Farm-to-Market Road Paves Way to Prosperity

Feature | 31 May 2009

By providing support for farm-to-market roads, irrigation projects, and microfinance, the project aims to help 400,000 poor households transcend poverty

What is the value of a road? For an impoverished family living in relative isolation, a simple dirt and gravel road can mean more food on the table, money for children's education, and better financial security in times of crisis and hardship.

In Belanting village on the Indonesian island of Lombok, Maca, a 40-year-old farmer, has seen his life change since an ADB-financed country road was built. The 2 new road replaced a narrow footpath farmers used to haul their produce to market.

As recently as 5 years ago, farmers in Belanting had to pay Rp15,000 ($1.26) to take 100 kilos of rice to the market, a fee that significantly cut into their already narrow profit margins. Today, Mr. Maca says he only pays Rp1,000-less than 10% of what he previously did- and profits from his farm have more than doubled.

"Before the road, my two oldest children had to drop out of school because we were too poor," says Mr. Maca. "Now that I'm making more money I can keep my children in school."

Poor Households Transcend Poverty

ADB has provided $56 million to support the Poor Farmer's Income Improvement through Innovation project in 1,000 villages located in five of Indonesia's poorest districts. The project targets poor farming families that make less than Rp1 million a year, own little land, and cultivate staple crops.

The project will benefit about 2.75 million people in villages in which 75% of the households are poor. Women will directly benefit from active involvement in the planning of investments, and the targeting of assistance.

By providing support for public investments in villages, such as farm-to-market roads, rural markets, small-scale irrigation projects, and microfinance schemes, the project aims to help 400,000 poor households transcend poverty.

In Lombok, many families targeted by the project are significantly improving their standard of living.

There are three main benefits of this road," says Lalu Darmawan, head of the Belanting village investment body. "It has reduced agricultural costs, like fertilizer, and made it cheaper to transport goods to the market. It has reduced flooding in the area too-the road has ditches on the side that channel water right to the sea. Finally, it has increased the value of land in the area."

It wasn't easy to make the road a reality.

"This was a challenging process at the outset," says Mr. Darmawan. "We had to convince people to donate their land for the road, and some people expected compensation, which we didn't have the budget for. Now that the road is here, and they're making more money, everyone realizes this was for the best."

The road has made life a little better. Mr. Maca and his neighbors have a little more money, a little more food, and a little more hope for their children's future.