UN World Food Programme

Stories from the Road

Can you imagine driving this road? A WFP truck pushes through the mud in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Delivering food that ‘final mile’ is not only the last leg in our supply chain, but it’s the one that can be the trickiest. Sometimes WFP drivers and mechanics have to think creatively when faced with roads that are too rocky, too muddy, or just plain impassable. These three short stories show what some of our logistics staff are doing to solve them.

 

South Sudan: Getting stuck in the mud in the mountain village of Lokwa, Kudo Payam
by Mohammed Adil, Fleet Manager

Our drivers in South Sudan are giving new meaning to the term “off-roading”. In the midst of the current rainy season, WFP trucks are getting stuck in mud bogs and ‘black cotton soil’ (similar to a dark version of quick sand – before you know it, you’re sinking). And it’s important that our trucks get where they need to go. In 2013, WFP aims to provide vital food and nutrition assistance for 2.8 million people throughout the country.

Just a few weeks ago, one of our trucks got stuck while travelling in a convoy to the remote village of Torit. The roads at the base of this mountainous area are notorious in the rainy season for knee-deep mud. Villagers noticed the WFP truck, and teamed up with our driver. Unfortunately, they couldn’t manage to free it from the mud; the rains were unrelenting and it sank deeper yet. Our logistics staff from Juba dispatched WFP’s version of a heavy-duty tow truck (called a ‘recovery’ truck in our lingo), which managed to pull it out of mud. A slight delay, and off they went!

 

Liberia: New mini trucks support school feeding and P4P activities
by Morgan Torborg, Logistics Officer

In Logistics, we don’t always go for the biggest truck to carry as much food aid as possible. Sometimes heavy or ‘wide loads’ can’t make it through narrow roads and bridges. In Liberia, this was exactly the case, which is why our logistics team opted for more compact, nimble trucks - small enough to get through the winding bush tracks, and a light enough load to not get stuck in the mud.

WFP Liberia purchased five ‘mini-trucks’, specifically two Land Rovers  of 1.5 ton capacity (30 bags of food, weighing 50 kg/each), and three Mitsubishi Fusos, with a 2.3 ton capacity (or 46 bags of food, weighing 50kg/each). These trucks are dedicated to delivering food to support WFP’s School Meals Programme and Purchase for Progress (P4P), which seeks to stimulate the livelihoods of smallholder farmers by purchasing their harvests and using these as part of WFP’s food assistance.

 

Democratic Republic of Congo: WFP mechanics demonstrate crafty tire repair at its finest
by Karen Mathenge, Logistics Officer

Our long-standing challenge in DRC has been the lack of heavy duty, all-weather tires that are adapted to the difficult North Kivu terrain. The current rainy season, which will last until January 2014, has shown us once again how important is to be resourceful when it comes to delivering WFP food– and in our case, this means making-do with what we have... old tires!

What we’ve been experiencing now is that most of the tires we have outfitted on WFP-owned all-terrain trucks are wearing out – rocks have ripped holes in them, shredded the rubber, and have generally worn them down to being almost unusable (see photo below).

In many countries around the world, you might just pop to the mechanic and purchase new tires. But in DRC, our heavy duty trucks require heavy duty tires, and these are only available for purchase from specialized retailers. While we wait for our new tires to arrive from international borders in the next few months, the deliveries must go on and that means creatively repairing these tires as best we can.

To do this, specialized repair kits, patches and crafty techniques are being used by our mechanics to get the job done. With the continuing rainy season and the muddy, rocky roads that come along with it, the team’s efforts will be essential to get WFP food to where it is most needed.