I would like to comment in support of the points raised by Jack Waisi regarding the proposed engagement of local manpower in the construction of roads in Makira, under the current multi-million road improvement project.

I can concur with Jack that while using local manpower to construct roads has its own merits, I think its benefits are very minimal compared to the amount of energy required to construct good roads that are safe, and would last for a longer period of time. I would like to think that roads that are constructed with the aid of proper machinery and well qualified engineers and road construction workers should be the trend in road construction in this day and age. Hence, the option to use local manpower needs to considered carefully, if the goal is to build proper roads that would sustain the livelihood and needs of the people the roads intend to serve over a long period of time. This is not to say that we do away with local manpower altogether, but to use local manpower where necessary, but use machines and qualified people to do the bulk of the job required in any proper road construction project.

I have witnessed firsthand the use of local manpower to construct roads in my community up in Central Guadalcanal in the 1990s. I think that project might have been funded by EU or AusAid? I could recall that during that time most of the men, and some women from my village were involved in digging drains and hillsides using spades, forks, picks, hoes, mattocks, and wheelbarrows to construct a road that would serve the people who live further up in the hills from my village. It was a strenuous job and the men/women who were engaged in this manpower road construction project would be so tired at the end of each day that they have no energy to make food gardens for their families. Instead, they spent the little they earn from the road construction to pay for rice and taiyo, and nothing else to improve their livelihood. At the end of the project a lot of families were left hungry because they ran out of money, and had to wait for months for their gardens to produce food, before they could return to their normal village lifestyle again.

The road they constructed reached the last village up in the hills, all right, but the road was too steep and prone to accidents. Furthermore, the drains they dug were no match for the torrential down pour regularly experienced in the central part of Guadalcanal. In fact, a number of accidents happened along that stretch of road during the few months when it was in use, and many village people were badly injured. The fact of the matter is that local manpower do not have the capabilities to level hills and dig through rocks, even though how hard they may try. Only proper machines and qualified people would build good roads that are well drained, and bridges that would connect roads to interior villages in our Islands. Hence, if the current multi-million road development project intends to make a difference in the lives of rural people in Makira, and other parts of SI for that matter, they should consider using more machines and qualified road workers, and less local manpower. It is about time that people in our rural areas have access to proper roads and bridges that are built by qualified engineers, with the aid of proper tools and machines.