For many of the poorest people in the world water transport is their only means of mobility and access to basic services. In today's transport climate dominated by motorised vehicles and roads, traditional waterways have become neglected and their development de-prioritised. Yet if policy makers and practitioners genuinely want to reach the 'poorest of the poor', improvements made in rural water transport (RWT) technologies, infrastructure and services have great potential for reducing isolation and eliminating poverty.
Waterways and Livelihoods was a programme initiated by IFRTD to promote greater visibility of rural water transport issues. The programme initiated a networked research project, funded by DFID KaR, producing case studies in ten countries across Africa, Asia and Latin America. The research culminated in an international seminar in Pontianak, West Borneo (April 2003).
The seminar called for the integration of rural water transport in mainstream policy and practice, highlighting the need to raise it's profile and project a more accurate (positive) image. This will require the generation of more qualitative and quantitative data regarding the nature of rural waterway use, services, technologies and infrastructure. In addition the sector needs to exercise its voice to encourage debate both internally and externally, initiating the cross-pollination of ideas and experiences. Exposure to different technologies at the Waterways and Livelihoods Seminar has initiated dialogue between participants from Madagascar and Vietnam. The participants from Madagascar were keen to explore the more efficient engine technologies available to their Vietnamese counterparts.