Speaking during the official handing over of the Bareho-Tusungoete Footbridge by the Western Provincial Government (WPG), on 18th October 2023, Guest of Honour for the occasion, Provincial Minister for Planning, Hon. Alesina Redfern, stated that in the face of climate change challenges, a vital piece of infrastructure that connects the two communities has been successfully completed and officially handed over. The construction of the bridge was jointly funded by UNDP-Gov4res and the Solomon Islands Government (SIG).
Hon. Alesina stated that climate change is a global issue that is impacting negatively on the islands in the lagoons of Western Province. “The sea level rise has not only salinized fresh coastal water sources of our people but has also inundated low coastal lands that our people once depended on for food such as root crops”, he stated.
Despite these challenges, and without losing hope, with the little resources made available to the WPG through the assistances it gets from the government and its donor partners, the Province strives to make the life of the citizenry easier by making sure the much-needed services are delivered. He stated that the Bareho-Tusungoete Footbridge is such a vital service that connects the easy movement of the people in the two communities particularly women and children.
He informed the people of these communities, Bareho and Tusungoete of Nono Ward in the Marovo Lagoon of Western Province, that they deservedly have reasons to celebrate with joy, their new 18m x 1.2m footbridge that was funded by the SIG and Donor Partners through the much revered Provincial Government Capacity Development Fund (PCDF) of the Provincial Governance Strengthening Programme (PGSP) that is based at the Ministry of Provincial Government and Institution Strengthening (MPGIS).
Hon Alesina stated that, in 2020, Western Provincial Assembly approved priority projects related to climate change identified by the communities under UNDP’s Government for Resilience (Gov4Res). The Bareho-Tusungoete Footbridge is one such prioritised project that cost SBD510,060 with SBD260 from WPG PCDF, and SBD250,000 from UNDP’s Gov4Res.
Earlier, Chairman of the Ward Development Committee made a remarkable welcome of the guests, and commended the UNDP Gov4res, SIG, the MPGIS and the WPG for the collaborative effort and support that has culminated in the construction of the footbridge. He stated that the WDC is fully supportive of the efforts of the WPG to deliver services in the Province and conveys sincere gratitude of the two communities for their new footbridge.
Gilisi Palmer, the MC, a Community Leader, Spokesman for the Chief, and a former MPA for Nono Ward, entertainingly managed the ceremony job prudently much to the appreciative applauds of the guests, and participation from the supportive community.
The ribbon cutting ceremony was jointly performed by Hon. Alesina, Deputy Premier for WPG and Acting Premier, Cedrick Runikera, and former MPA for Nono Ward Gilisi Palmer since the MPA for the Nono Ward Hon. Eric Hitu sent apologies.
The handing over ceremony was indeed a momentous occasion in recognition of a milestone achievement of huge proportion to the two communities as indicated by the magnitude of the organisation of the ceremony generally speaking. Pathfinders did their popular matching drills as they escorted the guests upon arrival.
A feast of delicious Marovo special dishes were served as the guests were gifted with the popular Marovo pandanus woven fans under the unforgettable melodious farewell songs that emotionally impacted on the guests that were sung and performed by the youths of Bareho and Tusungoete.
Amongst the guests were the PCDF documentary team led by the Communication Officer for the PGSP, Baddeley Nukumuna. The team caught up with a couple of the beneficiaries of the footbridge and gauged their opinions on how the project is affecting the lives of them, the recipients.
Representing the Contractor, Mathew Garunu of SG Construction, told the team that he and his boys managed to complete the scheduled 3 months project in six weeks. He attributed this to the hard work of the additional 20 youths he recruited (10 from each side of the communities) to assist the 9 permanent employees he had. He said that this is the crutch of the matter, creating employment, gauging the support of the community, and completing the project with quality. He thanked the two communities citing them as a very good example that other communities should emulate. Mathew expressed his appreciation for the support of WPG technical team whom he referred as the engine room of the WPG in terms of implementing PCDF projects.
Hiulah Resepio, age 90, could not hide her excitement. She probably is oldest amongst the happiest people in the gathering. She stated that at least in her late life time she is witnessing what she called a milestone achievement. “I am excited and I am telling you people this little back etched lady shall trudge across the footbridge with her walking stick to reciprocate the daily visits paid by her grandchildren from Tusungoete. Ur hmmm, yes ,yes, I am going to walk over there”, she emphasised as if we were in disagreement with her.
Figure 7: Pathfinders making their way to the footbridge
In another chat , a 14-year-old grade 6 pupil, Brian Pita, stated that for him, the footbridge meant that he is not going to paddle from Tusungoete to attend schooling at Bareho any more as he can just walk or run over the bridge in order to attend classes. The bridge is now going to change the way he is going to school. Instead of paddling, or teetering on slippery stones, or wading across, with books and clothes on his head, he said, such he is now going to be a thing of the past.
Most of the people spoken to had narrated that risks associated with crossing the treacherous shallow water passage such as falling from slippery sticks and lime stones let alone the high tides and threats posed by floating crocs, are now minimised as people, especially women and children, can confidently walk across without fear whether in the day time or night time. Even when it rains, people can still walk across. The footbridge jointly funded by the SIG and UNDP Gov4res has changed life in the community may be not forever but at least for now and some more time to come.