LIBERIA: As High Powered Diplomatic, MPW Delegation Visit Totota Residents express Delight Over Village Access Road Project
Residents of Totota in Sanoyea Administrative District of Bong County, specifically residents of Nassah Town and surrounding towns and villages are overly excited over the completion of some miles of roads constructed by Ministry of Public Works along with local man power with funding by the Government of Sweden under the Village Access Road Project (VAR).
Since 2021, the Government of Liberia (GoL) through the Ministry of Public Works, with funding from the Swedish Government, and technical support from the German Cooperation for International Development (GIZ) through the GIZ Capacity Development in the Road Sector, has been constructing the Village Track Access Road Project targeting three counties, namely: Bong, Lofa, and Nimba.
The project was launched on December 10, 2021, giving way for the construction of 300kilometers; Bong 70km, Lofa 100km, and Nimba 130km of track roads. Currently, nearly 200km of roads have been constructed or rehabilitated under the project. The Project outcome or purpose involves the improvement of access roads which has brought about the maintenance of feeder roads. Basically, the project was carved from “Liberia Swedish Feeder Road Project (LSFRP) 3” with the aim of connecting towns and villages where feeder roads have not reached.
Accordingly, as the Swedish Ambassador to Liberia Urban Sjöström on Wednesday, June 7, 2023 led a high power diplomatic delegation comprising German Ambassador Dr. Jakob Haselhuber, the Head of the European Union to Liberia Ambassador Laurent Delahousse and a host of other diplomats along with officials from MPW reached Nassah Town, residents gathered under a kitchen to sing praises to the country’s international partners for their direct and meaningful involvement in their country’s development process.
They labeled the VAR project as a blessing to them because it has helped them in different ways including easy access to healthcare services, education and economic boost as they can now transport their farms produce to the market without getting rotten like it was in the past.
“You made us to see light; you reduced our suffering. We used to carry heavy loads on our heads for long distances. Sometimes we stayed on the bush road until our market got rotten. But now, we have access to cars and bikes and we are getting the best from our yields,” said Ma Sienneh Binda, who spoke through an interpreter.
“We have been struggling since rock of ages. We used carry people in hammocks to the hospital. Now we are getting the best out of our crops. Our crops are not spoiling again. This road is a blessing for us. Motorbikes are now able to enter our towns and it’s a blessing to you. We will continue to give you thanks and praises,” stated Ma Nyia Noker, who also spoke through an interpreter.
Isaac Vaye, Technical Advisor on the project, indicated that the VAR project is intended to increase access to road connectivity for towns and villages that are outside of the feeder road project.
“This is intended for communities outside of feeder roads to get access to social services. We have done almost 200 kilometers in Bong, Nimba and Lofa Counties. The good thing about this project is that it gives income to the local people. About 60 percent of the funding are used on labor and contractors are from the project communities. Through this, people are being able to send their children to school and farmers are getting benefits of their farms,” Mr. Vaye told the gathering and subsequently during an interview with reporters.
“There were lots of lessons learned and benefits. We also worked along with the community colleges. We recruited from those communities colleges including BWI. Right now, we have three local contractors who are now well knowledgeable of the job details. As we speak, we have a manual which is about to be adopted by the Ministry of Public Works as a standard for VAR. and I can tell you, these roads are three to four times less expensive than the US$45,000 for one mile of feeder roads before. We are using these VARs to connect feeder roads,” he asserted.
Swedish Ambassador accredited to Liberia, Urban Sjöström, told local dwellers that the project is about Liberia and for Liberians to be able to access education, healthcare services and development.
“You have done a great job by constructing these roads. This is a long journey we have arrived at. It’s about Liberia, and for Liberians to access education, health and development and these are the steps. We are happy to be here because you are taking care. Thank you for the partnership with the Ministry of Public Works and the EU. This will show to other communities how they can be developed. I am impressed by the beautiful construction of these beautiful roads. Sweden, as a development partner, is pleased to help the Government of Liberia in its development initiatives to improve lives. This is a process that started since 2009,” the Swedish envoy explained.
Like any other diplomat at the occasion, German Ambassador Dr. Jakob Haselhuber was also impressed about the project.
“I am deeply impressed for yhe cooperation between the people and the Ministry. This is a benefit for the locals because it will generate income for the local population, who was involved,” he added.
Benjamin Bantoe, Deputy Minister for Rural Development at the Ministry of Public Works, said the project would be replicated to other counties when the needed funding is made available.