Back in February, Sustineo’s Douglas Smith and Ellis Mackenzie finished up a successful venture to Wewak, East Sepik Province in Papua New Guinea (PNG). The trip formed the final stage of an impact assessment studying the socio-economic effects of upgrades to the Sepik Highway funded through the PNG-Australia Partnership. Sustineo was engaged by the Transport Sector Support Program (TSSP) to collect baseline data on economic and community activity related to key areas of the Highway, and to document impacts stemming from these upgrades since 2018.
The Highway forms a transit route connecting major towns in East and West Sepik Provinces, passing through the Sepik Basin where it serves 450,000 people. Smaller towns and remote villages off the highway depend on it for agricultural livelihoods, access to education and health services and business opportunities among other uses.
Figure 1: Map of the Sepik Highway
Due to the diversity of road users, and nearby communities that are affected directly and indirectly from the Highway, Sustineo has employed a mixed-methods approach to capture data on road use and local perceptions on the upgrades. In partnership with Anglo Pacific Research (APR), Sustineo designed a road user survey which was administered by APR research staff to obtain insights on perceptions, attitudes and practices around use of the Highway and potential impacts from its improvement. This has been supplemented with data from key local community and provincial institutions, as well as interviews with local organisations that use the road. Through analysis of this data, insights on factors such as travel time and costs, accessibility and safety, and potential livelihood opportunities that are enabled or restricted by the state of the road were obtained.
By documenting the social and economic changes of the Highway upgrades, Sustineo are helping to paint a clearer picture of the impacts that stem from infrastructure projects of this nature. The Highway plays a vital role in broader development for the region. Better connecting the local population through road transport infrastructure, like the Sepik Highway, is part of enabling access to markets and linking Papua New Guineans with the necessary services for meaningful livelihood opportunities.
If you would like to discuss our work as part project or other similar projects in PNG and the broader Pacific, please don’t hesitate to get in contact with Nicky at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow us on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.