A partnership of government and international development agencies today announced a $24 million grant package which aims to improve access to markets, health and education services among rural and urban households in Solomon Islands through an expansion of the Solomon Islands Road Improvement Project (SIRIP).

The package, comprising a US$15 million grant from the Asian Development Bank (ADB), an initial US$2.9 million from the Australian Government through the Pacific Region Infrastructure Facility, and an expected US$3.34 million equivalent from the European Commission, will finance the replacement or upgrading of about 30 water crossings, reconstruction of about 20 kilometres of roads as well as selective road relocations for climate change adaptation across three provinces. The Solomon Islands Government will contribute US$1.16 million equivalent toward the project.

Climate change adaptation is a key feature of SIRIP. Solomon Islands and other low-lying Pacific island countries are considered to be the most at risk from projected rises in sea level and natural disasters. Roads and bridges to be reconstructed under the project will be rebuilt to withstand these extreme weather events.

SIRIP will continue to provide opportunities for rural communities to participate in labour-based road maintenance, where local community groups use simple tools and equipment rather than large machines to do basic road maintenance work such as clearing vegetation, filling potholes, and ensuring good drainage. As well as creating jobs and cash incomes for both women and men in rural areas, this approach provides skills training and business opportunities for small-scale contractors to help develop the nascent private sector.

The floods, which devastated parts of the northwest area of Guadalcanal in Solomon Islands in early 2009, have made life much harder for rural people in the affected areas. The rehabilitation of roads and bridges is therefore essential for re-connecting communities to markets and social services and sustaining economic activities in the area.