A $10 million USD, three-year grant from the Helmsley Charitable Trust will leverage Bridges to Prosperity’s (B2P) leading-edge assessment and evaluation programs, Helvetas’ track record of excellence in locally driven trailbridge construction, and the Government of Ethiopia’s (GoE) rural infrastructure commitment to advance the enabling environment for rural connectivity nationwide.
Nearly 80% of Ethiopia’s population resides in the rural countryside, where rugged and varied terrain makes travel difficult and dangerous. Long treks on foot, bicycle, or motorbike often require traversing large gorges or rivers, and B2P estimates that thousands of trailbridges and millions of kilometers of trail improvements are needed country-wide to connect rural communities to schools, health clinics and hospitals, markets, jobs, and other critical services.
Over the next three years, B2P and Helvetas, in partnership with the Government of Ethiopia, will enlarge the construction ecosystem in Ethiopia by building 150 trailbridges and 375 kilometers of feeder trails, expanding regional road authorities’ capacity to design and manage a portfolio of rural transport infrastructure, identifying a supply chain for talent and materials that can meet national demand, evaluating the impact and return of rural infrastructure in Ethiopia, and disseminating those learnings to mobilize a global community of stakeholders.
The joint project will address rural connectivity at the macro-, meso-, and micro-levels. “We know that transformative, systems-level change requires a collaborative approach, inclusive of stakeholders from communities to national government ministries to global funding and finance partners,” says B2P Chief Executive Officer Nivi Sharma. “Addressing the challenge of rural isolation in Ethiopia will build a case study of impactful, sustainable collaboration, and catalyze the inclusion of rural transport access programs in development strategies worldwide. We are excited to partner with Helvetas, the Government of Ethiopia, and the Helmsley Charitable Trust in this important, ground-breaking project.”
“Connectivity is essential for communities to thrive,” says Jan Vloet, Helvetas’ Country Director for Ethiopia. “The 100 bridges we’ve helped construct alongside the government of Ethiopia have shown us firsthand the impact of transport access on lives and livelihoods. Year-round access to markets and vital services brings improvements that span generations. We look forward to the great potential of this partnership to reduce rural isolation.”
A study by economists from the University of Notre Dame and Yale University found that households in communities that received a trailbridge realized a 30% increase in household income, a 75% increase in farmer profitability, and a 59% increase in women entering the labor market. Studies also show that connecting isolated rural communities can transform rural economies, national GDPs, and global supply chains. On average, a trailbridge pays for itself in the first year, but continues to serve a community for decades.
“At Helmsley, we are committed to solutions that help build resilience at the community level,” said Walter Panzirer, a trustee of the Helmsley Charitable Trust. “Infrastructure-based projects like these have the power to holistically address so many challenges faced by rural families, ultimately leading to higher participation in the regional labor market and an overall increase in school attendance and the use of health services.”
About Bridges to Prosperity
B2P envisions a world where poverty caused by rural isolation no longer exists. Rural isolation is a root cause of poverty, and B2P believe that connection is the foundation to opportunity. The organization works with local communities, country governments, and global partners to construct trailbridges that connect rural residents to education, healthcare, and economic opportunity. With a sophisticated data collection, assessment, and evaluation program, B2P is able to prove that the value and impact of its work is sustained long after a bridge’s opening celebration.
Helvetas is an international network of independent affiliate members working in the field of development cooperation and emergency response. As a network, we promote the fundamental rights of individuals and groups and strengthen governments and other duty bearers in their service provision. Helvetas’ work builds upon six decades of development experience and brings together more than 1,500 staff working in 39 countries – including in Ethiopia, where the organization launched a trailbridge-building program in 2002.
About The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust
The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust aspires to improve lives by supporting exceptional efforts in the U.S. and around the world in health and select place-based initiatives. Since beginning active grantmaking in 2008, Helmsley has committed more than $3 billion for a wide range of charitable purposes. For more information on Helmsley and its programs, visit helmsleytrust.org.