Rural infrastructure refers to a set of investments that include rural roads, water supply and sanitation, energy and telecommunications, and agricultural processing. Traditionally, agriculture-related processes were not considered part of rural infrastructure. However, linking these processes with traditional rural infrastructure investments enables programs to respond to the multi-sector demands of communities.
The provision of rural infrastructure can be an important agent in the reduction of poverty and exclusion, in the strengthening of social capital, and in providing conditions for improving the provision of services. However, some key issues must be considered when designing Social Fund interventions. Due to the multi-sectoral nature of SFs, some sector-specificities and good practices may be ignored. Rural infrastructure is a technical field and needs a focused attention. The arrangements to build, operate, and maintain a rural road, for example, are different from those needed in rural water works, or in isolated electric grids. Social Funds should avoid relying on public services delivery with insufficient consideration of sustainability or incentives for private sector growth.
On the other hand, one of the advantages of using the Social Funds model for rural infrastructure provision is the opportunity to look at rural infrastructure in a more holistic manner. Multi-sectoral projects are well-positioned to identify multiple demands and work with an open menu and multiple stakeholders. In addition, Social funds are designed to work with communities using a demand-responsive approach. This gives them a vantage point to find points of integration across sectors while promoting a sense of ownership that contributes to sustainability.