Building resilience and futures: Enhancing connectivity and agricultural market access in Sierra Leone

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Hand-pulled ferry for transporting people and goods at the River Panana crossing in Komrabai village Hand-pulled ferry for transporting people and goods at the River Panana crossing in Komrabai Village.

In the verdant rural landscapes of Sierra Leone, communities are bound by the rhythms of nature and the toils of agriculture. Yet, the journey from farms to markets, homes to hospitals, and homes to schools is fraught with challenges. Only a fraction—approximately one-third—of the rural population has access to all-season routes to essential services. The absence of bridges at river crossings has compelled communities to rely on primitive modes of transport, such as hand-pulled ferries and boats, which are not only vulnerable to the whims of flooding and extreme drought, but also increase the likelihood of accidents and post-harvest losses.

Urban centers, too, grapple with their own mobility woes. Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone, buzzes with vehicles navigating congested streets, attempting to hasten their travel on roads marred by potholes and poor drainage systems. The city’s poorly engineered and rarely maintained roads have heightened transport services vulnerability to flooding. Whenever heavy rains occur, roads are rendered impassable, severely restricting vehicular movement and compelling pedestrians to seek alternate pathways.

A succession of investments in urban and rural areas

The World Bank has been instrumental in Sierra Leone's journey towards a robust, inclusive, and competitive economy. This commitment is evident in the strategic investments made to overcome the challenges of connectivity that have historically impeded mobility and limited access to essential services for both urban dwellers and rural agricultural producers. Key projects that exemplify this commitment are the Smallholder Commercialization and Agribusiness Development Project (SCADeP) initiated in 2016 and the Integrated and Resilient Urban Mobility Project (IRUMP) approved in 2019.

With an initial investment of $40 million and additional financing of $30 million, SCADeP has been instrumental in rehabilitating 310 km of feeder roads and constructing 460 culverts, ten small bridges, and four long-span bridges. These improvements have not only facilitated transportation but also supported market coordination activities, enhancing smallholder farmers' access to agricultural markets. IRUMP has transformed informal public transport services in Freetown by pioneering the creation of the Metro Transport Company Limited (MTCL), a formalized bus company, and introduction of a fleet of 50 high-capacity buses. This has significantly improved the safety and efficiency in urban mobility.

Building on these successes, the Connectivity and Agricultural Market Infrastructure Project (CAMIP), approved on May 29, 2024, is set to further strengthen climate-resilient transport and expand access to agricultural markets in Sierra Leone.

Connecting more people and enhancing resilience

One of the pivotal elements of CAMIP is the financing of four climate-resilient long-span bridges, ranging from 130-215 meters, to replace hand-pulled ferries at river crossings in Komrabai, Sumbuya, Moselolo, and Kabba. These bridges are designed to withstand the changing climatic conditions and related hazards, using weather-resistant materials, and incorporating innovative "road for water" concepts to manage heavy rainfall and water-related risks.

To enhance the longevity of connectivity infrastructure, CAMIP will support the development of digital Bridge and Road Management Systems (BMSs) that will revolutionize transport asset management, allowing data-driven maintenance decision-making and protecting transport infrastructure against climate-related risks.

When completed, CAMIP’s proposed bridges are expected to improve year-round access to transport services for an additional 2 million rural residents, reduce travel time for economic and social services by 30%, and cut post-harvest losses by 5-10%. This will have a profound effect on rural livelihoods, income, and food security.

Beyond physical connectivity, CAMIP will also enhance agricultural market infrastructure with specialized produce handling facilities and a market information system platform. This platform will use alternative communication channels to reach women farmers and traders in remote areas, helping to protect them from price volatility and boosting the volume of marketed agricultural produce by over 75%.

In Freetown, CAMIP will build on the momentum from previous projects, transforming public transport even further. Additional high-capacity buses will be introduced, utilizing a “lease-operate-own" model to attract private sector investment into formalized public transport services and support the country’s transition to greener transport solutions. A series of targeted interventions, including spot improvement work, road safety measures, and capacity development activities, will also be implemented to ensure seamless operation of the high-capacity buses. This comprehensive investment is expected to improve the accessibility and reliability of public transport services for the over a million inhabitants of Freetown.

The planned infrastructure development under CAMIP represents more than just an enhancement of resilient connectivity in rural and urban areas; they are a testament to the World Bank’s unwavering commitment to scaling up developmental outcomes and contributing to a prosperous future for the people of Sierra Leone.


The authors of this blog would like to thank Abdu Muwonge, Ibou Diouf, Franck Taillandier, Lydia Mesfin Asseres, and Moses Alex Kargbo for their invaluable feedback and constructive insights that significantly enriched the content of this blog.

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