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FEATURE STORY April 27, 2020

Fresh opportunities: How one refurbished road transformed the lives for PNG fishing families


Story highlights:

  • On the Magi Highway, travelling on potholed stretches of road prone to landslides costs villagers more money and time to access markets and other essential services.
  • Under the second phase of the World Bank and Papua New Guinea partnership project Road Maintenance and Rehabilitation (RMRPII), road stretching from Gavuone to Gemo villages has been refurbished.
  • Fishermen and farmers now have quicker, safer and more reliable road access connecting them to the income-generating markets in capital, Port Moresby.

Hula village, located on the Magi Highway in Papua New Guinea’s Central Province, to the west of the capital, Port Moresby, is a combination of surf, sunshine and coconut-fringed beaches. The village is generally abuzz with fishermen leaving or returning on motorized aluminum dinghies or airing out nets on stilts, and women cleaning fish or loading them into esky coolers to keep them fresh.

These scenes reflect what Hula is famous for throughout the country: the home of hardy fishermen and women, who are the leading suppliers of fresh fish to markets, restaurants and hotels in the capital.

But, these fishing families have, until recently, faced the grueling task of catching fish by night, before travelling the 115 kilometers to Port Moresby at the break of dawn on potholed stretches of road prone to landslides, and sometimes fatal accidents.

Fortunately, fishermen and farmers from communities in and around Hula now have quicker, safer and more reliable road access to the capital city of Port Moresby due to the second phase of the World Bank-funded Road Maintenance and Rehabilitation project (RMRPII). For these isolated rural communities market access is essential for their livelihoods and income, and the refurbished road is already delivering benefits.

"We are fishermen and farmers. We supply the capital city markets. The resealing of these roads is a blessing. This will also open access for improved education. And action on social issues – malaria awareness and mosquito net distribution, polio vaccination and other vital services and information."
Francis Temu
Ward Counsellor for Hula


Women from local villages in Central Province wear traditional dress to celebrate the re-opening of the Gavuone to Gemo Road section of the Magi Highway. 

Francis’ thoughts are echoed by Glenda Tegana, a villager from the remote community of Kamali, who arrived with a group of women in traditional attire and makini (headdress in hula) at the road’s recent re-opening ceremony. She explained how the quality of life of villagers has improved due to the refurbishment.

“We used to wake up as early as 4am to walk to the nearest pickup point to catch a PMV (Public Motor Vehicle),” Glenda explained. “With this road, the PMV will pick us up at our doorstep. We can now enjoy more comfortable and safer road trips.”

PNG’s National Works Minister, Michael Nali officially opened the resealed and upgraded road in a ceremony attended by hundreds of school children, local villagers and visitors.

“Roads are life changing infrastructure and I challenge you all to take ownership and help take care and maintain its condition,” said Minister Nali. “This will ensure it will continue to serve you for a long time to come.”

“Roads are a vital lifeline,” added Hedwig Kembek, Infrastructure Specialist for the World Bank, during the opening event. “Work such as the refurbishment of Hula Road ensures that communities can benefit from access to markets and more reliable connectivity for years to come.”

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Delivered as a partnership between the World Bank and the Government of PNG through the National Department of Works, the road that stretches from Gavuone to Gemo villages has been refurbished under the second phase of the US$169.5 million project. RMRPII is one of the World Bank’s biggest infrastructure projects in the Pacific region.

The project has, so far rehabilitated 170 kilometers of roads across PNG, with 55% of maintenance being provided by local contractors. Other roads rehabilitated through the project include the vital 50 kilometer East Cape Road in PNG’s picturesque Milne Bay, between Alotau and East Cape Point, the most easterly point of Papua New Guinea’s mainland.

The Road Maintenance and Rehabilitation project (RMRPII) is funded through the International Development Association (IDA), the World Bank’s fund for the world’s most in-need countries, with an additional US$30.5 million provided by the Government of Papua New Guinea.