Rural development, or the lack of it, has been a protracted issue for past and present governments. Senior Writer MALUM NALU recently spent three days in Jiwaka, Western Highlands and Southern Highlands to check on the progress of World Bank’s Productive Partnerships Agriculture Project (PPAP) coffee projects and seized the opportunity to also update on infrastructure and rural development.
THE Williame Catholic Mission Station is located in South Wiru, Pangia, Southern Highlands, near the Gulf and Chimbu borders.
It has yet to realise the full potential of agriculture, especially in coffee production, because of the lack of roads.
Thomas … road bringing progress and socio-development to South Wiru, Pangia
Catholic priest Fr Francy Thomas has been in Williame since 2004 and is grateful that the peoples’ prayers had been answered with work on the 32km Pangia-Wiru Loop Road nearing completion.
“It used to take many backbreaking hours to walk to Pangia Station. Now it takes an hour, at the most, to drive on one of the best sealed roads in the country.
“I work with the people. I am part and parcel of the community that had suffered pain and hardship, striving to make a living to survive,” he added.
Thomas said: “It is very difficult to work and live in this part of Papua New Guinea (PNG). I have not seen a new coffee garden. Why?
“Another challenge is that we don’t have very clean, fresh water. The water we have may be polluted, which is why people get sick (daily).
“Another difficulty we are facing is getting high school education. I don’t know why it is being delayed.”
“Most people in PNG, including South Wiru, need education. The people have donated the land, we have registered the land, have done the paperwork.
“It is a need of the people here in South Wiru for socio-economic progress and development. Why was there no progress in rural development previously?”
Thomas said the South Wiru’s swampy land, when drained, could be used for agriculture. This will be a big way to help the rural folk.
“We have a primary school, a health centre and a church. We hope and believe that more better things will come to Williame.,” he added.
Thomas said before the road was built, it was a three-hour walk to Pangia through muddy and dangerous terrains. “All things like roofing iron and items for the school, health centre and church were carried here by the people. It was sheer hard work that the people had to put up with for enrichment, enhancement and development.
“I walk to other stations, about 15 of them, which take about five or six hours because there were no roads and we had to struggle and manoeuvre through bush land.
Thomas said about 350 students attended primary school up to Grade 8.
“We have 13 teachers for the school, six staff for the health centre,” he said, adding that the Catholic population of Williame Parish is about 3,500 (excluding other church denominations).
Along the Asian Development Bank-funded Pangia-Wiru loop road that is still under construction in Pangia, a flourishing coffee trade is taking place.
The construction of the road has rejuvenated interest in coffee cultivation that is being aggressively promoted by the World Bank under the PPAP.
“The last time I came here two years ago, there was no sealed road and this was where the road ended,” PPAP manager Potaisa Hombunaka said.
“It was a very bumpy road that took us well over two hours a trip, but today, it takes only 30 minutes. Coffee growers are bringing their coffee beans to this so-called ‘World Trade Centre’.
“I am so happy to be here to see the transformation of this place, by leaps and bounds, into a vibrant and robust economic market,” he added.
Piopo … the best coffee beans are cultivated in South Wiru
PPAP lead partner Daniel Piopo said the road was a game changer for coffee growers in Pangia.
“This is just one part of South Wiru. The bigger part of South Wiru, the most-populated area, is where the best coffee beans are cultivated.
“Most of the coffee in Pangia are from South Wiru. We buy bags of coffee parchment here which are carried by people from the hills and mountains.
“I am a parchment buyer taking the bags to Mt Hagen,” he added.
Kenneth Tom, who buys coffee on behalf of Piopo, said the road “is encouraging more farmers to deliver their produce for sale here”.
“The growers come from very remote parts of South Wiru. I buy about 150 bags a day, or about 1,000 bags a fortnight.
“The produce and supply are there but we need good infrastructure, like roads, to link the farmers to markets,” he added.
Pangia-Wiru 31.4km road link near completion
THE Asian Development Bank (ADB)-funded 31.4km Pangia–Wiru loop road runs from Ialibu to Pangia, just before the Pangia Station.
According to a Works Department report, the socio-economic game changing project for this remote area of PNG is being built by Chinese contractor COVEC.
The first 3.4km of the road is located in East Pangia and the next 28km is located in South Wiru, both in Pangia, Southern Highlands.
The road benefits villagers in Kauwo 1, 2 and 3 in council wards of East Pangia Local Level Government (LLG).
The other council wards in the loop are Poloko 1, Koiyapu, Laro 1, Kalane, Kaluwe 1, Kaluwe 2, Weriko, Maubinin, Kerapali, Tunda, Timbare, Mamuane and Powe in the Wiru LLG.
The road then traverses into Wala and ends at Kaborini, completing a loop.
The inhabitants of Pangia and Wiru depend entirely on agricultural production with more than 90% of the population being subsistence farmers.
Sweet potato, Irish potato and a wide-variety of greens grow very well but due to bad road conditions, they are not grown in large quantities.
Coffee is a prolific crop and the road also serves a cattle ranch located in the Wiru LLG.
Generally, the loop road will greatly enhance and improve travel and economic activities such as small enterprises, education, delivery of basic services and access to health services, market, etc.
The loop road is expected to stimulate significant growth and development potential, connecting the Highlands to Port Moresby, and an alternative transport route for the transport of petroleum and mineral resources from the Kutubu oil fields.
The loop road will facilitate better transport network, thus enhancing agricultural and mineral resources production and economic activities in the Highlands Region, comprising Jiwaka in Western Highlands, Hela in Southern Highlands, Enga and Chimbu in Eastern Highlands.
The Government of PNG (GoPNG) has made significant investment to improve the road network but a lack of or poor maintenance had resulted in the deterioration of the roads such as that of the Highlands Core Road Network (HCRN).
To address HCRN’s deterioration, the following measures need to be implemented:
- A SCEDULE of regular maintenance on all HCRN roads; and
- RESTORE all deteriorated roads and ensure they are regularly maintained.
The GoPNG has negotiated a Multi-tranche Financing Facility (MFF) with the ADB to implement the Highlands Region Road Improvement Investment Programme (HRRIIP).
The HRRIIP covers projects to improve the HCRN, the implementation of long-term maintenance contracts for the HCRN, and the capacity development of road agencies.
Tranche 3 comprises four road sections:
- THE upgrading and rehabilitation of Pangia-Wiru loop and Nipa-Munihu roads, both in Southern Highlands’ Gewa-Gembogl and Chimbu; and
- EASTERN Highlands’ Henganofi-Nipuru roads.
In total, 13 road sections are funded under the programme. The execution agency for the programme is the Department of Works while the Highlands Road Management Group is the implementation agency.
The contract for the improvement of Pangia-Wiru loop road project was awarded by the National Executive Council to COVEC via a contract signing on March 15, 2017.