Can CDF truly improve rural people’s lives?

The struggle to meet the demands of their voters but at the same time trigger ‘development’ is an ongoing issue for anyone who wants to represent their people at National level, and this national election is no different.

With less than three days left before Solomon Islanders to go to the polls to choose their national leaders for the next four years, development is a key word being used by all candidates. But what truly triggers development?

Our team travelled to parts of the Western Province to hear and see if the Constituency Development Fund or CDF has had impact or is actually triggering development.

It is accepted that to have true development the following are the basic requirements, Governance and Political Stability, Investment in Education, Infrastructure Development, Economic Diversification and Industrialization, Social Inclusion and Empowerment and finally Environmental Sustainability, in this order.

An elder of Rarumana, Ronald Kere said, “two years ago, a few knifes and axes were received and with one axe shared between 10 to 11 households, we also received a fisheries project with a solar fridge but it’s not working anymore. We were promised help with our seaweed project but nothing happened but that’s the most important project. People earn and it gets exported.”

Dried seaweeds in Rarumana, Western province. Photo credit : MAVIS PODOKOLO.

He says, “Another thing is the committees being set up to help manage the funds, nobody knows who they are and there seems to be more than one, there is no transparency.”

The communities also raised the fact that the police and provincial services do not tour around because of the lack of funds for fuel and outboard motor engines. Meanwhile schools, health clinics, water and housing remain on the priority list for those in the villages.

Alex Viqa of Rarumana says, “Our children have the right to be educated in a good environment but nothing has been done for our schools.”

At the same time the needs of those residing in Noro and Munda remain quite different from those further out in the villages within the Roviana region.

“All the developments you see in Noro and Munda have not been driven by CDF but by the private sector, what does this tell us, we need more educated people. Our schools must be given millions from the CDF,” says Corina Leve a Munda resident who is a New Zealand graduate teacher.

The Noro Munda highway was built after years of business owners suffering trying to move between the two towns with the bad road. And when it was finished it changed the game for all who were running businesses; however potholes are appearing on the road again.

“Sustainability is a big problem for us, our government needs to budget for the maintenance of the roads it has, but its reflective of the calibre of leaders we chose to lead the country, “ Ms Leve says.

The western province is littered with 60 year coconut plantations, this was a big earner for the province in the 70s, 80s and 90s. However tourism grew, the tuna factory was established, and tree plantations sprouted, seaweed planting began which diversified the revenue base of the province.

“This is all good, but we need educated people to keep this growth, but our leaders are ignoring this important tool for development, women, youth and anyone can make it if given the right education and opportunities, “ Ms Leve points out

 Alex of Noro says, “if we all work together then we will achieve the outcomes we want as a constituency and province.”

With its many beautiful islands and world class diving sites, safeguarding the environment is integral to the development of the area. Logging must be stopped and other revenue sources must be sought to maintain revenue at the same time protect the future of the generations to come.

It is therefore important that there is effective governance, investment in education and infrastructure, economic diversification, social inclusion, and environmental sustainability to be the key catalysts driving progress in the Roviana region. By addressing these interconnected challenges holistically and fostering partnerships among governments, civil society, and the private sector, regions can unlock their full potential and pave the way for a more equitable future.

BY DOROTHY WICKHAM, MAVIS PODOKOLO, IRWIN ANGIKI

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