Before embarking on infrastructure development or service delivery, proper planning is required to determine the type of infrastructure or service that is required, the most suitable technology to be used and to agree on arrangements for future operation and maintenance. Often such planning is carried out on a sector basis, thus limiting the possible interventions to one sector. In reality, however, problems in one sector may be solved through interventions in another (e.g. by building a bridge to improve access to health facilities), and the sector concerned may be of low priority to the communities involved compared to other sectors. In addition, proper planning requires an area-based approach to allow the needs of different communities to be compared. Proper planning therefore requires an integrated approach that looks at problems and needs of the communities involved, and seeks to identify suitable solutions to address one or more of the priority problem areas.

In the late eighties and early nineties, the International Labour Organisation developed such a planning tool for local authorities to help them plan interventions, called Integrated Rural Access Planning (IRAP). This planning tool makes use of participatory methodologies to collect data and opinions of local communities located in a specific planning area. Use is made of access time as the main criteria in comparing the access situation of different communities, whereas the communities themselves decide what the priority access problems are that they face. Through a combination of participatory discussions and exercises, together with an analysis of data by planners, a proper balance is found between participatory planning and technical assessment. The use of mapping at different stages of the process helps to create proper understanding and acceptance by all parties. Cartier Consult has been involved in training planners and consultants in the use of the IRAP tool for over 10 years, and has developed specific training material and other documentation for this purpose. 

Integrated Rural Access Planning (IRAP)

In 2009 a training course on IRAP was organised in Costa Rica for consultants and government officials from all over Latin America. The course made use of data collected during an IRAP implementation in Nicaragua. Participants were explained about the concept of access planning and step-by-step assisted in the different phases of data collection, data processing and analysis, identification and validation of interventions, and implementation. 

The use of actual data combined with field work helped the participants to properly understand the IRAP process, its strengths and its requirements. Based on the material prepared for this course, a modular training package was developed and published by the ILO. Specifically for the course a CD-Rom was developed with the training material and further useful documentation and links.

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