Engineering environmental resilience:

A matched cohort study of the community benefits of trail bridges in rural Rwanda

Researchers at The Mortenson Center in Global Engineering at the University of Colorado, Yale University, and Arizona State University have published the first major paper of the Rwanda research collaborative, which is investigating the broad impact of trail bridges in rural Rwanda. This paper documents the findings of the 2019 – 2020 pilot study, including a determination that in communities with new B2P trail bridges, households saw an average increase of 25% in labor market income. 

Consistent safe access means that people are able to take jobs outside their communities, without fear that flooding will prevent them from getting to work. Village residents with new access to higher wages outside the village put upward pressure on wages within the village, meaning that even those not taking advantage of external job markets are experiencing economic benefits as a result of the new safe connection. 

This work underscores previous findings that trail bridges alone are important economic forces in rural communities, and provides important insight for the full-scale study that launched in Rwanda in 2020. The larger study will include tens of thousands of households and will investigate outcomes in livelihoods, regional agriculture and markets, health, education, and community resilience in the face of climate change.

In light of UN Women’s theme for International Women’s Day, 8 March 2021 (IWD 2021) as, “Women in leadership: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world,” I should mention that the full-scale study will also look at key economic, health, and education indicators in Rwanda in light of gender. I’ve written before about the importance of trail bridges to women and girls, and six years and two children later, my belief that safe transport is a gender issue has only grown stronger.

Many of us are drawn to the work of safe access because of the evidence that it is a powerful tool for addressing poverty, but we are also drawn to this work because of the experiences that have shaped us, and the issues that speak to us because of those experiences. I know that every new bridge is an opportunity for a girl to continue her education, for a woman to earn a wage for the first time, or a midwife to ensure a safe birth. That knowledge is what motivates me to answer critical questions about our work, and I am grateful to our research partners and our team in Rwanda for making it possible.

Abbie Noriega

Vice President of Evaluation

Bridges to Prosperity

Read the Paper Here