Written by Hadi Bah    PDF Print E-mail
A new Matru to Bendu road may well revolutionize the quality of life in Bonthe District
News - Society

The construction of a new road or rehabilitation of the existing one between Matru Jong and Bendu Cha located opposite Sherbro (Bonthe) Island at the extreme end of southwestern Sierra Leone could revolutionize the quality of life for hundreds of citizens.

roadTo travel in this region of Sierra Leone is like traveling during the era of Caucasian District Commissioners who moved around in hammocks borne on the heads of African bearers. Palm trees and their products dominated economic life then, palm trees and their products dominate economic life now, along with some cassava and rice cultivation. But the sense of economic despondency is such that even the palm kernels and cassava produced here are transported elsewhere for processing into palm oil and "gari." A palm kernel mill in the region was abandoned decades ago.

The obligatory well dug by compassionate non-governmental organizations is a guaranteed feature in the center of many villages, openings surrounded by banana, palm and mango groves. Commercial activity is rare, there is no food, not even fruits for sale. The occasional traveler is therefore advised to come with their own bread.

Sparsely populated, this is a part of Sierra Leone where a vast amount of empty, fertile land sits uncultivated. While people in Freetown stand in queues for taxis and poda-podas in the morning, here men and women can be seen, cutlass in hand, heading to their farms. While kids in Freetown hawk bread and other items by chasing after vehicles, here, children trekking miles to school run into the bushes when the occasional vehicle slows down next to them.  While citizens in other parts of SL fret about mobile phone rates, the Sierra Leoneans here have to stand at specific spots at specific times to get coverage. In this frontier, Mende is the principal language, a greeting of "Kushe" in Krio is always answered by a cheerful "Buwa" in Mende.

A decent road from Matru to Bendu could relieve the region of its sense of abandonment and isolation. A new road will bring Bonthe as close to mainland Sierra Leone as Kissy in Freetown is from Targrin (Lungi) because Bendu is less than an hour away by boat from Sherbro Island. The new road will act as a magnet for people wishing to invest in much needed palm oil and cassava mills. With many people eating a meal of locally produced rice only after having to work hard to separate the grain from the husk, rice mills will be most welcomed. With a new road, mobile phone towers, now non-existent will become new symbols of modernity on the landscape and provide villagers with much needed means of communicating with the rest of the world.

Perhaps kids will be less inclined to run into the bush when vehicles approach if they have smartphones.