Transport - The Facts


Some idea of the work needed in fetching and carrying for small farmers in the Third World is provided by these figures. About 70 per cent of farming involves transporting crops, seeds, water, tools, insecticides etc. These carrying requirements (together with the three hours or more a day needed for fetching water and firewood) are so heavy they are often not satisfactory met. Potential harvests are reduced, and crops that do ripen can rot due to the inability to transport them to market.


When comparing the energy of passenger vehicles, one of the most important provisos is how many seats are filled. So there is a considerable variation in bus/metro efficiency in rush hour conditions (when they are presumed full) and off-peak (presumed half-empty).

Amongst the least efficient vehicles are powerboats and Concorde. To rub salt into the wound, neither operates at anything like full capacity. At the other end of the spectrum is the bicycle. A winner in conservation terms (particularly as its seat is always filled), its use is restricted by weather and topographical conditions, fear of accident, inability due to age, infirmity, distance and laziness.

Energy efficient


In Third World countries private cars serve the needs of only the wealthiest - or of top government officials. They cost precious foreign exchange both to import and later to keep running and feed with petrol. So do lorries and buses, but they (while of little help to the poorest) are far more relevant than the car to the needs of the general population.

How far imports of private cars com­pared with commercial vehicles are controlled is an indicator of in whose interests the government is governing.

The statistics for developed countries point to a different conclusion. One reason why Sweden and the United Kingdom have fewer commercial vehicles per 1000 people than Australia and the United States is probably that they can rely more on their railway system.


There is a lot of heavy lifting on and around Third World farms. This is a survey of the items and the quantity­in kilograms(kgs) per hectare-to be transported for different crops in Malawi.

**Requires a lot of water for the spraying of insecticides.
The more successful the harvest the bigger the problem of moving the crop.

Down on the farm
Driving around
Click to enlarge

New Internationalist issue 092 magazine cover This article is from the October 1980 issue of New Internationalist.
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