© Helvetas / Meinrad Schade

Our Expertise and Services: Rural Access

© Helvetas / Meinrad Schade

We help build and maintain rural roads and trail bridges that improve access to markets, schools and health centers. Roads and bridges connect people from different places and across rivers and deep valleys. They create opportunities.

Why roads and bridges matter

One billion people do not have access to an all-season road. Roads are fundamental to economic growth and access to basic services. Rural transport infrastructure and services are key to achieving many of the Sustainable Development Goals in the area of energy, food security, health, infrastructure, urban development, and climate change.

What we do

Helvetas strengthens the rural transport sector in many countries. This includes the development of cost-effective engineering design, financing and maintenance mechanisms, capacity building and devising technical school and university curricula. We develop capacities of the private sector and standards, norms, and policies for the rural transport sector.

We generate jobs, particularly for disadvantaged groups and women by promoting labor-intensive methods.

Helvetas created the South-South Cooperation Unit (SSCU) to share its know-how on trail bridges. Nepali experts provide training of trainers in Ethiopia in the field of trail bridge technology for example. The SSCU has also implemented mandates for organizations such as the African Development Bank or the International Labour Organization.

Helvetas helps create local platforms that facilitate exchange and innovation around the effective use of drainage water (road water harvesting) and road borders. We promote gender equity in the transport sector.

© Helvetas
Nepal © Helvetas
© Helvetas / Narendra Shrestha
Nepal © Helvetas / Narendra Shrestha
© Helvetas / Christian Bobst
Ethiopia © Helvetas / Christian Bobst
© Helvetas / Pia Zanetti
Ethiopia © Helvetas / Pia Zanetti
© Helvetas / Hanspeter Bundi
South-South Aid, Ethiopia © Helvetas / Hanspeter Bundi
© Helvetas
Road construction, Burkina Faso © Helvetas
© Helvetas / Simon B. Opladen
Completed Road, Burkina Faso © Helvetas / Simon B. Opladen

What we offer

  • 50 years of experience in the trail bridge sector: From designing bridges to developing a sector-wide approach.
  • A global trail bridge expert team based in our partner countries provides training, technical assistance and oversees implementation
  • Extensive experience in labor-intensive rural road construction including budgeting guidance, construction, management, and maintenance of rural roads, as well as strengthening governance

Contact our Team

Our South-South Cooperation Unit provides technical assistance on the construction and maintenance of trail bridges. The team coaches local actors in developing trail bridge sector skills and policies.

Contact our experts for rural access
Regional Coordinator West Africa / Senior Advisor Water & Infrastructure
Programme Development Coordinator
South-South Cooperation Unit
Technical Officer
South-South Cooperation Unit
Technical Officer
South-South Cooperation Unit
Technical Officer
South-South Cooperation Unit
Trail Bridge Expert
South-South Cooperation Unit
Business Development Manager
South-South Cooperation Unit
Technical Officer
South-South Cooperation Unit
Manager Labour-Intensive Infrastructure Programme
South-South Cooperation Unit

Selected projects

Helvetas develops and guides projects. To be sustainable, they must be locally embedded. We support our partners in effectively organizing projects and processes and assist local authorities to better assume their responsibilities.

Developing the trail bridge sector in Burundi

A pilot phase demonstrated the technical feasibility of and demand for trail bridges in Burundi. Based on the findings, the African Development Bank and the Burundi government launched a partnership with the Trail Bridge South-South Cooperation unit of Helvetas to coach local actors in developing the trail bridge sector.

Support to decentralization in the rural road sector in Burkina Faso

Strengthening local and regional governments in the provision of public services with a focus on the construction, management, and maintenance of rural roads.

© Helvetas
Tajikistan Rural Access

Organic to Markets

Rasht Valley Tajikistan | © Helvetas
Tajikistan Gender and Social Equity

Improved Nutrition and Health for Rural Families

 Mother with daughter preparing food | © Patrick Rohr
Laos Environment and Climate Change

Connecting for Improved Nutrition

Our quarterly newsletter “Highlights”

For development practitioners and anyone interested in our projects and approaches.

Further information

Download and read our publications on different rural access related topics.

Partnerships, alliances and networks

Other topics that might interest you

Environment and Climate Change

Every year, we support over 1,000,000 people adapt to climate change, reduce the risks of disasters, sustainably manage natural resources, and conserve nature.


The most vulnerable communities suffer from dirty and scarce water. Annually we help up to 500,000 people get new access to drinking water and basic sanitation.

Skills Development and Education

Lack of education perpetuates inequality because poor countries cannot compete economically without a skilled workforce.