At the end of the feeder road: Upgrading rural footpaths to motorcycle taxi-accessible tracks in Liberia

Jenkins, Jack; Peters, Krijn; Richards, Paul


Access to transport is essential for agrarian development in isolated rural areas. Over the last 20 years, most countries in Sub-Saharan Africa have seen a dramatic change in farm-to-market transport following the introduction and spread of motorcycle taxis. So far, this has been a spontaneous and market-driven phenomenon. What kind of infrastructure development is needed to further support this local revolution in farm transport? Our study uses a technographic frame to describe and assess the socio-economic and technical impact of upgrading inter-village footpaths to render them usable by motorcycle taxis in off-road rural northern Liberia. We gathered pre-intervention baseline data and post-intervention impact data over a three-year period in villages benefitting from the intervention and in control villages. The quantitative data were supplemented with qualitative data gathered prior, during and after the intervention. We found that upgrading rural footpaths to motorcycle taxi-accessible tracks promotes market integration, improves access to education and health facilities, and creates jobs for rural youth, with few negative consequences. Since most motorised transport in deep rural areas takes place by motorcycle taxi in any case, track construction can complement or serve as an alternative to expensive feeder road improvement or construction.