Rural Access Programme dEVELOPMENT THROUGH ACCESS in Nepal


Conceived in 1999 as a comprehensive poverty alleviation programme, the UK Aid-funded Rural Access Programme (RAP) uses the construction of transport infrastructure as an entry point for improving the lives of the poorest and most marginalised people in remote areas of Nepal – communities with limited access to goods and social services.

After initial design and implementation, RAP (now in its third stage) is involved in the construction of roads using labour-intensive, environmentally sound and climate resilient methods; alongside complementary socio-economic interventions. Besides the clear benefits of improved access, RAP has also generated significant employment in rural areas, especially for women.

RAP has built 1,000km and maintained 2,000km of roads, generating employment for individuals from the poorest households. Many are earning a wage for the first time.

This report documents a recent visit to the district of Mugu, in Western Nepal to illustrate the impact of RAP through four different avenues: 1) The importance of roads in Nepal 2) labour-based construction, 3) health and safety and 4) the role of women in engineering and construction.

Each section includes a short documentary feature addressing each issue.

Mugu (red outline) in the far-western region of Nepal is one of the most isolated districts.

RAP is a programme implemented by IMC Worldwide and funded by the Department for International Development

Road connecting Gamghadi and Kacche. Constructed by RAP: 2018


Roads are vital to development in Nepal. They help generate employment and improve access to markets, economic opportunities, health services and education. Prioritising sustainability of the roads in each of these components helps ensure that all subsequent development is resilient to economic, political and environmental insecurity.

From top (clockwise): Transporting cargo is only possible with mules. Transporting produce from smaller communities to larger markets is difficult without roads. A RAP worker surveys the road leading to Kacche.

In Mugu specifically, roads are even more important. With the majority of the agricultural produce grown in the mountains, transporting it to markets is even more difficult and costly than in other parts of Nepal.

"Roads are very important to Gamgadhi. Because of the road network, we have observed social and economic transformation." - Hari Jung Shahi , Mayor of Chhayanath Municipality.

Hari Jung Shahi is the mayor Chhayanath Municipality in Mugu. According to him the RAP programme has provided social and economic transformation for his community. "We used to import different materials for construction to Gamgadhi using a helicopter at a very high cost. These days, freight vehicles easily travel up to Gamgadhi. As a result, people staying in far-flung areas have got access to raw materials," Shahi said.

Hari Jung Shahi, Mayor of Chhayanath Municipality in Mugu, Nepal.

Barley, millet, apples and other cash crops are now more easily transported to bigger markets, including Surkhet and Nepalgunj, at a much lower cost.

Jay Dhan Kami, Drill Operator (Mugu).


RAP does not just see the construction of the road itself as a means to improve the lives of local communities. As a part of its design the programme uses what is call the LEP approach - Labour-based, Environmentally-friendly and Participatory. The construction teams for each section are drawn from the actual communities where the roads are being built. This generates stable employment for the community, as well as providing training and capacity building in a variety of construction methods.

It is also represents great value of the investment of UK Aid funds as it not only leaves sustainable infrastructure but provides direct cash aid to remote communities through employment.

RAP construction crews along the road between Gamghadi and Kacche.

By using labour over machinery, the construction process is also more environmentally friendly as the use of large excavators is kept to a minimum. Machinery is used where the workforce is not available and time is an issue as the work can be completed faster.

Heavy excavators outside Gamghadi used here in capacity building training for local road workers (Mugu).
Tara Baniya (right), Social Mobiliser for RAP in Mugu. Her job is to maintain health and safety on work sites and act as an intermediary between the programme and the local workforce.


It is important for RAP to provide training and promote proper health and safety methods and policies to its workers. Constructing and maintaining roads in Nepal is a very challenging and difficult task for a variety of reasons. Treacherous terrain, isolated locations and the physical nature of the work makes injuries or death a real possibility.

According to research from SafetyKnot in Mugu, the most common injuries among RAP workers are from falls, followed by cuts and burns.

Road construction can take place in dangerous and treacherous locations.

However, the RAP programme is working to implement a variety of different safety training methods. Community and social mobilisers are receiving training from the programme to better organise and run construction sites.

"I see the overall benefits of this training with its topics and injuries that are occurring in our society. This training should be given to village level individuals to further benefit everyone." - Community Mobiliser after attending RAP training programme.
All female construction crew in Mugu, Nepal.


RAP has made it a priority to hire from marginalised groups, including women how are often disadvantaged in seeking employment. The workforce for each crew must be at least 33% female. Of the 9000 people currently employed by RAP, 40% are women. Many of them are earning a wage for the first time, which is improving their ability to participate in society.

Rupa Rokaya, construction worker from Nigale Village, Mugu, Nepal

Over 75% of RAP’s construction costs are represented by wages based on an ‘equal wage for equal work’ principle. Women are paid the same as men across all construction and engineering work. Female workers say receiving a direct income has enabled them to better manage issues of food security, have access to healthcare, send their children to school and generally raise their standard of living.

To bridge Nepal’s skills gap, RAP runs a graduate programme, which provides long-term professional development to young engineers who have successfully completed an internship. Since the graduate programme’s launch in 2014, 11 women have been recruited. Currently there are six female graduate engineers on RAP.

"I am proud to be in such a team that aims at eliminating poverty and raising the status of Nepalese people." - Ashmita Dahal, RAP graduate engineer.
Ashmita Dahal, Engineering Graduate on RAP3 (Mugu).
RAP road between Gamghadi and Kacche (Mugu, Nepal).

RAP at a Glance

625,000 beneficiaries

13.5 million labour days created

220% average income increase in RAP areas

200% average agricultural yield increase in RAP areas

80% average increase in education enrolment

Learn more at rapnepal.com

All photos and video Ben Walker (IMC Worldwide) © Producer/Translator: Aadesh Baniya