New road upgrade to address access struggles

Caption: Adi Vanioni holds her second child with a coconut basket that she uses to carry her eldest daughter when they walk from Natewa Village to Tagaqe Village.

Adi Vanioni no longer has to trek up a river for three hours to get to their farm at Natewa Village in Nadroga where she currently resides with her husband and their two children.

Located in the hinterlands of the district of Koroinasau in Nadroga, Natewa Village is the ancestral home of more than 10 families who currently reside at Tagaqe Village in Nadroga.

These families have plans to re-establish their village which their forefathers once called home at Natewa Village.

Ms Vanioni and her husband are among the many families who plan to permanently relocate to Natewa Village in the near future.

“We started our farm at Natewa in 2019. During that time we used to trek up the river to get to the farm. In 2020, when I was pregnant with my eldest daughter we used to trek up the river with my husband to get to the farm which is at Natewa Village. During these journeys, whenever there would be heavy rain and the river gets flooded, we would then have to look for a slope next to the river bank to wait for the water to recede before we could continue our journey up the river again,” said the mother-of-two.

Former hotel worker Mr. Kinijoji Sarai grew up wading up the same river to get to their original home at Natewa Village with his father during the school holidays.

“Our forefathers left our original village site at Natewa during a measles outbreak in the 1800s. Before my late father’s passing, he had this intention to return to our ancestral home at Natewa. During that time, my late father would take us up to the old village site at Natewa, and we would have to also trek up the river to get there. Sometimes, we would go alone and his only advice to us would be to stay away from the river whenever there is heavy rain. This would mean that we would be stranded on the banks of the river to wait until the water recedes before we could continue with our journey to and from the village. It was a very hard time. Ever since then, we had always longed for a road to make accessibility easier to the village,” recalled Mr Sarai.

Caption: Former hotel worker Mr. Kinijoji Sarai with other villagers of Tagaqe in Nadroga and staff members based at the Office of the Commissioner Western Division at the newly upgraded Natewa Community Access Road in Nadroga.

To help these families with their long-term plan, the Government, through the Ministry of Rural and Maritime Development and Disaster Management partnered with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Governance for Resilience (Gov4Res) Project to upgrade a 6-kilometre road that will improve accessibility for these families to get to their new home.

“When I had my first child in 2020, my husband and I decided that we just go and live at our farm. With this new development to the Natewa Village road, it has helped us a lot especially for me as a mother. Now, during good weather, we just need to walk for an hour to get from our farm to our home at Tagaqe Village or when a car comes up to the farm, we will be lucky enough to have our farm produces transported in a vehicle to be sold at the Sigatoka Market. These are some of the good things that this new development has brought to us. We are very happy and relieved at the same time,” added Ms Vanioni.

The road upgrade which was completed at a cost of more than $50,000 also incorporated risk-informed measures that will ensure the sustainability and resilience of the infrastructure.

This joint investment by Government and the UNDP is envisaged to not only improve access, but also provide the beneficiaries with opportunities to tap into other potential areas such as eco-tourism, commercial agriculture, etc.

“The reason we had been wanting to have this road development as well is that we know the potential available at Natewa. We know there is potential in farming, livestock farming, eco-tourism, and other opportunities. We are looking at tapping into these areas as part of our plan to move back to our ancestral home at Natewa,” Mr Sarau said.

Nadroga businessman Mr. Apenisa Vunaitasiri is one of the many who have confidently ventured into livestock farming following the upgrade of the Natewa Community Access Road.

Mr Vunaitasiri owns Heniua Restaurant along the Coral Coast. However, due to the economic impacts felt by the business due to COVID-19 in 2020, he decided to have a try at agriculture.

“In order to utilise the land, the only thing that has to be improved is access and we are thankful that this has been done,” he said.

With improvement to access to and from his farm, Mr Vunaitasiri now owns 40 goats and 2 sheep, and has also ventured into yaqona farming.

“I have plans to commercialise my livestock farm and I hope to get some assistance from the relevant agencies such as the Ministry of Agriculture.”

Caption: Nadroga businessman Mr. Apenisa Vunaitasiri at his goat farm situated on the way to Natewa Village in the district of Koroinasau in Nadroga.