We work to partner with and train communities in the developing world to construct footbridges that provide essential access, and we see that work as our contribution to achieving this ambitious vision. We’ve built over 200 bridges in 19 different countries in our 15 years, but we have so much left to do if we’re going to reach the nearly one billion people living below the poverty line who don’t have access to a road that is passable year-round.
In the rural farmlands of the developing world, walking is the primary form of transportation, and when rivers swell, walking to school, work, or visits to a doctor can become life threatening without a bridge to cross. B2P is the only organisation working to solve this problem on a global scale. We work at the national and regional level to create sustainable transportation infrastructure, and to train local communities in sustainable bridge-building strategies that will expand access beyond the immediate impact of a single bridge. B2P currently has full time programmes in Nicaragua, Panama, Haiti, Bolivia, and Rwanda, with big plans for expansion both in current programme countries and in new regions around the world.
B2P is working to scale programme outputs to increase the number of bridges built per year, and most importantly to exponentially grow the impact of our programme for individuals and communities effected by geographical isolation and inadequate transportation infrastructure. By working regionally, rather than through a community-by-community model, we’re streamlining our process, increasing the number of bridges we’re building and the access those bridges provide. Forming strong relationships with regional municipalities and governments helps us to better pinpoint the communities most in need of a footbridge, source local materials for use in construction, and make our delivery of both bridges and skills training much more efficient.
In Rwanda, we’ve seen tremendous success in partnering with the national government through the Rwanda Roads and Transport Development Agency to build connections with local municipalities, conduct needs assessments, and deepen our presence in the country. Local municipalities contribute bridge supplies, and local community members make up more than half of the labourers completing each bridge. We’re training local bridge builders as masons, superintendents, and engineers, and contributing to the bridge-building curriculum developed with the local university’s engineering department. We’re growing efficiencies of scale in a country where 73% of the population lives in the rural countryside, and the bridges we’re building in Rwanda in 2016 alone will serve over 70,000 people. Replicating this sort of success in each of our programme countries, and around the world, will help us exponentially grow the number of people provided with critical access through our bridge-building efforts over the next 15 years.
Our ambitions for growth are all focused on one vision: a world where rivers never serve as barriers to access, and where every community that needs a bridge has safe and reliable infrastructure linking them to educational, healthcare, and economic opportunities. This world, where poverty caused by rural isolation no longer exists, acknowledges the sustainability of a largely pedestrian-based transportation model, and provides developing countries with the framework they need for their people to thrive. Bridges to Prosperity is proud to contribute in our unique way to making this world a reality.
Kirsten Joranlien is Development and Communications Co-ordinator with Bridges To Prosperity who are a finalist in the 2016 Eurostar Ashden Sustainable Travel Award. The Ashden Awards reward pioneering sustainable energy enterprises and programmes in the UK and across the globe. This year’s winners will be announced at the annual Awards Ceremony in London on 9 June 2016.
Ashden is a partner of the Futures Centre.
Image credits: Bridges to Prosperity