© Helvetas/Simon B.Opladen
Burkina Faso

A Road to Change Village Life

© Helvetas/Simon B.Opladen

With support from Helvetas, rural communities in Burkina Faso plan and build infrastructure that enables them to access basic services and helps them develop their economic activities.

  • Project Name
    Infrastructures en Haute Intensité de Main d'œuvre (HIMO)
  • Funding
    Various partners
  • Thematic focus
    Rural Access

Why building rural roads?

For many of the villagers in Burkina Faso, commuting to the markets, health centers, schools or the town hall is often not easy as the roads are difficult to travel. Especially during the rainy season, floods make travel almost impossible.

Since 2003, when Helvetas started working in Burkina Faso, we have been committed to ensuring access to basic services and improving development opportunities for these communities.

Building of rural roads and, increasingly, other infrastructure and nature-based solutions such as lowland development or reforestation, are being carried out using a labor-based approach. This approach involves local authorities, communities and their public and private partners in the planning, construction and management of infrastructure.

© Isso Bationdo
Step 1: Local workers quarry stones for the construction of the crossing structures and the rows of stones along the runway. © Isso Bationdo
© Isso Bationdo
Step 2: A project technician supervises the construction of a sill that runs at right angles to the direction of flow of a river and reduces its depth erosion. © Isso Bationdo
© Isso Bationdo
Step 3: At an awareness-raising session, the local population learns how they can maintain a built slope in the future. © Isso Bationdo
© Isso Bationdo
Step 4: A trader transports his goods along a newly built road. This part of the road was impassable in the winter season. The crossing construction enables the population to cross the shallows and watercourses at any time of the year. © Isso Bationdo

Helvetas supports the municipal and regional authorities to become increasingly autonomous in the planning, programming, mobilization and management of the resources used to build or rehabilitate infrastructure. We work with local companies and engineering offices, training them in labor-based methods that involve the use of light equipment, local materials and intensive labor. We recruit and train men and women who carry out the construction work. This approach makes it possible to focus on job creation, help reduce poverty and, above all, build capacity in villages and increase social cohesion. People participate in all stages of the construction work; they work together and with the institutions, realize the importance of community participation in decision-making regarding the infrastructure to be built and how to manage it.

The Process

  • Municipalities send in their requests for infrastructure construction

  • All applications are considered by an arbitration committee that makes a decision based on socio-economic, technical and demographic criteria

  • A training on the labor-based approach is organized for local companies and engineering offices that implement the project and the construction work
  • Village communities are sensitized to the project and mechanisms for recruiting labor and preventing and resolving conflicts are put in place
  • Training sites are set up to train local masons
  • Village committees for the management and maintenance of the rural roads are formed in each commune interested in road construction
© Helvetas/Franca Roiatti
More than 195,000 locally recruited people worked to build the infrastructure in 44 communities in Burkina Faso. © Helvetas/Franca Roiatti
In the ongoing labour-based projects more than 64% of the local workforce is composed of women.
Schools are installed to train local masons.


The labor-based construction of infrastructure has had positive economic and social implications for the communities. An impact study has shown that household incomes have increased by 90% due to the additional profits from the participation in the construction of the roads, and due to better access to markets to sell agricultural products and buy agricultural inputs. The construction of rural roads enables women to go to health centers for prenatal care and childbirth more easily, helping limit complications that can occur during home births. The supplementary income also helped 79% of the population to improve their health status, 74% of the population to increase their capital, and 72% to renovate or build a new house.

After the construction of a pathway, women can more easily go to health centers for prenatal care and delivery: this helps to limit complications that may occur during home delivery.

Green roads for resilience

Roads have a significant impact on surface and subsurface hydrology and can therefore become a powerful means of improving natural resource management and increasing the resilience of the communities.

The labor-based approach makes it possible to transform road construction into an instrument to retain runoff water, increasing the potential for irrigation and agricultural activities along roads, control soil erosion, reduce dust through the reforestation of borders, and strengthen flood resistance.

The wealth of experience gained in road construction has enabled Helvetas to expand the areas of application of the labor-based approach. Currently, the method is used to carry out different types of works such as lowland development, market gardens, bunds, stone barriers, water reservoirs, large-diameter wells, reforestation, etc.

© Helvetas
The installation of stone beads allows for better control of runoff water. © Helvetas
© @Helvetas
Through the HIMO program, almost 100 ha of lowlands and market gardening perimeters have been developed. © @Helvetas


In Burkina Faso, Helvetas has set up about twelve labor-based programs in 7 regions and 50 communes.

The accumulated experience of working with communities and local authorities has made it possible to:

  • construct and rehabilitate around 1000 km of rural roads in several regions of the country
  • open up approximately 480 villages in the intervention zones
  • facilitate mobility and access to basic socio-economic infrastructures (schools, health centers, markets, agro-sylvo-pastoral production zones, etc.) for several hundred thousand people in remote villages
  • develop 97 ha of lowland area and market gardening perimeters
  • enable reforestation of 59 ha of land
  • create jobs for almost 199,000 people, 60% of who are women (local labor force). 

Ongoing projects

1. Support Program for Decentralization and Citizen Participation (DEPAC) financed by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC): construction of  70 km and maintenance of 70 km of rural roads.

2. Food Security Project in Eastern Burkina Faso (PSAE) financed by the French Development Agency (AFD): construction of 100 km of rural roads.

Capitalizing on and documenting all these experiences and expertise has led to the creation of a Center of Competence and Expertise in Labor-based Construction to scale up, disseminate and perpetuate expertise. The main mission of this center of expertise is to:

  • Strengthening the resilience of populations (hosts and IDPs) through job-creating investments in labor-intensive infrastructure (HIMO);
  • investments and infrastructures (primary and secondary culverts, rural tracks, development of lowlands or market gardening areas, etc.) to increase economic opportunities for women, young people and the most vulnerable, strengthen food security, open up regions and communes and promote trade and the movement of people, goods and services; 
  • green works (re-greening and soil restoration)
  • Labor-based consulting services
  • Labor-based vocational training leading to employability and entrepreneurship for young people.