Beating odds in rural-urban drift


RURAL-urban migration drift is caused by the poverty push-pull factors. It is a social phenomenon which remains a growing concern to authorities the world over.
In PNG the harsh tropical conditions, dispersion of rural populations, multicultural backgrounds and the decrepit road conditions are but few of the hindrances driving poverty.
In a report – Urbanisation – by, authors Hannah Ritchie and Max Roser revealed that “more than four (4) billion people live in urban areas globally … it is projected that by 2050 close to seven (7) billion will live in urban areas”.
It noted that 2007 was the year of that change which the United Nations acknowledged, declaring its 11th Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) to “making cities inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable”.

Win Paiale Elo

In spite of this, there is equally increasing antipathy among the civil society in the major town and cities in PNG that calls for the Government to impose the Vagrancy Act that targets vagrants mostly unskilled youths who are usually blamed for the adrenalines of crime and anti-social behaviour in the ever sprouting shanty settlements and to exclude them from the city strata.
It is yet a difficult decision for the authorities. Already, the PNG Supreme Court has ruled that the Vagrancy Act is unconstitutional. Also, the PNG Constitution prohibits discrimination and protects freedom of movement and choice of the people.
Nonetheless, the prevailing tendency is becoming an accepted norm going forward than a decade ago. In the National Capital, Governor Powes Parkop is promoting “An Amazing Port Moresby” campaign where everyone is to live together in peace and harmony and “Keep Port Moresby clean … our city, our home”.
Women and girls’ rights and public safety remain the driving agenda for the City Government. On Mar 8, Governor Parkop together with the deputy Prime Minister, Davis Steven hosted the visiting United Nations’ Deputy Secretary General – Amina Jane Mohammed for the official launching of the USD$20 million or PGK68.15 million Spotlight Initiative which coincided with the International Women’s Day celebrations in Port Moresby.
This multi-year partnership program by the United Nations and the European Union (EU) aims to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls by 2030.
It is an adaptability world Governments are embracing. Hypothetically, such an approach aims to address at least two issues within the drift syndrome and poverty alleviation:
Control and manageability: When the majority of population live together in a civilised community, government can easily provide essential services to them;
Economic opportunities: Employment and business spin-offs (micro, small and medium enterprises) will unleash which in turn will contribute meaningfully to the economy.
Settlements in PNG therefore are not merely “breeding grounds for criminal” as many perceive. On the other side of the coin it is a place of solace. It is ground zero where one invigorates and rejuvenates his inner faculties.
Public servants and private sector employees live in settlements and going to work every day. There housing rentals are much affordably cheaper and rents are paid to grass root landlords who also are residents there compare to the extravagant real estate companies which many are foreign owned.
With the never ending price hike and high cost of living in the towns and cities, settlements provide alternative ‘less questions asked’ lending facilities for the cash strapped working class compare to the financial institutions and commercial banks.
The Government’s bankability and financial inclusion agenda finds more space in settlements than anywhere else when grassroots scoop cash from street sales and marketing – often fending against the police – before opening an account and bank their money.
This is true for the 23 year old Win Paiale Elo from the Morata suburb in Port Moresby. With just K25 as starting capital, Win alias “Bubu Tumbuna” ventured into starting a tucker shop after selling buai and loose cigarettes on the streets. The starting capital was the left over from his finished pay as a security guard. He never looked back since. Today, he has a healthy bank account and has plans to find a girl of his dream and settle down.
Win is a living testimony of a ‘rags to riches’ story of a struggling village boy from Hela province who beats the odds in finding his spot in the extravagance of city life.
After leaving grade 10 at Koroba high school (Hela province) in 1997, Win missed out on tertiary education as he joined tens of thousands of school leavers who flock our streets every year with a gloomy future.
Life was even difficult especially when you are a fourth born among six siblings of a third wife. Polygamy is an acceptable culture in the highlands and so his father, Paiale Elo married seven wives with a total of 32 children. His father was a former Koroba-Lake Kupiago Open Member of Parliament between 1977 and 1982, representing some 140,000 people.
From his tiny Dilini hamlet in remote Lake Kupiago LLG, roads to Koroba, Tari or Mendi are impassable. Works Minister, Michael Nali describes it as “you must always mark your wheels on the logs firmly or you will fall off the logs and get stuck for days,” he told EM TV news in a recent interview.
Win had farmed between 7,000 and 10,000 chickens, he also did fishery, coffee and engaged in other village based agri-businesses with the hope of raising funds to further his education. But all of that was to no avail because of the terrible road conditions notwithstanding regular highway robberies which often create fear. This was detrimental to his efforts and other genuine hardworking villagers.
Win migrated to Mendi, Hagen and Goroka between 2005 and 2009 in pursuit of university matriculation studies. Again, his hope was shattered and studies abandoned due to lack of funds. Life’s like closing in on him.
He returned to Koroba and wanted to re-enrol in grade 10 but the principal lamented that you been out of school for over 12 years, you might as well refresh at grade 9. For which he refused.
Port Moresby, the city of opportunities, he told himself. In 2013, this Dilini lad got on a plane and never looked back.
For him, rural-urban migration was not to be understood. Even if he did, does it matter? Win was set in all faculties of mind; find an opportunity and grab it!
He did and today life is bustling. Nothing else matters from here except the ‘sky is the limit’.

  • Cyril Gare is a freelance writer.

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