Helvetas and Bridges to Prosperity to Build 150 footbridges in Ethiopia

Easier movement to help rural Ethiopians gain access to basic amenities.

By Chriselle Moraes on
10th June 2022

Bridges to Prosperity (B2P) in collaboration with Helvetas along with the support of the Ethiopian Government will construct over 150 bridges and over 230 miles of feeder trails. B2P is a United States-based non-profit that partners with local governments to connect communities via pedestrian bridges. Helvetas is an independent development organization based in Switzerland that tackles global challenges at various levels: with projects on the ground, expert advice and advocating for conditions benefiting the poor. 

Helvetas and B2P have a long relationship and share design innovations. Helvetas has a strong relationship with the Ethiopian government and builds bridges in the country. As a result, B2P suggested a collaboration with them on this project. 

“It is a partnership across all levels,” Alissa Davis, B2P’s director of business development said. “The role B2P is playing is around assessing the need and then evaluating the impact on the backside once the bridges are built. Helvetas is going to be taking the reins on the actual implementation and delivery of bridges and trail improvements.” 

The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust will provide US$10 million through a three-year grant. The global philanthropic organization is committed to creating stronger, healthier futures for individuals and communities.  

Approximately 80% of Ethiopia’s population lives in rural areas. The bridges are estimated to be used by about 1 million people to get across rough terrain by foot or bike or cross rivers and gorges. Remote villages are often cut off from their surroundings for extended periods. B2P and Helvetas are helping to grow the construction sector by creating a cohesive network among construction material, talent and regional road authorities. 

They will also help expand regional road authorities' capacity to design and manage a portfolio of rural transport infrastructure. This, in turn, will identify a supply chain for talent and materials that can meet national demand. The findings of an evaluation of the impact and return of rural infrastructure in Ethiopia will be shared to mobilize a global community of stakeholders. 

“Addressing the challenge of rural isolation in Ethiopia will build a case study of impactful, sustainable collaboration and catalyze the inclusion of rural transport access programs in development strategies worldwide,” Nivi Sharma, CEO of B2P said. 

The details of the project like targeted regions and supply chain needs for the bridges will be finalized shortly.  

Helvetas has helped build bridges in Ethiopia since 2004. The villagers help with the bridge construction by digging the foundation, shaping stones and gravel and gathering sand. They also form long human chains to carry ropes weighing several tons to the site. Each bridge benefits 10,000 to 20,000 people. 

Ethiopia is also in the middle of a conflict between the government and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front. Davis, however, ensured that Helvetas had a safety plan and collaborations with the local people, and the government would warn them about any safety issues in the region where they work. 

Jan Vloet, Helvetas’ country director for Ethiopia, said the bridges continue to improve connectivity for the people of Ethiopia. She stressed that the bridges built previously had a positive impact on the community by providing year-round market access and vital services spanning generations.

Photo: A B2P bridge built in Ethiopia (Helvetas Ethiopia | bridgestoprosperity.org)

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