Boosting agribusiness by opening access to markets for 16,000 plus Papua New Guinean

By: PNG Business News September 13, 2022

EU-STREIT PNG started work on two additional farm-to-market access roads in Sandaun and East Sepik provinces totalling 56 plus km, to serve over 16,000 villagers, including businesspersons, women and school children, with improved access to towns, health posts and schools.  

The International Labour Organization (ILO) under the EU Funded UN Joint STREIT EU-STREIT PNG has started major improvement work on two key Farm-to-Market Access Roads in Vanimo-Green District, Sandaun Province and Wosera-Gawi District, East Sepik Province.

Connecting two Pasi and Krisa rural communities in Bewani-Wutung Onei LLG of Sandaun Province, this 25 km road will serve more than 3,000 rural population.

Thirteen thousand plus villagers living in South Wosera and North Wosera LLGs, East Sepik Province, will also benefit from a road rehabilitation project started by ILO to improve the 31.6 KM Farm-to-Market Access Road connecting Patiko and Nuangawai rural communities, it includes 13,000 plus farming-dependant population who lives along this road.

The roads rehabilitation and maintenance projects implemented by the EU-STREIT PNG Programme will provide safe, reliable, and climate-resilient transport infrastructure to cocoa, vanilla and fishery-dependant farming communities in the Sepik region, facilitating agribusiness nourishment, people, goods and crops movements and better marketing for locally produced agri-food products.

“These roads are important since they help the trade and open business opportunities, market access and also help who provide services such as trucking and Public Motor Vehicle (PMV) operators for movement of people and goods,” said Mr Wesley Weli, Director of National Authorising Officer Support Unit, Department of National Planning and Monitoring. 

Likewise, these farm-to-market access roads are also a relief to villagers, particularly women and mothers who carry heavy loads and walk with their children for hours to the main highway to catch a PMV to town to sell their produce and get medical treatment.

“These roads are very important also in terms of enabling socioeconomic indicators, including health, education, and financial services. These roads also help local businesses and movement along the roads. These projects are a win for all fronts, for all people living around roads,” explained Mr Weli.

“We mothers feel the pain of carrying heavy garden produce as well as our sick children and walk this road for hours to the junction. If we’re lucky, we catch a PMV to town. If not, we walk back to the village and do the same thing the next day,” said Maria Mali, a mother of 11 children and grandmother of 12 grandchildren, living along Pasi-Krisa road in Bewani-Wutung Onei LLG.

Maria was part of about 500 villagers who celebrated the start of specific maintenance and Rehabilitation work on the Pasi Krisa road. She has been married for 45 years and shares the dilemma the women in the area face. She said there has been no proper maintenance on this road until the recent intervention by ILO under the European Union-funded STREIT Programme in Papua New Guinea.

The two roads rehabilitation and improvement projects will be completed in 12 months which include scarifying and reshaping of existing surface, spot re-gravelling, construction of reinforced concrete cement (RCC) box and pipe culverts, and gabion retaining wall as well as installation of crash barrier at different locations. The works also include erecting traffic signs and signages to increase visibility and ensure safety of passengers. 

Speaking at the ground-breaking ceremony to mark the start of Patiko-Nuangawai access road’s rehabilitation work, the EU-STREIT PNG Programme Coordinator, Dr Xuebing Sun said, “Road is the backbone of many rural infrastructure systems. Road provides assurance for the supply of the agricultural inputs, facilitates the delivery of the farm outputs to the markets, and assure your accesses to financing, health and education services. Road will also help you to strengthen competitiveness of your products in the market.  Sincere thanks to the EU for its generous funding support, I am really happy that after one year, this road can reach you. I want to request for your active support, contribution, and participation to this road project as much as possible. Sustainability and long-term use of the road through effective maintenance rely on you; you are the ones who are going to use and own this road.”

Calling on the community to support the road project, ILO’s Chief Infrastructure Specialist, Mr Shailendra Kumar Jha, said, “the contractor is willing to complete the whole roads with quality before the 12 months period, that will generate thousands of paid decent jobs for local community and youths, however community support and collaborations are must. The Road project will also transfer the skills to local youths for future use and employability.”

This Pasi-Krisa (25 km) & Patiko-Nuangawai (30.6 km) are two out of 15 selected rural roads in the Sepik totalling 264 km in length for rehabilitation/specific maintenance by ILO to support the market access initiative implemented by the FAO-led EU-STREIT PNG to boost agribusiness activities and cocoa, vanilla and fisheries value chains for an improved income and cash flow for the rural sector. The roads will also support other agricultural, business, markets, services, inputs and social and community activities and facilities like schools, aid posts and health centres that are in dire need of better accessible roads.

The EU-STREIT PNG, as a UN Joint Programme (FAO as the leading agency, and ILO, ITU, UNCDF and UNDP as partners), is the largest grant-funded Programme of the European Union in the country and the Pacific region. Being implemented in close cooperation with the National and provincial government institutions, research entities, civil society organisations, and private sector enterprises, the Programme aims to help improve the lives of the people from East Sepik and Sandaun provinces by focusing on increasing sustainable and inclusive economic development of rural areas through improved economic returns and opportunities from cocoa, vanilla and fishery value chains while strengthening and improving the efficiency of value chain enablers, including the business environment, and supporting sustainable, climate-resilient transport and energy infrastructure development. 

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