In Africa, water sources frequently fall into disrepair through lack of maintenance; in the rainy season when pollution levels are at their highest, vehicular and pedestrian access to the sources of water can also be a major cause of delays to any maintenance programmes that may exist. Where a maintenance programme is in existence poor vehicular access, especially in times of heavy rain, may preclude it from being carried out. The lifeline to the outside world for these rural communities is normally a single earth access road. In order to survive the rains, it is vital that these roads are better engineered, rather than just placing and lightly compacting the in-situ soil.
Conventional soil strengthening techniques such as the use of synthetic geotextiles/fibres are prohibitively expensive for developing countries. However, many of these countries have copious supplies of cheap, indigenous, vegetable fibres (e.g. sisal and coir). The use of vegetable fibre products for reinforcing applications in earth road could provide a sustainable, cost effective solution to access problems during the rainy season for rural villages in Malawi. This research programme should lead to better engineered solutions to this problem and would be very beneficial in helping to meet the MGDs.