Blog “Gender and Income Disparities May Also Exist in the Benefits of Infrastructure: What We Can See from the Results of Impact Evaluation of a Project to Improve Rural Roads in Morocco”
At the JICA Ogata Sadako Research Institute for Peace and Development (JICA Ogata Research Institute), researchers with diverse experience and backgrounds are forging partnerships with a wide range of stakeholders and partners. In this blog post series, we will share their knowledge and perspectives gained from their research activities. Ashida Hana, research officer, wrote this blog post to discuss how a project to improve provincial roads in Morocco has impacted the economic activities of the people and youth education and employment, based on an impact evaluation of this project.
Author: Ashida Hana
JICA Ogata Research Institute
Many governments of developing countries see the importance of policies for the improvement and expansion of provincial roads and assistance is often provided by development assistance organizations like JICA.
Expected positive impacts of provincial road improvement include better transportation for local residents, facilitated local economic activities, and reduced economic disparity between regions. On the other hand, negative impacts such as ending up encouraging young people to leave for big cities have been predicted as well. A rigorous assessment method known as impact evaluation is increasingly in need to validate the effects of such development projects.
For example, a review paper  referred to by the International Initiative for Impact Evaluation (3ie) , an US NGO collecting evidence from impact evaluation in developing countries, says that in many cases, provincial road improvement has the following effects: reduction in transportation costs; increase in traffic volumes; growth in employment, consumption and income; expansion of the agricultural sector; and positive effects on health brought on by increased access to medical facilities. Meanwhile, the conclusions vary by studied regions and applied metrics. Moreover, the accumulation of findings from studies on the impacts of provincial road improvement is still globally insufficient. Therefore, there is a continued need for empirical studies to see in what ways what kind of people are impacted.
Thus, to evaluate the impacts of a provincial road improvement project by JICA on local residents, JICA Ogata Research Institute analyzed the Rural Road Improvement Project II in Morocco and two academic papers have been published in academic journals to date [3, 4]. These papers empirically analyze the impacts of this project on people by variables like wealth and gender, in terms of agriculture, education and employment.
In the Rural Road Improvement Project II in Morocco, an agreement for a concessional yen loan of up to 5.981 billion yen was signed with the objective to improve rural roads (approx. 530 km in total) in five provinces to improve the living standards of around 160,000 people in rural areas. Road work took place from 2011 to 2015. The percentage of paved roads was increasing in Morocco for national and regional roads, which are highways, but was still low for provincial roads in rural areas. Reduction in economic disparity between regions was needed for economic growth.
How can the impacts of the project be measured? As various factors are involved in issues around agriculture and education, whether changes were really caused by road improvement or by other factors (such as nationwide economic development or other projects) cannot be determined by simply comparing changes seen in the project areas.
Therefore, in Empirical Research in Africa, the JICA Ogata Research Institute’s research project, data from both before and after project implementation were used from households that gained access to paved all-weather roads through JICA’s road improvement project and households that still do not have access to paved roads. Effects that were not related to road improvement, like changes that simply occurred with time, were eliminated and only those purely generated by road improvement were measured. This method is called “differences in differences (DID).”
Data were collected from 17 roads (intervened roads) that were covered by the Rural Road Improvement Project II. For comparison, data were also collected from 18 roads that were not covered by the project but had similarities in conditions such as geography, population and nearby facilities. Households present along these roads were surveyed. The baseline survey prior to the start of the project was conducted in 2011, while the endline survey after project completion was conducted in 2017.
*Intervened households were defined as households that were either within 2 km or 5 km from intervened roads and estimates were made for each definition. When the threshold was set at 5 km, no significant impacts were seen on the rate of employing external workers and the employment rate in non-agricultural sectors.
Baseline survey results showed that most households in the studied provinces were working in agriculture (97.6%). How do provincial roads affect agriculture and the lives of farmers? Generally speaking, when road traffic is improved, market access is improved and agriculture modernization is facilitated. In addition, new opportunities for economic activities in non-agricultural fields are expected to be created. However, such benefits do not necessarily get equally distributed among different groups. Therefore, households were categorized into three groups based on wealth—the wealthy, the middle class and the poor—from collected household data for analysis.
When all three groups were analyzed together, although the amount of fertilizer use increased after the completion of the project, agricultural diversification and specialization, cereal production, and use of improved crop varieties did not see obvious improvements, that is, there were no statistically significant improvements. Furthermore, there were no changes in the sales channels to provincial markets, urban markets or intermediaries.
However, when the three groups were analyzed separately, differences were seen in the results for labor and employment of farmers. For example, in wealthy households living near improved roads, there was an increase of 23 percentage points in those employing external workers for farming. Meanwhile, there was an increase of 13-16 percentage points in male members of the household working outside of home. (The increase was approx. 10 percentage points when we only looked at their employment rate in non-agricultural sectors such as construction, manufacture and auto repair.)
In middle-class households, significant impacts were not seen with employment of external workers for farming or with male members of the household working outside of home. However, the number of family businesses (such as running stalls or producing and selling handicraft products) at each household increased.
In poor households, there was a decrease of 24 percentage points in hiring farm workers with those that were within 2 km from roads. However, there was no significant impact on male members of the household working outside of home.
How did the living standards of farmers change? When we looked at all groups collectively, expenditure per person increased by 14.0-17.5 percentage points between 2011 and 2017. This means that the average expenditure increase per year was 2.2-2.7 percentage points.
However, when we analyzed each group based on wealth separately, while the wealthy and the middle class showed significant increase in expenditure, there were no significant changes among the poor.
In other words, as a result of provincial road improvement, the wealthy employed more external workers for farming while they themselves started to work as wage earners outside of home. The middle class started new family businesses. These two groups were able to improve their living standards. On the other hand, the poor were unable to benefit from the project in such ways.
Our baseline survey showed that as was the case in other rural areas of Morocco, the low rate of youths moving up educational stages was a challenge in the provinces that were covered by our study as well. How can provincial road improvement impact youth education and employment?
Since there will be more schools to choose from if time and cost for travel are reduced, one can expect to see increased motivation to receive higher education among youths. Furthermore, with improved access, new opportunities for employment may be created locally and in markets outside the local community, potentially making it easier for young people to work.
Meanwhile, investing in long-term human capital by receiving education instead of leveraging immediate economic opportunities is a tradeoff for young people. On another note, as females have limited opportunities compared to males in Morocco, one can assume that the impacts may be different between males and females.
To clarify these points, changes in education and employment were analyzed separately for males and females.
Results from our analysis showed that no significant impacts were seen on the rate of primary education completion in youths aged between 13 and 25 for both males and females. However, we found out that in females, the rate of continuing up to secondary education or higher increased by approximately 10 percentage points. Furthermore, a correlation between improvement in attained education level in females and a decrease in young marriage cases was observed.
We next analyzed the impacts of the Rural Road Improvement Project II on the employment of youths aged between 16 and 25. No significant impacts were seen on the percentage of self-employed workers for both males and females. However, males working as wage earners significantly increased, by approximately 10 percentage points, when roads were developed. This trend was more significant in relatively well-educated males.
These results revealed that the project served as an incentive for better education in females and wage-earning jobs for males, thus having different outcomes between males and females.
Our study showed that the impacts of the Rural Road Improvement Project II depended on factors like wealth or gender. The take-home message of the study is that policymakers need to understand what kind of people enjoy benefits or suffer a loss from policies and consider how transportation infrastructure can contribute to poverty reduction in a fair manner.
1 Hine J, Abedin M, Stevens RJ, Airey T, Anderson T (2016) Does the extension of the rural road network have a positive impact on poverty reduction and resilience for the rural areas served? If so how, and if not why not? A systematic review. London: EPPI-Centre, Social Science Research Unit, UCL Institute of Education, University College London.
3 Yasuharu Shimamura, Satoshi Shimizutani, Eiji Yamada & Hiroyuki Yamada (2023). On the inclusiveness of rural road improvement: Evidence from Morocco. Review of Development Economics, 1–25. https://doi.org/10.1111/rode.12989
4 Yasuharu Shimamura, Satoshi Shimizutani, Eiji Yamada & Hiroyuki Yamada (2023). The Gendered Impact of Rural Road Improvement on Schooling Decisions and Youth Employment in Morocco, The Journal of Development Studies, 59:3, 413-429, https://doi.org/10.1080/00220388.2022.2139608
Note: This blog expresses the individual views of the author, not the views of JICA nor of the JICA Ogata Sadako Research Institute for Peace and Development.
About the Author:
Ashida is a research officer at the JICA Ogata Research Institute since 2022. Her previous experience includes service as a Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteer and a role at a private company.