By 2012, the regions with the highest rates of undernourishment were Southern Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa (2015 World Hunger and Poverty Facts and Statistics by WHES). Nevertheless, much of Sub-Saharan African and Southern Asian land have high agricultural yield (2015 World Hunger and Poverty Facts and Statistics by WHES). This discrepancy implies that the issue of hunger in Southern Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa, and more broadly, the world goes beyond the shortage of food. In fact, a critical factor that contributes to world hunger is whether food is effectively distributed. Though there is a multitude of aspects to the issue, this article will focus on short -term transportation plans that address the lack of connectivity between smallholders in agriculture and markets/consumers in developing countries.

The current means of transporting food in industrialized countries include using trucks, trains, planes, and boats (“Food Distribution and Transport”). Transportation in developed countries often involves expensive and time intensive projects such as metro system, light rail transit, highways, and railroads (Bus Rapid Transit).

This allows food delivery to be flexible, quick, and easy. On the other hand, developing countries such as those in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia lack transport infrastructure. The density and condition of roads in Sub-Saharan Africa is low, only 0.13 km^2 of road/surface area ( Livingston, G., Schonberger, S., & Delaney, S., 2011). On the other hand, road density and condition in South Asia is relatively high, 0.85 km^2 of road/surface area ( Livingston, G., Schonberger, S., & Delaney, S., 2011). Still, in individual South Asian countries such as Nepal and Bangladesh, only 17% and 37% of the rural population have access to all-season roads, roads that can withstand severe weather events and floods (“Transport Challenges in South Asia.”).

The lack of a road network in the rural areas of developing countries prevents producers from reaching markets and thus impedes the delivery of food to consumers. This dilemma is due to the shortage of financial resources and expertise, ineffective planning, or/ and corruption. To make matters worse, the current transport system of developing countries experiences multiple challenges such as poor condition of roads, lack of intra-regional connectivity between the national road networks, unreliable and overall costly road transport services, unrealized high potential for rail and inland water freight transport which has led to the excessive use of road transport, inadequate road and rail connectivity of ports with the hinterland or remote region, and others (“Transport Challenges in South Asia.”).

It would be ideal to expand the infrastructure and improve the current situation of the road network in developing countries. However, this approach is quite time and resource intensive. Additionally, the developing countries currently lack the finance and expertise to emulate the transit models that exist in the developed countries. With the available resources in the developing countries, it is more beneficial to implement short-term solutions that can quickly address the transportation issues and therefore improve the connectivity between producers and consumers.

To make urgent improvement on transportation in Southern Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa, Mission 2019 suggests implementing a modified version of the Bus Rapid Transit model. Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) is a bus based transit system that can transport large numbers of passengers efficiently and cost effectively (“What Is BRT? – Institute for Transportation and Development Policy.”). BRT consists of dedicated bus-only lanes, station platforms, and center of roadway to keep the buses away from the busy curbside. It was successfully implemented in Brazil and became prevalent in many other nations such as China, India, and European countries ( “What Is BRT? – Institute for Transportation and Development Policy.”). According to the new research Social, Environmental, and Economic Impacts of Bus Transit Systems (EMBARQ) by the World Resources Institute, BRT reduces travel time, cuts down greenhouse gas emission and improves traffic safety (4 Ways Cities Benefit from Bus Rapid Transit (BRT)) . More importantly, BRT has shown to be a viable alternative to enhance mobility and accessibility in densely populated areas (Bus Rapid Transit).

http://mayalk.scripts.mit.edu/whatever/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/brt-basics.jpg

       Figure 1: Bus Rapid Transit (What is BRT? – Institute for Transportation and Development Policy)

In our modified model, the fundamental mechanism of the BRT is preserved, but the purpose of the model is slightly altered. Instead of buses transporting humans, the modified version will serve as Bus-Truck Rapid Transit (BTRT) that aims to deliver people and produce over short distances. A bus truck or combination bus is a multi-purpose vehicle that can transport passengers, produce, and cargo modules. Similar to the BRT, BTRT has the following elements:

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  Figure 2: Bus truck or combination bus

Dedicated Lanes 

There will be dedicated lanes for only bus-trucks that transport food, allowing faster travel and limit delays caused by traffic congestion. Dedicated lanes would be appropriate in urban areas where the road network is extensive. In rural areas, dedicated lanes might not be a viable option if there are only one-lane roads. Still, this system can guarantee public transportation for food in both urban and rural areas, improving the connection between producers and consumers in the same region.

Bus Truck Alignment

There will be a bus truck-only corridor to separate the trucks from the curb side where other vehicles park.

Boarding/ Drop-off Station

A boarding/drop-off station is where people and produce are either loaded onto the bus truck or get dropped off. If produce is not claimed immediately after being dropped off, then it can be stored at the station for a short period of time before getting donated to local community centers. This system is similar to baggage checking and dropping off at the airport.

New Components

Another crucial element of the BTRT is that each bus truck must have a refrigerator or a freezer so that food requiring refrigeration can be transported. The BTRT will cover short distances to connect local farmers with consumers and quickly deliver perishable produce within a region.

Benefits of BRT/BTRT

Since BTRT costs 4-10 times less than a light rail system and up to 100 times less than a metro system, implementing BTRT would be a more affordable short-term solution in developing countries, especially in the urban and densely populated areas (Bus Rapid Transit). With the benefits from increasing intra-regional connectivity and mobility, not only BTRT can quickly connect producers to markets/consumers but also people to jobs. Furthermore, BTRT projects themselves can provide job opportunities since the construction of the system will require a large labor force. Hence, this approach can potentially bring two advantages: effectively distributing food within a region and increasing local people’s access to employment opportunities.

http://mayalk.scripts.mit.edu/whatever/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/fact-bus-rapid-graph-3.pngFigure 3: Theoretical Model of Primary and Secondary Benefits of BRT (Bus Rapid Transit)

Though using BTRT is a cheaper alternative, developing countries will still need to have enough financial resources to build this system. There are international organizations that are willing to lend grants to developing countries to help with infrastructure. For instance, Grant Aid is a Japan International Cooperation Agency that provides low-income developing countries with aid that can cover various cooperation such as development of infrastructure (Grant Aid). Another organization that can help developing countries improve their infrastructure and transportation systems is World Bank Group, an organization of 5 institutes whose goals are to end extreme poverty by reducing the percent of people living on less than 1.25 USD to no more than 3% and promoting shared prosperity by fostering income growth of the bottom 40%  in every country (What We Do). World Bank has financially supported infrastructure projects in regions like Eastern Afghanistan and Mozambique (Slideshow: Building All Season Roads in Eastern Afghanistan & World Bank supports Mozambique improve access to all-season roads through greater maintenance, rehabilitation and upgrading). Since BTRT is a large scale project, the central governments of developing countries along with the international organizations should lead the project. After the completion of the project, the governments should manage BTRT with the guidance from the sponsors’ projects until the system can run smoothly. After BTRT is implemented, the governments of the developing countries may collect fares from BTRT commuters  to repay the loan.

Ultimately, BTRT aims to carry food from producers to consumers in the same region in the most efficient and cost-effective fashion. Although this model does not fix the infrastructure in developing countries, it is a short-term plan that can quickly address the issues related to food transportation. Our mission recommends BTRT as a quick-fix solution to developing countries while they map out and work on their longer-term infrastructure and transportation development plans.

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Works Cited

2015 World Hunger and Poverty Facts and Statistics by WHES. (n.d.). Retrieved November 25, 2015, from http://www.worldhunger.org/articles/Learn/world hunger facts 2002.htm

4 Ways Cities Benefit from Bus Rapid Transit (BRT). (n.d.). Retrieved November 25, 2015, from http://www.wri.org/blog/2013/12/4-ways-cities-benefit-bus-rapid-transit-brt

Bus Rapid Transit. (n.d.). Retrieved November 25, 2015, from http://bic.asn.au/information-for-moving-people/bus-rapid-transit

Food Distribution and Transport. (n.d.). Retrieved November 25, 2015, from http://www.jhsph.edu/research/centers-and-institutes/teaching-the-food-system/curriculum/_pdf/Distribution_and_Transport-Background.pdf

Grant Aid. (n.d.). Retrieved November 25, 2015, from http://www.jica.go.jp/english/our_work/types_of_assistance/grant_aid/index.html

Livingston, G., Schonberger, S., & Delaney, S. (2011, January 24). Sub-Sarahan Africa: The State of Smallholders in Agriculture. Retrieved November 25, 2015, from http://www.ifad.org/events/agriculture/doc/papers/livingston.pdf

Slideshow: Building All Season Roads in Eastern Afghanistan. (2014, January 10). Retrieved November 25, 2015, from http://www.worldbank.org/en/news/video/2014/01/10/slideshow-building-all-season-roads-in-eastern-afghanistan

Transport Challenges in South Asia. (n.d.). Retrieved November 25, 2015, from http://web.worldbank.org/WBSITE/EXTERNAL/COUNTRIES/SOUTHASIAEXT/0,,contentMDK:22593033~pagePK:146736~piPK:146830~theSitePK:223547,00.html

What We Do. (n.d.). Retrieved November 25, 2015, from http://www.worldbank.org/en/about/what-we-do

What is BRT? – Institute for Transportation and Development Policy. (n.d.). Retrieved November 25, 2015, from https://www.itdp.org/library/standards-and-guides/the-bus-rapid-transit-standard/what-is-brt/

World Bank supports Mozambique improve access to all-season roads through greater maintenance, rehabilitation and upgrading. (2015, March 31). Retrieved November 25, 2015, from http://www.worldbank.org/en/news/press-release/2015/03/31/world-bank-supports-mozambique-improve-access-to-all-season-roads-through-greater-maintenance-rehabilitation-and-upgrading