MANILA, PHILIPPINES - The Asian Development Bank (ADB) and Japan are assisting Papua New Guinea (PNG) to boost economic opportunities and improve living conditions, especially for women, in remote roadside communities in the Highlands region.

A grant of US$2 million from the ADB-administered Japan Fund for Poverty Reduction will be used to rehabilitate access roads and other rural infrastructure in eight communities in Southern Highlands and Enga Provinces. The 80 kilometers of roads, which will be identified, upgraded and maintained by the communities themselves, will link up with a major road network being built under ADB's Highlands Region Road Investment Program.

At least 400 community members will undergo skills training so they can make use of opportunities offered by the improved road networks. Skills in road work and maintenance, literacy, small-scale agricultural and animal husbandry, marketing and micro-enterprise, and home-based food processing skills will be developed through the project.

A broad range of programs will also be provided to raise awareness of road safety and health issues such as sexually transmitted diseases, HIV, reproductive health, violence, and alcoholism. The programs will target vulnerable groups, including women and the unemployed.

"The project will focus on some of the least-developed areas of Papua New Guinea and will contribute significantly to economic growth and poverty reduction. While it is a pilot project for community participation in the Highlands region, we hope it can be replicated in other areas by the Government," says Sakiko Tanaka, Social Development Specialist with ADB's Pacific Department.

Along with the grant from the Government of Japan, the Government of Papua New Guinea and the targeted communities will provide in-kind contributions of $120,000 and $60,000 respectively, for a total project cost of $2.18 million. PNG's Department of Works will be the executing agency.