There is overwhelming evidence indicating strong positive links between improved rural access and poverty reduction; and, that improving access contributes towards the achievement of a number of Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which are a central feature of development policy. The development of rural roads is considered to be one of the key options to improve the rural access. However, the absence of comprehensive and coherent rural roads policy and strategic direction leads to ad-hoc planning and decision making, resulting in wasted, poor and underperforming investments. This was the case in Cambodia, which is one of the poorest countries in the world. This lack of effective direction has discouraged the investment in the sub-sector by both the government and development partners. In year 2005, the Ministry of Rural Development of the Royal Government of Cambodia embarked on the development of the rural road policy and strategic plan. This exercise posed a number of challenges including (i) identification of the key issues; (ii) absence of reliable physical, social and economic data; (iii) involvement of stakeholders in the process; and, (iv) integration of the policy and strategy messages into the Engineering University curriculum. This paper discusses the process of the formulation of the Cambodian Rural Road Policy and Strategic Plan. It highlights the process of identification of main issues for improving rural access by developing low volume roads. It provides examples of the policy directions and how these directions have been used in the formulation of the strategic plan. It explains the analysis process which needed to take into account the lack of data availability. The paper also highlights the involvement of the academic institutions in the development and dissemination of the outputs including the updating of the relevant policy and strategy related course module that is being taught as a part of the under-graduate level engineering curriculum. It finally details the lessons learned in this process.
Presented at the International Conference on Engineering Education and Research (iCEER), December 2-7, 2007 Melbourne, Australia. 6 pp. (paper) and 16 pp. (powerpoint)