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Civil Engineer blog

Building bridges and connecting rural communities

15 November 2018

Young engineers will be working on the Bridges to Prosperity programme to help build infrastructure to connect people in developing countries, but need the support of the engineering community to help fund this vital work. 

Building bridges and connecting rural communities
Image credit: Shutterstock

Rural isolation is often cited as a root cause of poverty. Connecting communities to essential education, healthcare facilities and economic opportunity is one of the cornerstones of social development and genuinely life-changing.
COWI UK has teamed up with WilkinsonEyre Architects to build its fifth bridge in Rwanda with the charity Bridges to Prosperity (B2P). The Kazabe footbridge will be a great help for the local community and create safe, all year-round access to facilities, schools and markets. 

Building connections to development

Almost 1 billion people around the world don't have safe access to critical resources like healthcare, education, or employment due to an impassable river.
With a single innovation, a bridge can have an impact on households across multiple dimensions.
When a community has year-round access to key resources like healthcare, education, markets and employment, residents have greater freedom - freedom to choose how they better their lives.
Safe access unlocks economic opportunity for a community. Farmers are able to sell their crops at outside markets or access agricultural inputs like fertiliser or seed. Bridges ensure consistent access to non-agricultural jobs. Women save time on household activities, spurring an increase in women entering the work force.
Last-mile connectivity goes beyond transforming local economies. When a rural community is networked to the world around them, they participate in the national and global economy, bringing transformation to the greater population as well as to their local community.
This is where a bridge can help. 

About the Kazabe project

The residents of the Kigarama-Musabike community farm tea, beans, maize, and sweet potatoes and sell their goods at the market to provide for their families.
Currently, the crossing is used primarily by students, who must cross in order to access primary and secondary schools, and tea plantation workers.

The Sebeya River is impassable 45 days out of the year, and hence, students cannot attend school, the tea plantation workers cannot safely get to work, and residents are isolated from the nearest health centre and market.
The 43-metre Kazabe Suspension Bridge will provide safe, year-round access for the members of the communities who live nearby.
By providing reliable access to critical services, the bridge will transform not only the communities’ pedestrian routes but also their potential to thrive.

Help fund the Kazabe, Rwanda project

Engineers will travel this month to Rwanda to help build the bridge, but they need the financial support of the engineering community to do so.  

About B2P

B2P collaborates with local partners and communities because local buy-in and ownership is critical to the success of any work we do. We work with all levels of government to understand the need and how we might be part of the solution. Through collaborating regionally, we build capacity.
B2P’s industry partners provide expertise and resources. Our partnership program provides employees opportunities for team-building and leadership development through a life-changing experience.
The challenges of working in remote communities are unlike anything our industry partners face in their day-to-day jobs. The expertise and drive they bring to finish a bridge is unparalleled.

Bridges built to last

Durability and sustainability

As leading bridge builders in the international development space, B2P designs, builds and maintains durable and environmentally sustainable bridges that provide safe access for generations.

It has spent years perfecting bridge designs and sustainable construction models, so engineers can work in any country efficiently and effectively.

All of the bridges are designed to be resilient to extreme weather events, with locally sourced and donated materials.

Technical inspection and maintenance

Professionals from around the world volunteer their time and resources to return to project communities, inspecting footbridges and providing support for upkeep.

Local residents also commit to maintain and inspect the bridge, and are trained to do so.
If you'd like to help fund the Kazabe bridge project, you can do so here:

For more information, contact Oliver Stross (project manager of the Kazabe Footbridge) or Ian Firth (Consultant at COWI and chairman of Bridges to Prosperity UK).

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