For almost 40 years, the people of Simbai in the Middle Ramu District walked for two weeks to access basic services in the provincial capital of Madang.
Access to road networks has always been a problem for these mountain people of Madang, who share a land ‘Order with the people of Western Highlands, Jiwaka and Enga.
In May this year, the Member for Middle Ramu, who is also Minister for Agriculture and Livestock, presented a cheque of K3. 8 million to the Works Department to improve the Madang-Simbai road.
With any development comes social di’Order, something which the people of Simbai have been warned to prepare for.
In this part of the highlands of Madang, road networks are vital in accessing basic services.
In the early 1980’s when logging companies began operations, people used the access roads but that was difficult for them due to high transportation costs, plus other related problems.
This meant no market opportunities for the highland subsistence farmers.
In May this year, Member for Middle Ramu Tommy Tomscoll presented a cheque of K3.8 million to the Works Department to rehabilitate the Madang-Simbai road.
The first section of the road from Madang to Umerum was constructed by a logging company, Woodbank, while the section of road from Umerum through to Pasingkap to Ramu River, will be constructed by MK Civil Works & Construction.
The 20-man team is led by Project Manager Donald Poli.
Last week, Mr. Tomscoll and his Secretary Dr. Vele Pat Ila’ava were accompanied by Madang Governor Jim Kas to launch the 20 kilometre road project, plus new machinery for road works.
The Madang-Aiom Simbai road through Pasingkap to Ramu River, is one of the country’s missing road networks the O’Neill-Dion government want to re-open, among others.
However, social problems and the influx of people can hinder development. The local MP told his people to be prepared for the changes in one of the country’s soon-to-be busiest roads.
Madang Governor Jim Kas said the Madang-Simbai road is an alternative route to the highlands provinces and vice versa.
His provincial government is aware of the consequences, thus 50 police houses will be constructed at Umerum. Negotiations are currently underway with the police department. In the meantime, Governor Kas warned the people not to sell their land to outsiders.
For the local people, they believe the Madang-Simbai road is divine intervention, as they have been praying for it.
The construction of the Umerum-Pasingkap road through to Ramu River is expected to be completed before the launch in September by Prime Minister Peter O’Neill.
Apart from the road project, the people now have a chance to grow their own cocoa and rubber seedlings following the launch of the project by DAL Secretary Dr. Vele Pat Ila’ava.
Local MP and Minister for Agriculture Tommy Tomscoll said for the highland villagers, the Middle Ramu district authority will purchase a mini coffee processor at the cost of K9, 900. It will be commissioned on July 19 by Prime Minister Peter O’Neill.
Middle Ramu district was given an export licence and with the improved road network, coffee farmers will be able to take their green beans to town and export them directly, saving themselves some valuable kina.
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