry. Small-scale contracting is an effective mechanism for works implementation and will be a focus of training activities to raise their skill levels and improve working conditions for labour.

Although there is a clear need and potential for capacity building of small scale contractors, it should be realized that an isolated attempt to create capacity through training only, without paying attention to the long term framework that sustains the efforts, is most likely not effective. Training materials need to be developed that can be inserted into a larger scale programme or used by other donors and reconstruction programmes.

In Aceh, before the Tsunami, many local contractors depended solely on government work, which resulted in a tight, and eventually unhealthy, competition between local contractors. The number of registered contractors (before the Tsunami struck) was around 3,500, of which about 93% represent small-scale contractors. The Tsunami impacted on the industry as follows:

  • many contractors lost their lives, lost family members or close relatives which causes moral and psychological problems
  • loss of assets as contractors lost their homes, offices, construction plants, equipment, data
  • loss of skilled human resources such as managerial, technical, skilled trades.
  • loss of financial networks and reduction in capacity and competitiveness

There will be insufficient private sector capacity to implement the rehabilitation and reconstruction works. It is necessary to consider measures to strengthen the private sector capacity. Early investigation of the availability of local small scale contractors in Aceh confirmed that there are only a limited number of local experienced entrepreneurs who could be involved in labour-based reconstruction projects.

Because of the massive havoc created by the Tsunami, a large construction market has opened up. Increased contracting opportunities now exist for a small-scale contracting industry that has reduced in size. Appropriate action should be undertaken to help existing contractors to recover and new contractors to enter and utilize the opportunities created by the enlarged market. This would help to re-establish a strong and healthy local construction industry.

It is important to identify the immediate training needs of small-scale contractors to involve them as soon as possible. In Aceh, a workshop was organized to assess the immediate training needs of small-scale contractors.

ILO has some standard crash courses to train small-scale contractors in technical issues related to labour-based technology and in simple small business management. These training modules have been translated in local languages and can be used immediately.

Local Governments

Local governments in the disaster affected areas have been severely affected and needs to be strengthened. Support to the local government to manage the tsunami response is amongst the priorities to be addressed. The support will have two dimensions in relation to improving the rural road network. One is to strengthen the local planning and coordination capacity of the local government. The second is to strengthen the technical capacity of the relevant local government staff to ensure that the implementation is carried out to the appropriate standards.

It is necessary to implement a quick training needs assessment to identify training and capacity building needs for rural road development at local government level. This is an important issue. Local government capacity in the affected areas was already poor before the disaster hit. The Tsunami has made matters worse and has reduced the capacity further.

There is a need for simple tender documents to accommodate labour-based technology and small-scale contractors. Usually the tender documents used by national government agencies are too complex. Local governments could be assisted to simplify the bidding documents and tender process to facilitate the use of labour-based technology in rural road rehabilitation and reconstruction.

The rural road demonstration projects should equally be implemented in collaboration with local governments to re-establish local capacity to improve, rehabilitate and maintain rural roads using labour-based approaches.

Local government staff most likely would need immediate training in:

  • project management
  • procurement process
  • bid evaluation
  • contract administration, monitoring, evaluation and reporting

In Indonesia, the ILO has been supporting the Government in developing courses on rural infrastructure development covering the fields of planning, implementation and contracting. These courses are now being modified for use in a crisis situation.

Maintenance and Sustainability

In both Indonesia and Sri Lanka there was already a great backlog of investments in several infrastructure sectors, particularly in the road sector. This has arisen due to the lack of investment in upgrading the infrastructure, and the accumulated affects of neglected maintenance.

As stated earlier, it is important that the infrastructure is rehabilitated or reconstructed based on certain standards. A potential problem that will emerge if the infrastructure is not carried out to adequate standards is that the local governments are left with a stock of assets that they are unable to maintain. This would mean that the current investments would again deteriorate to a poor condition.

Several quick assessments of the road network in Banda Aceh, Sigli and Meulaboh districts in Indonesia showed large differences in the quality of the road network. Although some of the damage to these road networks was inflicted by the Tsunami, other damage was the result of the poor quality of the initial construction and a lack of maintenance.

For the reconstruction in the affected areas to be successful it is important the quality of the assets created is of an acceptable level. This will require capacity building activities to improve quality control at local government level. It will also however require improved budget control.

Equally, it is necessary to develop a maintenance culture and a capacity to maintain the assets in the future.

Although the issues identified here are not directly related to the Tsunami response, paying the necessary attention is required for the reconstruction efforts to be successful. If a “maintenance culture” is absent, it is likely that rural roads will not be maintained after they have been rehabilitated or reconstructed. This will again result in a gradual loss of assets.

Capacity Building

The subject of capacity building has been addressed in this paper. It is however important at this point to reiterate the importance of capacity building in a crisis situation. Particularly in the aftermath of a devastating event like the Tsunami there are inadequate capacities at all levels to plan, coordinate, implement, supervise, monitor quality standards and evaluate rural infrastructure rehabilitation and reconstruction programmes.

The key to the strategy described in this paper is a well planned capacity building process, integrated if possible within existing reconstruction programs. In the short-term, training should become one of the most important elements in the recovery efforts.

Although unskilled labour makes up most of the labour component in labour-based works, there is a need for skilled labour as well. Due to the lives lost and the sudden increase in construction activities, there is a shortage of manpower in skilled construction works.

Demonstration projects can be useful not only to demonstrate the impact of the approach but also to gradually build up this capacity and strengthen the local construction industry. In Aceh Besar, Indonesia, it was decided to initially reconstruct 5 kilometres of rural road per municipality, with 5 different local contractors, each having responsibility for a stretch of 1 kilometre only. Works are closely supervised by local government officials who are trained on the job. These labour-based works will provide skills and experience which will continue to be of use in the longer-term programmes of labour-based works.

In terms of training and capacity building it is important that these are tailored to the specific and immediate needs. In the aftermath of the crisis all available technical staff is occupied with a variety of task and no time and resources should be wasted on training which is not directly related to the rebuilding efforts. Usually it is effective to link training activities directly to the implementation of works. Equally important is to keep the courses short and limit training to fast-track courses.

In Aceh, it is estimated that a fast-track training programme is required for an estimated 50 engineers and 250 technicians on the higher technical aspects of rural road construction for overall quality insurance through improved design as well as direct engineering support and improved monitoring and evaluation.

Training should preferably be conducted in close collaboration with the training institutes of the Ministries and existing educational institutions.

Other organisations and projects will benefit from the capacity building efforts. The ILO is not a large scale implementer of rural road projects. It will limit itself to demonstration and training projects. The capacity established can be transferred to other larger scale programmes implemented with large scale grants or loans disbursed under the different Trust Funds set up in the affected areas.

Training should be provided in Basic Engineering Skills, Project Management and Project Supervision.

Basic Engineering Skills:

During rural infrastructure construction many specific tasks need to be performed. Skills related to clearing, earthworks, embankment construction, ditching, sloping and camber formation, off-road drainage, pavement, compaction, culvert construction, drift construction, gravelling, erosion protection and soil stabilization will in varying degree be needed.

Many of these tasks will allow the use of labour-based work methods in order to maximize the employment impact. Although not all skills are of equal importance, it is nevertheless deemed important that contractors, technicians and local government staff are trained in the various tasks.

Project Management

Besides the above mentioned technical skills, to ensure a timely, cost effective construction in line with the quality specified, proper works organization is needed. This typically involves the proper setting up of a camp, the timely and efficient supply, maintenance and storage of tools and materials, maintenance of equipment, and site support activities. It also involves the proper accounting of a project, timely payments and other administrative tasks to be fulfilled. Again, contractors, technicians and local government staff need to be trained in these various tasks.

Project Supervision

Work programming is needed to arrange and distribute the construction works between the gangs of workers in such a way that the best use is made of the available labour, material, tools and equipment. Labour needs to be recruited and employed for which various incentive schemes exist. This relates to issues like Daily Paid Work, Task Work, Group Tasks, Piece Work, Payment in Kind and Task Rates. Finally, Inspection and Supervision of the works need to be done. Contractors, technicians and local government staff need training in these various tasks.

Target Groups and Partners

The key stakeholders are the affected people, local government institutions, small-scale local contractors and the Public Works Ministries in the disaster area.

The strategy is to rehabilitate and reconstruct rural roads, drainage structures and small bridges through labour-based public works. The approach will work through local contractors and local governments and strengthen their capacity for planning, implementing and supervising labour-based rural road rehabilitation and reconstruction. The approach is participatory approach and will train individual community members in specific construction-related skills. These members could, if successful, emerge as petty contractors.

The ultimate target group of course are the people whose livelihoods have been destroyed or seriously impaired by the disaster. For many of the affected population the main, and often only, resource they currently possess is their labour. Unless they are able to exploit this for monetary gain then the process of recovery will necessarily be very slow. Some of the affected population also seem determined to seek new occupations because of the perceived danger of that they use to pursue (e.g. fishermen), or due to the irreplaceable loss of their agricultural land. Others wish to relocate away from the immediate area of the coast because of the trauma experienced. Thus, the opportunity to acquire new work skills as well as financial capital will enhance their future livelihood prospects.

As described above, the main means of ensuring that the benefits resulting from rehabilitation and reconstruction reach the intended beneficiaries is by participatory prioritisation of investments using community institutions, and the adoption of technologies that maximise the use of local labour and other local resources and generation of income without compromising the quality of the resulting infrastructure.

The ILO and Crisis Response

The ILO has established an international reputation for its work on local resource-based including labour-based investment approaches to the sustainable rehabilitation and reconstruction of physical infrastructure, including in crisis response situations. Through its Advisory Support, Information Services and Training Asia-Pacific Programme (ILO ASIST-AP), it has been assisting various governments in the region in developing and implementing approaches, strategies and programmes for sustainable rural infrastructure development. This work concentrates on the development of guidelines, manuals and training materials on participatory rural infrastructure planning, labour-based technology, small-scale contracting and sustainable rural road maintenance systems.

After the tsunami struck, ILO was quick in re-allocating its own funds to initiate some of this work in Sri Lanka and Indonesia1. The available resources were used to establish small local teams on the ground and to identify immediate needs and develop proposals on how to respond to these needs both in terms of the planning and implementation of rural infrastructure (and in particular rural roads) and the mechanisms through which the real needs of the people can be integrated in future infrastructure works. The strategy described in this short paper forms the basis for current and future work of the ILO in rural infrastructure rehabilitation and reconstruction in the crisis-affected areas in the region.

Training and capacity building are an integral and essential component of the strategy. Whatever mode of implementation and supervision is used, training in the required skills and management procedures is necessary to guarantee the security of benefits and improve the quality of the roads to be rehabilitated or rebuilt. The ILO has extensive international experience in the relevant fields and has developed training manuals for: (i) participatory planning and identification of infrastructure priorities; (ii) labour-based work technologies; (iii) small scale contracting; and (iv) maintenance. For (iii) and (iv) separate training manuals are available for government administrators and contractors. The existing guidelines and training materials are currently being adopted for use in Sri Lanka and Indonesia.

The ILO will also see to it that the principles of decent work are applied in all construction activities. These relate to issues such as the payment of minimum wages, equal pay and opportunities for men and women, health and safety issues, elimination of child labour.


  • Proposal for Scaling-up Labour-based Rural Road Rehabilitation and Construction in Aceh, Indonesia – ILO ASIST AP 2005
  • The Creation of 50,000 Job Opportunities through Labour-based Infrastructure Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Works – Dr. Akhmad Suraji – ILO ASIST AP 2005
  • Concept Paper – ILO Sri Lanka 2005
  • Rapid Income Recovery Program – Cash for Work Component – ILO/UNOPS – Colombo 2005

1 The work is partly supported by a small grant from the Swedish International Development Agency (Sida).