PENTECOST KAVA FARMERS STRUGGLE WITH POOR ROADS

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Heavy bags carried by foot to main road for export

PORT VILA, Vanuatu (Vanuatu Daily Post, Nov. 5, 2008) - Pentecost is arguably Port Vila’s main supplier of Vanuatu kava but the people on that island have probably the worst roads compared to any other islands in the country, the Daily Post found out.

And although the island has produced two Vanuatu Prime Ministers since 1980 people on the island still curse their government for not listening to their pleas for road maintenance.

[PIR editor’s note: Pentecost Island is located north of Efete, Vanuatu’s main island. ]

Some of the potholes are as big as the size of an earth oven with a two meter radius. The Daily Post found out that when it rained the road conditions were so deteriorating that even if there was an emergency; trucks could not use the road.

Many of their educated people hold jobs that can influence public policy decisions in Port Vila yet the average Pentecost kava farmer on the island must walk one to two kilometers with an 80 kg of kava [176 pounds] to the main ‘road’. That’s if he has only one bag of kava.

The Port of Batnapni alone exports 200-300 bags of kava to Port Vila each week, meaning that a farmer sends about five to six bags of kava each week when an inter-island cargo vessels calls at their port.

Several years back when the Malogu Company was operational on the island, Pentecost alone was bringing millions of much needed foreign exchange into Vanuatu with kava exports to Europe and the United States of America. But the roads on the island which the recent MV Tina 1 spent 12 hours primarily to collect kava last week was never a priority for those previous governments.

The kava brought from the island to Port Vila puts food on the table and pays school fees for some average families in the Capital yet the road on Pentecost is still not priority number one for the government.

Deputy Prime Minister Ham Lini told the Daily Post just before Prime Minister Edward Natapei announced his cabinet in Parliament that he has been told by the Chinese that they are willing to fund road constructions on Pentecost.

Now it’s up to the government to make follow ups on that request otherwise one of the island that has arguably contributed to the economy of Vanuatu may still have bumpy roads for many years yet to come.

Cynics in Port Vila say if the government can not repair the roads at Anaburu, Ohlen and Beverly Hills how can they repair the roads on Pentecost.

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