Rutaka Footbridge


A team of 10 professionals from Mott MacDonald and Balfour Beatty traveled to the rural Rwandan community of Rutaka in June 2017. The team worked with the non-profit organisation Bridges to Prosperity to construct a footbridge which will serve approximately 5,000 people.


Bridges to Prosperity work to alleviate rural poverty caused by isolation. In Rutaka individuals are isolated from essential services such as healthcare and education. In the last three years' prior to the construction of the new bridge, four people have died attempting to cross the river on the makeshift log bridge. Learn more about the impact that this can have through Pascal's Story.


Find out more about the story of the build here. Pictured left to right:


Brandon Mills (MM), Divesh Mistry (MM), Matt Lofts (BB), Nerissa Webb (BB), Sam Poulson (MM), Kyle Shirley (B2P), Ben Mills (BB), Shabane (B2P), Tom Baxendale (BB), Katie Thorne (BB), Ian Towler (MM), Claude (B2P), Pete Crosthwaite (MM), Theogene (B2P)


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The team

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Landscapes of Rutaka Valley

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The Old Bridge


In Rutaka Valley prior to the construction of the new bridge in June 2017, the local community would lay down two or three logs over the Nyagako River at the narrowest point of the channel. It would be typical for these logs to be washed away during the wet season leaving communities on either side of the valley isolated until the water receded. 


The following images are a series of photos that were taken to show the tenuous nature of the crossing - particularly for mothers carrying young children.


During the construction of the bridge a wedding took place in the valley. During the event there was difficulty for the bride in crossing the river so a series of boulder were laid down. It was fortunate that river levels were low on the day. 

 

Construction


The construction of the bridge was completed over a period of 3 months. Prior to the arrival of the UK team, Bridges to Prosperity in-country civil engineer Claude led works to construct the abutments/foundations of the bridge. This was achieved with the help of labour from the local community. All local community members involved in the construction of the bridge were paid by Bridges to Prosperity for their work. 


When the team arrived in-country they worked with the Bridges to Prosperity team and community members to construct the bridge span and backfill the abutments. This work took two weeks.


The team innovated and successfully used a winching method to construct the bridge. This was a first for a Bridges to Prosperity build, and was highly commended by the NGO's international and in-country team. Lessons from this build will help make future builds safer.


A key aspect of the build was the dynamic between the UK team and local workers. The UK team provided training in a number of tools and also introduced health and safety measures. This knowledge and information will help community members in any other future construction work they may be involved with.  







Community Engagement


A key aspect of the project was community engagement. The team took time to visit the local school, play frisbee on their lunch breaks and learn about life in the valley. 


On the middle Sunday of the construction programme, it was decided that the team would spend time at one of the churches in the valley. At 2pm the team played the local football team! It was a tense game - going to overtime. The UK team lost by one goal... 5-4 in a thrilling finish.




Umuganda Day


On the third Saturday of every month Rwandans celebrate Umuganda Day. Umuganda Day is effectively community service day. It was initiated following the genocide of 1994 to facilitate reconciliation and healing.


On Umuganda Day communities work on a project that is of benefit to the entire community. On the Saturday during the bridge build, locals created a path to the new bridge on both sides of the river. Even those who were unable to participate in the physical work such as pregnant woman and young children attended as the day is primarily about coming together. A local representative from the council came to meet the UK team and also gave a speech to the local community about the importance of the Umuganda Day. The day was an incredible experience for both the Rwandans and UK team involved!







Participatory Photography


Another element of the bridge build was a participatory photography project. The intent of the project was for locals to use images to highlight the importance of the new bridge by showing what is important in their lives. Photos were developed and returned to participants who were then invited to sit down and talk about their images. In this way conversation was facilitated. To see the participants images and learn more about the project click here.



Inauguration Day


Inauguration day was a chance for the UK team and local community to celebrate the construction of the new bridge. The official opening took place with local officials and Bridges to Prosperity in-country staff present for the event.


During the inauguration speeches were completed by Bridges to Prosperity in-country manager Stephanie, UK team project manager Ian and local Alexia who highlighted the importance of the bridge. 


Importantly the inauguration day also provided an opportunity to introduce the bridge committee to the community. The bridge committee are trained locals who will complete maintenance work on the bridge to ensure the longevity of the bridge. Many of the bridge committee worked on the construction of the bridge. This is a key element to bridge builds completed by Bridges to Prosperity. 



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