Assessing the conditions of rural road networks in South Africa using visual observations and field-based manual measurements: A case study of four rural communities in Kwa-Zulu Natal


  • S'phumelele Lucky Nkomo University of Kwa-Zulu-Natal
  • Sumaiya Desai University of Kwa- Zulu-Natal
  • Kabir Peerbhay Institute for Commercial Forestry Research



Rural road conditions, Socioeconomic impacts, Poverty, Road authorities, Rural access.


The prioritization and improvement of rural road networks is important in developing countries in order to uplift the socioeconomic conditions experienced by communities. So far, limited information exists on the conditions of unpaved or gravels roads, particularly in rural areas and the associated implications to rural economies. The present study therefore used visual observations and field-based measurements to assess the physical, environmental and anthropogenic factors affecting Minor roads (R3), Collector roads (R4) and Local roads (R5) in four rural communities in the KwaZulu-Natal Province, South Africa. The function of these road classes is to provide access from homesteads to main roads that connect rural areas to towns. In this study, two classification methods were used to rate the severity and extent of each surface distress on each road class. Results indicate that there was more than one surface distresses identified and assessed on each road class within the selected communities. It was noted that all the road classes had moderate to severe surface distress, except for the R3 road class in Emazabekweni community, reflecting problems associated with poor drainage systems and maintenance. Visual observation and field-based methods are useful tools that can aid in identifying and assessing the physical conditions of unpaved roads, as well as possible environmental, physical and anthropogenic factors at interplay, especially in resource limited regions. This study recommended that road authorities should ensure that proper drainage systems should be well designed; constructed and maintained on all gravel roads in order to reduce surface deterioration associated with runoff.

Author Biographies

S'phumelele Lucky Nkomo, University of Kwa-Zulu-Natal

Discipline of GeographyP. Bag X01Scottsville, 3209PietermaritzburgSouth AfricaPosition: Researcher

Sumaiya Desai, University of Kwa- Zulu-Natal

Discipline of GeographyP. Bag X01Scottsville, 3209PietermaritzburgSouth AfricaPosition: Lecture

Kabir Peerbhay, Institute for Commercial Forestry Research

PO Box 100281, Scottsville 3209Pietermaritzburg South Africa Position: Research Scientist


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