Updated Apr 24, 2020

Last-Mile Connectivity

https://bridgestoprosperity.org/

Avery Bang

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Bridges to Prosperity connects isolated last-mile communities to vital resources through the construction of footbridges.

With experience in 20 countries, Bridges to Prosperity has connected more than one million people globally with safe, reliable access to critical services through the construction of over 300 footbridges. The organization partners with local governments, partners, and communities to deliver low-cost infrastructure on-time and on-budget. B2P has developed a simple, efficient, scalable model to d...
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With experience in 20 countries, Bridges to Prosperity has connected more than one million people globally with safe, reliable access to critical services through the construction of over 300 footbridges. The organization partners with local governments, partners, and communities to deliver low-cost infrastructure on-time and on-budget. B2P has developed a simple, efficient, scalable model to deliver safe, reliable footbridges to the world’s most isolated communities. In the spring of 2019, the organization signed a historic partnership with the Government of Rwanda to co-finance the construction of 355 footbridges over the next five years, connecting Rwanda’s more than 1.1 million isolated residents and marking the organization’s first national-level government collaboration. The consortium of Rwandan Government ministries and agencies has committed to cover $11.4 million of the estimated $28 million USD total cost of the program. When the national program in Rwanda is paired with B2P's programs in Uganda and Bolivia, the organization has global reach, connecting last-mile communities to critical resources at scale.
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Stage 5: Scaling

In 2019, Bridges to Prosperity launched its first national partnership to fully connect an entire country's rural last mile in Rwanda. This national model, (bridge projects aggregated into a country-wide portfolio) will be replicated globally.
Registered in United States, Rwanda, Uganda and United Kingdom as Non-Profit, in Bolivia as For-Profitin United States, Rwanda, Uganda and United Kingdom as Non-Profit, in Bolivia as For-Profit

Focus Areas:

Agriculture, Economic Growth and Trade, Community Transport Models and 2 MoreSEE ALL

Agriculture, Economic Growth and Trade, Community Transport Models, Education and HealthSEE LESS

Implemented In:

Indonesia, Nepal, Ethiopia and 17 MoreSEE ALL

Indonesia, Nepal, Ethiopia, Peru, Zambia, Honduras, Bolivia, El Salvador, Sudan, Timor-Leste, Guatemala, Kenya, Nicaragua, Haiti, Rwanda, Panama, Mozambique, Colombia, Swaziland and UgandaSEE LESS

1,000,000
Lives Impacted to Date
1
Key Partner
20
Countries Implemented In
1,125,000
Customers
75
Employees

Problem

In the world’s remote farmlands, walking is the primary mode of transportation. The World Bank estimates that nearly a billion people lack access to a road that is passable year-round, due to rainy seasons that are both critical to agriculture and dangerous for the very people that rely on those seasonal rains. When rivers swell, reaching school, the doctor, work, or the market can become life-threatening without a bridge to cross. Studies from rural communities throughout the world have demonstrated that safe access to reliable pedestrian transportation infrastructure can have dramatic effects on the ability of residents to meet their own needs, care for their families, earn stable incomes, and build resiliency against unpredictable weather (Rural Access Index: A Key Development Indicator, World Bank, 2006). Recently, the United Nations Office of Project Services (UNOPS) published a report on how infrastructure supports the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), highlighting its role in connecting populations, interventions, and resources for economic growth - “Networked infrastructure is shown to influence 72% of the 169 SDG targets…This broad array of influences emerges due to the vital role networked infrastructure plays in delivering essential services to communities, working as the life-support to many of societies functions” (Infrastructure: Underpinning Sustainable Development, UNOPS, 2008). In creating significant, long-term disparities in access to education, healthcare, emergency services, and economic opportunity, failing to address the need for physical connection disenables other investments intended to more directly (but singularly) address key development indicators, such as improved teacher training, low-cost fertilizer production, or innovation vaccination delivery methods. Entire communities are unable to reach these resources for months of each year, significantly decreasing the return on these investments and increasing the perception of insecurity for the residents of those communities, a factor that has been shown to directly correlate with a perpetuation of the generational cycle of poverty (UNOPS, 2008). As COVID-10 continues to spread, its arrival in low-income countries will be hard-felt. Deficient healthcare systems are ill-equipped to handle the burden of a quickly-moving disease, and the fragility of the healthcare systems make prevention efforts all the more important. However, implementing and enforcing social distancing in low-income countries is complex and challenging. The populations in many of these countries are already experiencing extreme poverty, and limited government resources are insufficient to meet the basic needs of constituencies. Stimulus checks and food programs are insufficient, and social distancing policies have profound economic consequences for people who are unable to make a living or feed their families if they stay home (IDInsight, 2020). And in low-income countries where communication channels are limited or not trusted, literacy rates are low, and physical, cultural, and contextual obstacles impede communication, ensuring that accurate information is widely disseminated is challenging, as well. This interferes with efforts to slow virus spread and focuses the impact of COVID-19 on the most vulnerable populations - those already living in poverty (Oxfam, 2020).

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Solution

Bridges to Prosperity (B2P) works by targeting a key, common driver of many of the factors culminating in rural poverty: isolation. With a single innovation (footbridges), the organization is able to target a root cause of poverty that affects rural households across multiple dimensions. Footbridges are a cost-effective, scalable infrastructure intervention that connects rural communities that face extreme isolation to road networks and urban centers. This connection creates consistent access to critical economic, health, and education opportunities, expands the market of beneficiaries and the efficacy of services for surrounding development interventions, and serves as a demonstrable solution for alleviating poverty. Transport connectivity is critical in responding to the COVID-19 crisis. Learnings gathered from outbreaks of highly-contagious diseases, such as Ebola and Lassa Fever, show that access to health resources is key to prevention and treatment (WHO, World Bank). For the world’s last-mile communities, roads and bridges ensure that community health workers can reach residents to share information, teach hygiene and distancing procedures, diagnose infection early, and deliver vaccines when they become available. They also offer a reliable route to a health clinic when emergency care is needed. As the COVID-19 virus has a higher rate of severe, life-threatening complications for vulnerable populations such as those living in the last mile (the malnourished, those with comorbidities, the elderly, etc.), this access can be, in a very literal sense, life-saving. Physical connectivity is also crucial for food security during times of social distancing. Smallholder farmers, such as those living in the last mile, provide the bulk of food consumed in low-income countries (International Fund for Agricultural Development, 2013). Roads and bridges provide access to markets, cooperatives, and storage facilities, all crucial to keeping food systems running. They also ensure that rural residents are able to secure food and other goods for their families, as they do not have the privilege of home delivery. On the other side of the COVID-19 pandemic, transport connectivity will play a vital role in recovery. Roads and bridges are integral to improving the speed at which governments, aid organizations, and NGOs can mobilize to reach rural populations and ensure they have the supplies and resources they need to begin re-engaging in economic and social functions (Transport Research Board, 2013). Physical connectivity to goods and labor markets is also crucial for rural residents trying to rebuild – footbridges, and the access they provide, are proven to increase farm profits and afford rural residents alternative, off-farm wage-earning opportunities, which means that they earn more, store less crop for personal consumption, and re-invest in their farms, businesses, and communities (Brooks and Donovan, 2017). Also, transportation infrastructure provides connectivity to schools, churches, government facilities, and community centers, ensuring that when they reopen, rural residents will be able to attend, engage, and benefit from the restoration of services, activities, and collaboration.

Target Beneficiaries

The populations served by B2P footbridges traditionally are isolated from urban and peri-urban centers for at least a portion of every year due to lack of safe access over or a river or canyon. Residents of these isolated communities typically live on less than $2 USD per day, and work as subsistence farmers, cultivating crops or raising livestock to support their families.

Mission and Vision

Bridges to Prosperity believes that the problem of rural isolation is solvable within our lifetime. The organization aims to connected isolated communities in the world's last-mile with critical resources, creating transformative change across a myriad of development indicators.

Competitive Advantage

For residents living in the world’s rural last mile, the reality of isolation - new for many of us - is painfully familiar. Every rainy season, rivers and canyons flood and cut them off from critical resources – food markets, employment, education, and healthcare – for weeks at a time. A lack of infrastructure, such as bridges and all-weather roads, leaves them isolated, shackled by uncertainty and anxiety. The shifts in behavior that have challenged all of us in recent weeks are standard fare for people living in last-mile communities – they store more, invest less, and make decisions informed by a deeply-rooted understanding of scarcity and fear. A study released by economists from the University of Notre Dame and Yale University shows that communities receiving a B2P footbridge demonstrate a 30% increase in labor market income, a 75% increase in farm profits, a 60% increase in purchase of farm inputs, a 59% increase in women entering the labor market, and a 32% increase in household income, compared to communities not receiving a bridge. In creating access to the critical services rural residents need to thrive, footbridges provide members of isolated communities a pathway to resiliency. Globally, more than 900 million people travel by foot but lack access to pedestrian infrastructure that is passable during all seasons. B2P believes that for remote communities, a footbridge can represent a literal pathway out of poverty and towards well-being.

Planned Goals and Milestones

Bridges to Prosperity is proud that the more than 300 footbridges it has supported or constructed around the world are serving to connect last-mile communities in a time when connectivity has never been more valuable, and the organization is focusing efforts and resources on maintaining operational capacity and expertise so that it is able to mobilize quickly to construct additional connection when the situation allows.
Funding Goal25,000,000
Projected Cumulative Lives Impacted3,000,000
New Implemented CountriesBolivia, Rwanda, Uganda
RecruitBoard Members and Management-Level Staff
New FeatureAs the world copes with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, Bridges to Prosperity is committed to ensuring that last-mile communities are included in the distribution of information, resources, and support.

The Team Behind the Innovation

The Bridges to Prosperity team is composed of diverse perspectives and backgrounds, which each bring to the table a unique skill set and viewpoint. Members of the Executive Team have a broad but deep range of experience, and many of them served with Bridges to Prosperity in a country program before transitioning to a management role. In-country program teams are largely hired locally, and include management, technical, and skilled talent spanning project management, procurement, finance, engineering, construction, fabrication, and masonry work.

EXECUTIVE TEAM INCLUDES WOMEN

Milestone

Apr 2020
New Product Or Service
Support of COVID-19 relief and recovery efforts: Transport connectivity is vital in ensuring that health resources and information are accessible by even remote populations, and that smallholder farmers keep the food supply chain running. When the world transitions past response and to recovery, access to farm and labor markets, schools, and government services for last-mile communities is going to be critical to facilitating their survival and re-engagement with the economy.
Sep 2019
Recognition ReceivedPENDING
 
as part of
 Rainer Arnhold Fellowship
Sep 2003
New Country Implemented In
Ethiopia
Sep 2002
New Country Implemented In
Nepal
Sep 2001
New Country Implemented In
Indonesia

Supporting Materials

Bridges-to-Prosperity-Rwanda-Program-orientation-null.pdf