SUSTRAN #20: Profile of IFRTD- Nov 1996


Sustainable Transport Action Network for Asia & the Pacific (SUSTRAN) c/- AP2000, PO Box 12544, 50782 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Phone: +60 3 255 9122 ext. 2440, Fax: +60 3 253 2361 email

6 Nov. 1996

Apologies for the long delay since the last SUSTRAN Flash.

Although SUSTRAN has often focused on urban issues, this time we present a profile of the rural-focused IFRTD, which is a sister network to SUSTRAN and also a great inspiration to us.

The International Forum for Rural Transport and Development is a global network of people and organisations interested in promoting a broader approach to meeting the transport needs of rural people. Conventional approaches to rural transport have concentrated on investing in roads and motorised systems. Many villages in the South are not part of road networks. Even where there are links, villagers often cannot afford motorised transport. Therefore goods and persons are mainly transported on foot. These transport constraints hamper agricultural production and restrict rural development.

The broader approach promoted by the Forum focuses on:

the introduction and dissemination of intermediate means of transport (eg. bicycles, pack animals, wheelbarrows, low cost motor vehicles, etc.) to fill the gap between walking and motorised modes.

improvement of local transport infrastructure such as paths, tracks, footbridges, rural roads and riverways using local resources and labour based technologies.

expansion of appropriate rural transport services which can provide options for the rural population who can rarely afford purchasing their own means of transport.

the increased use of an integrated planning approach to rural transport problems, incorporating the choice between interventions in the transport system to facilitate mobility and location or the upgrading of services and facilities.

The Forum expects to see this approach adopted by policy makers in national governments, bilateral and multilateral donor agencies and in local and international development organisations. It hopes to influence these agencies to use more realistic planning approaches. It does this through gathering and sharing information, through networking and through acting as a pressure group to raise the awareness of issues relating rural transport. It also identifies gaps in research and training and promote members to carry out activities that will bridge these gaps.

IFRTD started its activities in 1992 with the financial support of NORAD, CIDA, SDC and SIDA. The International Labour Organisation (ILO) and the Intermediate Technology Development Group (ITDG) shared the activities of the Secretariat. During the initial phase the Forum concentrated on establishing the network by identifying interested individuals and organisations and encouraging the formation of national networks (or National Forum Groups).

Today the Forum has approximately 800 members on its mailing list and a full time Secretariat hosted by ITDG and located in ITDG's offices in London. The Secretariat is supported by an Advisory Committee comprising the founder members, representatives of donors and representatives of National Forum Groups.

National Forum Groups are country networks working towards achieving the objectives of the Forum at a national level. Members are drawn from a wide range of organisations and disciplines. They include representatives of government agencies. multilateral or bilateral projects, universities and local and international NGOs. Core members of the National Forum Groups meet regularly to plan and implement joint activities.

National Forum Groups in the Philippines, Sri Lanka, and Kenya have begun to implement a range of joint activities. In the Philippines the National Forum Group is working towards developing a body of information on rural transport and development through applied research. It is developing a library of rural transport and development concerns and strengthening the network of individuals, professionals and teaching and training institutions who have expressed keen interest in rural transport and development. Members of the network have begun two research studies - one on the evolution of the tricycle as a major transport service in rural areas and the other on indigenous modes of transport in the rural areas.

In Sri Lanka the National Forum Group is planning a regional seminar. The theme of the seminar will be the use of intermediate means of transport for the provision of transport services in rural areas. One of the objectives of this seminar is to identify the social, economic, political and cultural reasons for the prevalence of a variety of intermediate means of transport in different contexts in Asia. The Group is looking for potential participants in the Seminar. Please write to them if you think you can provide a case study for the Seminar. The Sri Lankan National Forum Group is also working with a rural community to assist them run a community managed bus. The National Forum Group sees this as a pilot scheme that will generate valuable lessons for replication with other communities in the country. A third Sri Lankan initiative is a comparative study of three different modes of passenger transport - the two wheel tractor trailer, a used van and the motor cycle trailer.

National Forum Groups are also being formed in Malawi, Zimbabwe and Uganda (in Eastern and Southern Africa) and in Bangladesh, Nepal, Laos in Asia. If you would like to form a National Forum Group in your country please contact the Secretariat for guidelines for the formation of national forum groups.

The Secretariat of IFRTD exists to carry out activities that will increase information sharing among members of the network and promote joint activities on issues of concern. There are three people in the Secretariat: Ms Priyanthi Fernando is the Executive Secretary, Mr Niklas Sieber is the Deputy Executive Secretary and Ms Ana Bravo is the Communications Coordinator.

The Secretariat produces a quarterly newsletter called the Forum News. The next issue of the Forum News (December 1996) will have as its theme, water transport. It will be followed by an issue on donor initiatives in rural transport, an issue on bicycles, on institutional frameworks for implementation of rural transport, and on maintenance. The Forum News goes out free to Forum members.

The Secretariat will soon produce a select bibliography of published and unpublished information on rural transport issues. Experts in ten selected areas will identify key documents and annotate them. The publication will be distributed to Forum members.

The Secretariat is organising an international research programme on gender and transport. The aim of this programme is to carry out a gender analysis of the impact of transport and 'non-transport' interventions that have helped overcome the access and mobility constraints of rural people. The Secretariat would like people who have been working on projects to participate in this programme and is looking for a range of activities from Eastern and Southern Africa and South and South East Asia. The programme will culminate in two regional workshops at the end of 1997. Once researchers have been identified the Secretariat will organise two meetings that will bring the researchers together to develop a common analytical framework.

The Secretariat will also like to hear from other people and organisations what they feel are the knowledge gaps in promoting rural transport in their countries. The Secretariat has a commitment to promote research on rural transport issues. The Secretariat is collaborating with IT Publications in investigating the potential for producing a journal on rural transport. A workshop on integrated rural accessibility planning is also planned for 1997.

IFRTD may be contacted at:

The Forum Secretariat
c/o Intermediate Technology
150 Southampton Row
London WC1B 5AL
tel: +44 171 278 3670
fax: +44 171 278 6880

Paul Barter

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