Jun 132015

Mid-hill Highway and the north-south corridor roads

Mid-hill Highway and the north-south corridor roads (in light red)

The Mid-hill Highway is flanked by a series of roads that lead north and south, known as the North-south Corridors. These “corridor roads” came on the drawing board several decades ago as a major key to economic growth and development in the Mid-hills. Construction work began in the 1990s, and by the mid-2000s several roads were opened. With the recent completion of the Surkhet-Jumla corridor, there now is a whole network of north-south corridors! Do they help the local economy: it appears so!

Corridor roads bring Mid-hill produce to the market: here apples in Jumla

Corridor roads bring Mid-hill produce to the market: here apples in Jumla

The topographical context along the corridor roads is unique: in a matter of a hundred kilometres or so, the climate changes from near tropical in the Terai to temperate at the higher altitudes in the Mid-hills. Farmers in places like Nepalgunj or Birgunj can’t grow apples, like in the Mid-hills, and many vegetables thrive better up-hill, too. In Jumla, as a case in point, tons of apples were left to rot every year until recently due to lack of roads. But now, the corridors allow farmers to get their fruit to market!

Going organic: scene from Holy Green Organic Farm

Competitive advantage of Mid-hill farmers: growing off-season vegetables

Are the corridor roads – and the Mid-hill Highway providing easier access to them – a bullet-proof solution to economic stagnation in Mid-hill districts and villages? Well, cheap produce from India is still a major source of competition, just to mention one example of other obstacles. Indeed, it’s not enough to have roads and transportation. Numerous factors influence the ability of locals to sell and profit. But with roads come a chance to discover and exploit new opportunities. The position of many Mid-hill farmers to grow vegetables off-season is just one example. The roads might even lead to growing inflow of new ideas and investment. So the roads to growth have – to that extent – widened!

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