“Still broken eggs, fortunately not many this time,” grumbled Anjaraniainina Randriamananjara, who got off his truck to check the condition of thousands of eggs packed in the cargo area before he arrived at his destination in Antananarivo, Madagascar’s capital.
He had just finished driving for more than an hour on a bumpy and muddy road, which kept him on tenterhooks. Transporting eggs to Antananarivo from his farm in Mahazaza, a town some 30 km north of the capital, is a daily headache for the 26-year-old poultry farmer.
More than 10 percent of Randriamananjara’s eggs are broken every day due to jolts while travelling on the poorly maintained road, he said.
Safidy Andriamisaina, another poultry farmer in Mahazaza, said eggs were always sold at half price when damaged, and vehicles have to be repaired frequently due to the bad conditions of the area’s roads.
In Mahazaza and the neighbouring towns of Mahitsy and Ampanotokana, roughly 30,000 residents rely on the route for their daily travels. Among them, 80 percent are involved in poultry farming, and supply 40 percent of the eggs consumed in Madagascar.
They saw the light when news came two years ago that the Chinese government would provide funding and expertise to build a new road for egg producers in the suburb.
The 19.25-km-long “egg road” consists of the main axis and five branches and is expected to secure the transportation of 150,000 eggs per day, according to official data.
China’s Jiangxi Zhongmei Engineering Construction Company kicked off the project in October 2018. The road is scheduled to be completed in three years, as a five-month-long rainy season every year in the country hinders such projects.
“We hope that the renovation work will be completed as soon as possible,” Randriamananjara said.
Project manager Lei Dongsheng said that thanks to the help of local residents, construction has been running smoothly since March, and “70 percent of the earthworks and bridge construction will be completed by the end of the year.”
After completion, travelling the 7 km between Mahazaza and Mahitsy will only take 15 minutes, compared to the current journey of 90 minutes. This drastically shorter travel time will bring many new benefits, residents said, citing an example that the sick will be able to reach hospitals a lot sooner.
The arrival of Chinese workers has brought jubilation to local people, said Louis Firmin Rakotomenjanahary, mayor of Mahazaza.
Madagascar’s rainy season, which runs from November to April each year, makes roads extremely slippery and causes serious traffic problems. Rakotomenjanahary recalled that when vehicles at times broke down in the mud recently, “it was the Chinese who brought out their equipment to offer help and solutions.”
The project has enabled many young people to find jobs as stonemasons, porters, security guards, and truck drivers, among others, he added.
Zhongmei, pledging to recruit about 300 local employees, has already made visible changes to the daily lives of residents.
“My life has changed since I’ve been with this company, and my children’s school fees are paid on time. We have savings at home now,” said Michel Randrianasolo, a construction manager at the Chinese company.
The road project demonstrated the efforts made to integrate Madagascar into the China-proposed Belt & Road Initiative (BRI), which aims to build trade and infrastructure networks, connecting Asia with Europe and Africa, both on and beyond the ancient Silk Road routes.
So far, the BRI has become a platform of opportunities and a road to prosperity for all its participants.
Egg producer Randriamananjara said locals were grateful to the Chinese people who offered help to them.
“Chinese like to communicate with us. Many kids here can speak some Chinese,” he said with an engaging smile.