Awards 2002 The P&O Nedlloyd Award for Infrastructure

The P&O Nedlloyd Award for Infrastructure

This award is given to a company or organization which has assisted economic and social development through the provision of appropriate, sustainable and environmentally complementary transport systems or other infrastructure.

The Winner: Riders for Health

Riders for Health

"Without my motorcycle," says Jenipher Mutede, "I just could not do my work." In the past, motorcycles soon became useless in rural Africa. They broke down or crashed in the hands of untrained riders. But Riders for Health has evolved a system for keeping them going. And so Jenipher, a Zimbabwean health worker whom Motor Cycle News has just named Motorcyclist of the Year, is able to treat hundreds of people in ten or more villages a day. RfH Zimbabwe has created a network of trained and well-motivated people including Jenipher herself. In remote areas where roads are poor and there is no fuel or local motor mechanic, the network provides fuel, ensures a technician sees motorcycles once a month, orders necessary spare parts and trains riders to do basic maintenance and ride safely. Barry Coleman of Riders sees its work as a way of raising Africa's morale. Riders' networks are run by Africans: so they are an African achievement.

The Zimbabwe network, begun in 1996, was a new venture for Riders. Previously it had organised training and maintenance schemes. In Zimbabwe it undertook, in addition, to run and maintain the ministry of health's motorcycles for an agreed fee per kilometre, out of which it would also eventually replace the machines, rather than rely on a new injection of foreign aid to do so. It introduced a computerised monitoring system, making problems easier to spot and deal with. RfH Zimbabwe, which has a spacious workshop in Harare, now runs almost 1,000 vehicles, mainly motorcycles, for Zimbabwe's health ministry and for non-government organisations, including one helping Aids orphans and another engaged in rural housing.

Similarly RfH Nigeria now manages 98 four-wheel-drive vehicles for the World Health Organisation's polio surveillance and eradication programme. RfH DRC manages 40 vehicles for WHO in the Congo. And teams from Zimbabwe and Nigeria went to The Gambia to train an RfH team there.

In a continent where road crashes claim more lives than AIDS and malaria combined, RfH stresses careful and defensive driving. RfH-trained riders and drivers rarely have an accident. In Nigeria, armed bandits - who have hit five vehicles - are a bigger threat.

But RfH cannot do everything. So it has opened the International Academy of Vehicle Management in Harare, to teach other transport managers, so that vehicles used in public service in Africa including buses and trucks deliver a reliable, cost-effective service. The story of Riders began in 1988 when motorcycling champion Randy Mamola went to Somalia with motorcycle enthusiast and former Guardian journalist Barry Coleman. Randy and his manager Andrea Coleman had been raising money for the Save the Children Fund, which suggested he went to see what happened to the cash. He found a lot of broken-down motorcycles. Many children die in Africa from easily preventable diseases. Health workers without transport could not reach them.

In The Gambia, which Barry Coleman next visited, it was a similar story except in the east where Ali Ceesay, the health director's driver, maintained community nurses' machines while they were attending meetings. Barry Coleman tested in Uganda what he had learned and then applied it in Lesotho, where RfH launched its first national programme, running 47 motorcycles for seven years without a breakdown. It trained trainers to teach people how to ride and look after their machines. After Lesotho, RfH moved on to Ghana.

Meanwhile Randy Mamola and Andrea Coleman were raising money, mainly from motorcycle enthusiasts. Because the transport management schemes are now self-supporting, this money can be used for smaller projects to help rural communities. It has paid for 16 motorcycles for the Binga area of Zimbabwe, badly hit by drought and disease.

The judges say

Singlemindedly addressing one of the long-term systemic weaknesses in the provision of health care in Africa, RfH has come up with absolutely the right solution for it -reliable and appropriate transport. We particularly applaud the focus on installing effective regimes for training (especially for women) and vehicle maintenance, which has already made a major difference to the lives of large numbers in rural communities. The emphasis on developing local programmes for local needs in partnership with governments and local communities is a critical success factor in achieving sustainability. This approach still has huge potential, and the prospect of being a significant force in improving life expectancy in Africa.

Riders for Health, 3 New Street, Daventry NN11 4BT; Tel: +44 1327 300047; Fax 308760;