BYJEFFREY MANE FEBI
We’re they who walk with the strength of our grandfathers; those bygone men who had tamed angry rivers; appeased bellowing clouds and walked with mists. Our coffee beans shall not go to waste! Our coffee beans shall not go to waste! O no – no – no; shall not go to waste!
On many a rugged hill, where clouds most often than not come to watch and cry over them that rise on any given gloomy day with sweaty brows, blistered shoulders and burdened hearts; a father, a mother, or a child continues on a journey this day; a journey that began 38 years ago. The destination however seems further still.
On a rocky ridge where violent winds come to play, a mother firmly cuddles in her weary arms a package from which a pair of sickly eyes peered into her eyes; though devoid of animation, manifests life and all its flaws quiet dramatically. It is only a matter of steps before life itself is shut out.
At the foot of a ridge, way down below, over a fast flowing river, a rope bridge swings dangerously to the left then right under a massive load. A stretcher, of wood and reinforced used-rice bags, is being ferried across on shoulders; a step at a time.
One wrong step and death is inevitable. A skinny arm, like a dried tree bark, reaches out and attempts to grasp a side pole as if to steady the unsteady stretcher.
On a lookout, a resting place where multitudes have paused here to gaze and marvel at the beauty of the seemingly unending mountain ranges, waterfalls and the evergreen faces of those ranges; a teenager pulls out a piece of newspaper leaf from a side bag.
Before he rolls his dried tobacco leaves, he reads: …the gov…ern...ment… and stops. However the next word is pronounced and whatever the bloody hell it means isn’t going to harass his exhausted mind; not now. Soon he’ll be puffing his exhaustion into tiny circular and skinny columns of drifting mists of vapour.
These typify the struggles of many of our rural Eastern Highlanders. Places like Unavi, Gimi, Marrawaka, Unggai and Wesan, for instance are daily impoverished by the tyranny of our rugged terrains.
Other places in Papua New Guinea: Teleformin, Menyyama, and Salt-Nomane to name a few encounter similarly daunting circumstances.
The prevailing challenge is how to connect these largely organically rich and pristine areas to vital government infrastructure and or how to deliver vital government services to them on a daily basis.
Roads seem to be the answer at the outset however, over time PNG has learned that they become increasingly problematic due to neglect as we know. In addition, soil type, high tropical rain falls and sheer vastness of these ranges and the likely enormous costs of maintenance makes building roads an overwhelming challenge if it isn’t impossible.
This brings to mind railways and trains. Though untested technology in the PNG situation, it’s worth a try.
The next face of development and growth envisioned in the PNG Vision 2050 could ride on the back of trains and railways connecting the potentially rich and under-utilised rural Eastern Highlands and other rural areas of PNG.