Villagers in Choiseul Province are now enjoy- ing easy access to school and clinic compared to previous years, thanks to the Provincial Gov- ernance Strengthening Programme (PGSP). Under the programme’s Provincial Capacity De- velopment Fund (PCDF), a foot bridge was built over a river and mangrove that separated the Molevanga and Loemuni villages in Northwest Choiseul. PGSP is supported by the European Union, (EU), the United Nations Capital De- velopment Fund (UNCDF), United Nations Develop- ment Program (UNDP) and the Australian Govern- ment through RAMSI with counterpart fund from the Solomon Islands Government.
Its aim is to develop the capacity of the Ministry of Provincial Government and Institutional Strengthening (MPGIS) and the nine provincial governments to fulfill their mandates in either deliver- ing, or coordinating with line departments for the effective delivery of ser- vices. It is 15 year project be- ing implemented in three phases of five years with the goal of the reducing poverty in the rural areas and the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in the Solo- mon Islands.
School children are now enjoying the foot bridge every day to go to school without fear of falling into the river while cross using coconut trunks thrown across the river as a make- shift bridge. Mothers are now ac- cessing the health facili- ties without the difficulty of river crossing day and night to seek medical as- sistance.
Speaking to the media
They said about 200 stu- dents use the foot bridge to get to their school. Chairman of Molevanga community, Morris Raeta, said the walkway solved one of the common prob- lems encountered by every villager.
“The foot bridge serves us during the rainy season and at night when there is a need for us to cross over to the clinic especially preg- nant mothers. “Not only school chil- dren and mothers, but ev- eryone who needs to attend community programs or religious gatherings hap- pening in other villages,” MR Raeta said. He said the idea was ini- tiated by provincial mem- ber, who called everyone to meet. He said the communities were committed to start the bridge as they saw the said. Builder of the foot bridge, Nathan Kiloe said the bridge served about 500 people a day. “This bridge is serving a population of 3,000,” Mr Ki- loe said. He said it was a commu- nity contract where seven boys from the village were contracted to build the foot bridge.
“They were paid for their labour.” He said the community helped and supported the construction work. Mr Kiloe added the com- munity had agreed to con- tribute to the maintenance of the bridge next year. “They will be raising funds,” he said. A mother, Martha Galo from Molevanga village, said she has benefited a lot from the bridge.
The foot bridge.
Young boys crossing the foot bridge to attend a school graduation. team and officers from the UNDP/Ministry of Provin- cial Government and In- stitutional Strengthening that went to get feedback from the communities that benefited from the foot path, a villager Kennedy Saulalu said the footpath has helped them a lot. “The footpath is very useful for the communi- ties,” Mr Saulalu said. “Before the footpath was built, some parents usually rely on a canoe to get their children across whilst some of them made make-shift bridge using coconut trunks to get over to this end,” he added. Mr Saulalu however said apart from the footpath there is a need for a prop- er bridge to be built since Choiseul provincial capital Taro will be relocated to the mainland. Meanwhile, three teen- agers who used the foot bridge daily since it was built said it was now safer than previous years.
“Before the foot bridge was built, children would cross the river using the canoe or coconut trunks, which are not safe,” the trio said. They said when they used the coconut trunks some of the children fell and got injured and ended up in hospital. “Now we don’t have to wait for a transport (ca- noe) to take us across the river every morning. “Students can now go to school early.” need of it and therefore was built by the villagers. When asked about the number of population that benefited from the bridge, Mr Raeta said it was quite a high.
He however, added that the walkway now needs maintenance as the exten- sions are falling off due to exposure to the open weather. “We need assistance to maintain the bridge,” he said. “This really helps us mothers to go to our chil- dren while at school,” she said. “We are very happy that the bridge is built to eas- ily connect us to the health facility and school which is on the other side of the river.” Chief Lemias Manavata- na said the foot bridge was built last year after the funding was made available in 2011.
He added an original funding of $120,000 was increased to more than $200,000 due to the cost of the materials for the bridge. “We have already dis- cussed to build a shelter over the bridge to prevent rain and sun from damag- ing it,” Mr Manavatana said.
“The bridge was built on a swampy area and so the posts started to sink in.” Chief Manavatana said the bridge is a big achieve- ment for the community. “I’m happy that the mon- ey has been invested in the communities,” he said. He urged all the bridge users to take good care of it for everyone not to damage the bridge. “Bridge must be disman- tled at its own time. “The bridge has benefited a lot of people especially women and school children as anyone wanting to get across would have to go through the bridge.”
He said the communities will be doing maintenance on the bridge. “The communities will be fundraising to get money for the maintenance work. “I thanked the aid donors and our governments, com- munities and contractors.” Villagers from Molevanga crossing the foot bridge to get to Loemuni and other villages.