New foot-crossing to improve access to market for Nadi farmers

Caption: Assistant Minister for Rural and Maritime Development and Disaster Management Hon. Jovesa Vocea with community members from Bila in Nadi at their newly commissioned foot-crossing.

SUVA – Farmers in the small sugarcane farming community of Bila in Saunaka, Nadi believe the construction of their new community foot-crossing would help boost their business and ensure easier access to markets for them.

Funded under the Ministry of Rural and Maritime Development and Disaster Management’s Footcrossing, Footpaths and Footbridges (CARFF) Programme, the Bila Foot-crossing Project was completed at a cost of more than $40,000.

Sugarcane farmer Mr. Ashwant Lal has been residing at Bila Settlement for about 35 years. A farmer at heart, Mr Lal plants sugarcane and vegetables to support his family. He is one of many farmers who supply fresh farm produce to the Namaka and Nadi markets. Since 2012, he said, farmers in the area had been facing a lot of difficulties in accessing the markets to sell their produce.

“We used to have a proper crossing here before, but it was unfortunately washed away in a flood in 2012. We had constructed a temporary crossing, but was still of concern to us because of the risk it posed. Since then, we have had to go a long way to gain access to school for our children, markets for us farmers, and other basic services such as going to the hospital, and other things. With the absence of a proper Footcrossing to link us to the main road, it would take us more than one hour to get to the other side. But we are thankful to the Government because, with this new foot-crossing, it will only take us around 20 minutes to get to the main road. It’s made it very easier for us farmers, and especially our children,” Mr Lal said.

Before the construction of the foot-crossing, the community of Bila used to encounter a lot of problems, especially with accessibility, most particularly the school children who would struggle daily to reach school as they had to walk a distance to be able to reach a place where they can board the bus or find any available transportation. Vulnerable groups also used to face a similar issue as they had to walk to be able to receive essential services. This had become a burden to the majority of the elderly people residing in the area which had led them to request the Government to assist them in getting the road and access fixed.

Assistant Minister for Rural and Maritime Development and Disaster Management Hon. Jovesa Vocea said this assistance by the Government will boost production for the farming community in Bila.

“This will provide an easier way of getting to town, and ease transportation access for the general public here. We are also confident that this new foot-crossing will benefit our students a lot as they now have an improved and safer means of getting to school, and farmers will also be able to access the markets easily. The Coalition Government is committed to ensuring access to markets, schools, and other essential services for our communities, and I am pleased that this project truly showcases the essence of this commitment,” Hon. Vocea stated.

More than 160 people from 41 households will benefit from the project.

Caption: Assistant Minister for Rural and Maritime Development and Disaster Management Hon. Jovesa Vocea cuts a ribbon to mark the commissioning of the Bila Community Footcrossing Project in Nadi.