When it comes to reducing global poverty, the simplest solutions can often have an amazing impact. A prime example is the creation of travelable roads.
Kenneth M. Quinn, a former U.S. Ambassador to Cambodia, explains how creating a rural road in the Mekong Delta in Vietnam not only improved the economy but also reduced child mortality and increased regional security:
Everywhere the new road went, farmers began using the new rice with amazing, almost overnight, results.
Farmers could now harvest two crops of IR8 rice per year. Each new crop produced a higher yield than the six-month floating varieties that had been planted for hundreds of years and had provided barely enough grain for subsistence. For the first time, smallholder farmers had a surplus crop and surplus income.
Families could now invest in metal sheeting to improve the roofs on their homes and purchase better clothing and more nutritious food for their children. The children stayed in school longer, thanks to the little “taxis” that carried them from hamlet to hamlet over the new road. Child mortality dropped, as mothers with sick children could get them medical attention early enough for effective intervention.
The most amazing change, however, was the impact that the new upgraded road had on security. Villages once beset by insurgents and underground guerrillas now became safe to travel both day and night. As the new road opened the way for commerce, information, and opportunities, young people no longer were enticed to join political military movements and uprisings.