Archive for May, 2012

Source: The National, Thursday 31st May, 2012

By ARMSTRONG SAIYAMA of Divine Word University
THE remote Teptep district of Madang province has the potential to become the food bowl of Papua New Guinea.
Teptep district rural development officer Susan Kui said local farmers produced more than 700kg of fruits and vegetables every week.
Teptep is located in the Finisterre Range, an area that is difficult to reach, at the border of Madang and Morobe provinces.
It has a temperate climate and rich soil to cultivate Arabica coffee, tobacco leaves and many temperate fresh and organic highlands fruits and vegetables.
“The Teptep people are hard working and they grow coffee and fresh, organic highlands fruits and vegetables,” Kui said.
The people live in a subsistence economy and cultivate sweet potatoes as staple food.
Taro, banana, sugar canes and the local leafy vegetables are also grown by the villagers to supplement their diet.
She said the people were venturing into cultivating fruits and vegetables to sell in major supermarkets and hotels in Madang town.
“They grow highlands fruits and vegetables such as  asparagus, avocados, beans, broccoli, brown round onions, capsicums, carrots,  cauliflower, strawberries, pineapples, round cabbages, spring onions, silver beets, tomatoes and many other highlands fruits and vegetables.
“Some Teptep farmers even grow apples in their gardens,” she said.
“Teptep coffee farmers produce some of the best organic coffee in the world.”
Kui said in 2007, the farmers revived the cultivation of potatoes.
“I helped the Teptep farmers to grow potatoes in their village gardens. And today, we have some potato farmers in Teptep.”
She said the Teptep people were passionate about growing fresh fruits and vegetables and cultivating coffee.
“Our big problem is with transportation.
“We do not have roads connecting Teptep to Madang town. Therefore, we do not have easy access for Teptep farmers to sell their fresh produce in markets in Madang town,” Kui said.
The Missionary Aviation Fellowship (MAF) airplanes fly regularly into Teptep.
“The Teptep villagers have formed the Teptep Vegetables Farmers Association to collectively  freight the villagers’ fruits and vegetables to available markets in Madang town,” Kui said.
“This is a very expensive exercise. Last year, MAF’s freight charge for airlifting fruits and vegetables to Madang town was K2.60 per kilogram.
“Sometimes, the farmers become frustrated because the weather is bad or there is no pilot to fly the planes into Teptep to pick their fresh produce.
“That is when all their fruits and vegetables will perish and their hard work wasted,” Kui said.
The Teptep Vegetables Farmers Association sells fresh fruits and vegetables to markets such as the Madang Butchery and Madang Lodge.
“Madang Resort once used to buy fresh fruits and vegetables from the Teptep Vegetables Farmers Association.
“But now, they cheaply buy their supply of fruits and vegetables from highlands farmers who easily bring in their fresh fruits and vegetables into Madang town,” Kui said.
“What the Teptep people need are roads connecting this mountainous region to the markets in Madang town.”

In a historic decision Chiefs of Mangaliliu and Lelepa communities have decided to protect their customary tribal lands by putting a community lease over their land.

In an emotional community meeting in Mangaliliu last week of over 200 people, the Chiefs of Naflak tribal and Chiefs on Lelepa granted their land to all the people of Mangaliliu and Lelepa. All Lelema Chiefs signed a letter and sent it to the Minsiter of Lands and the Director General describing the leased area and calling for a halt on all other leasing in North Efate.

“People cheered and cried as all the chiefs of the Naflak tribes and on Lelepa Island stood up, one by one, and said that they would give their land to the community” said Chief Murmur, the chair of the Lelema Chiefs Land Use Planning Committee. “We fought to win our land back at independence, and then we have leased it. Now we have found a way to protect it for future generations”.

After two years of land use planning work with our legal advisor, Siobhan McDonnell, and the help of the Vanuatu Cultural Centre we understand all the major issues around land use in our area. “We need to make sure that in the future there is enough land for all Lelema people to have a house and garden. We decided to fence our land by placing a lease over it, to protect our customary land from other people leasing it”.

In the first lease of its kind the North Efate Chiefs have decided to lease their land but maintain customary management of the land within the boundaries of the lease. “We met with the Director General of Lands, Joe Ligo, last Thursday and he said that the Lands Department will partner with us and will support us to make the community leases we need to protect our land and to provide support to survey the boundaries of the new leases. He also agreed to halt any other leases in the North Efate area until our leases over tribal land  and Lelepa Island are ready” said Chief Murmur. “We would like to thank the DG and the Lands Department staff for supporting North Efate chiefs and people to protect our tribal lands”.

The proposed community lease areas include tribal land around Saone, Fatanlima and Awako in North Efate and also the whole island of Lelepa (see attached map).

For more information please contact: Siobhan McDonnell, Legal Advisor Vanuatu Cultural Centre: 5680748 or

Yat Paol is a farmer on Madang’s North Coast. He runs a grassroots NGO aimed at linking up rural PNG communities who are using their land to build small businesses. We interviewed Mr Paol about what basic government services would enable smallholders to transform PNG’s fortunes.


What do you think Government’s role in supporting the so-called ‘informal’ economy should be?

There are two levels that come to mind. Number one, extension services. Meaning that after PNG’s colonial era, Independence and immediately after that, for some 10 years or so we used to have extension offices. Technical offices like agriculture, other technical assistance that people would need back home, like for small business, marketing and all that. That is non-existent today, particularly in the countryside, in the rural areas where for technical support like that people are cut off from road links and access to even to the districts and provincial centres. They’re left out. So that’s one area if government really does what government is for, they should be looking into. That’s number one.

And the second area is facilitating trade for produce that people are already doing: the business part of it. Like infrastructure, the road, bridges and ports that will enable farmers, producers to have access to markets. And if government does what governments are for, again, making that happen so market access can be there for the people out in the areas, the producers.

And maybe a third one that comes to mind is policies. They should be people-friendly, producer-friendly. Making it possible for people to get through with this kind of business, because there’s a lot of bureaucracy and procedures to be followed for businesses. And if something is done along that line for people who are, particularly people out in the rural areas, isolated areas, that will help them also.

With regards to extension services, you said they stopped around 20 years ago, roughly in the 1990s. What’s your opinion about why that was stopped?

Maybe the government took it for granted structures like with the provincial and local level government, the law on local and provincial government being passed in parliament and being implemented, the government may have taken for granted that with that structure in place such services will be catered for. Which is not the case. The structure is in place but it’s not working. Not serving. In policy, more power’s given to the district and local level governments; but for implementation, for the working of it, the machinery’s not working out there. Like, say for example Josephstaal. There’s no government presence there. The only outside presence there is the Catholic priest there. And that’s the only leadership from the outside and there is no government presence whatsoever there.

Josephstaal is just one case and you can multiply that. And even in Madang, you have just maybe one or two, maybe three out of all the LLGs that is working above average. It creates dsillusionment, and frustration. That also builds up that law and order problem. People out of frustration just … they just get out of control, because of frustration.

To me, it seems like these days the government’s focus is all about mining, commercial fishing, commercial logging – big industry. Is that part of the reason why they’ve turned their attention away from local-level, small rural extension services like that?

 I think that’s a big part of it because of the government’s national focus on big business, export focussed business, extractive industry – big industry, big business. I think that’s very much part of the reason. They see that as they way to go, that model of development. As opposed to, what the people can do and in fact what they’re already doing. It’s happening there. But just a little bit of facilitation there is needed : infrastructure, extension services, that’s it.  But with that system not working in many, maybe most LLGs, that’s frustrating. It’s not helping people.

Is there also a lack of training and skills development available to people?

In the local areas, there is no such availability of technical assistance or skills transfer. There are some NGOs, certain agencies, certain groups that are doing that, but it’s not from the government, and it’s not organised. Like in the past when there were extension services, it was structured, it was organised. Now it’s ad hoc: whoever succeeds in linking up with some agency, some NGO or outside group that can be able to provide some training, they’re lucky.

Those services are very important. One thing is, cash is something new. It’s not part of our culture. We were trading before, our ancestors used to trade. Cash as such is something new, and management, the handling of money, this is something new. There’s a lot of that training needs to be, for management of that cash, for business in this cash economy. In certain areas, some of our areas, cash-flow is good, but the management of the cash is a big, big problem, still. Small cash is alright, it’s manageable, as it grows we need management skills on how to manage the cash.  So one area where the government can support is technical, it’s more capacity building.

What about basic things like road access?

That’s a big one, infrastructure to facilitate business. There’s a lot of produce, marketing opportunities out there but there is no market access because of infrastructure situation, that’s not helping.

I thought that is the government’s job. I find it hard to imagine why people stand up, run for political office – I thought they are the policy makers, the decision makers to make sure the common fund there, the country’s budget , caters for its people, six plus million people in the country. And that is not happening. So that is also my question, why is not happening? So now, my tendency now, with VICo, is people do what they can do. Rather than working with outside agencies which gets into bureaucracy and all that. When you initiate it yourself you know how it works – you make it work, actually. So, to make do with what’s at their disposal, because government is not working. Not doing what government is for.

Samap village in  Papua New Guinea’s  East Sepik province is like many other places in in the Country – isolated  and without  road access.  It lies  in a  tiny secluded bay facing the Bismarck sea.  The village houses stand on ancient rickety  posts  bearing  withering sago thatch roofs.

Four of the nine boats bought with buai money

A group of women and children stand  on the shore  as a fleet of  nine   fiberglass dinghies  each powered by relatively new 40 horse power Yamaha engines come into the bay.   Apart from a few men on each of the boats,   all  are void of any large cargo.

The community’s isolation  masks a transformation that has been  happening over the last   three years.  A transformation driven by a small  group of businessmen on a path to becoming self-made millionaires.

The men are returning from Madang. It’s  a trip that has just  earned the community  more than  12 thousand dollars from the sale of buai or betelnut – the fruit of the areca palm used traditionally chewed during  social gatherings.

Each month, they earn an average of   40 thousand dollars  which translates to a gross annual income of more than 400  thousand dollars which is shared amongst  the members of the community depending on how  much work they contributed.

“There are local buyers  who buy buai  from people in the village,” says Robert Mandu, the ward councilor who made  about 6 thousand  dollars today.   “We pack them in bags and sell it to Seti a businessmen  who comes from the Highlands.”

Those actively  involved in the  buai trade say it’s not just about business and making money.  They’re building on extended family relationships and supporting their clansmen and women in improving their standard of living. Robert from the Sepik and Seti  from the Highlands aren’t  related by blood but they  drew  on the  strengths inherent in both their cultures  and

reached out to others.

Brothers Henry and Robert Mandu

Every decision is  made collectively with  their elders.  Robert consults with other members of  his family.  Seti is always accompanied by an older uncle who helps him buy the buai.  The trading happens  at the  small village of  Kosakosa on the Madang – East Sepik border where Robert’s  sister lives with her husband.

Over three years, Seti and  Robert’s families developed  this  once tiny local trade confined  to  village consumers into an  industry  which will be worth over a million dollars  over the next 5 years.  The trade spans  six provinces and links  coastal buai growers in Samap  to the vast market of  more than a  million consumers in the highlands of Papua New Guinea.

The venture began with  Henry – Robert’s older brother – who started off by selling Buai using  small 25 horsepower Yamaha engine.  Henry is a man of few words and doesn’t readily take credit for the  success of  Samap’s growing band of  young entrepreneurs. But everyone knows his actions speak  volumes.  For many in Samap, Henry is a visionary.

These days,  there is very little haggling over prices.  The buyers and sellers  agree on a price that is beneficial to both families.   Seti then makes direct  deposits of up to 15 thousand  dollars  for every order  into the bank accounts managed by Robert.  Each seller knows how much he or she will get per bag and how much is being  deposited.  The boat  owners are  also paid for the hire of their boats upfront.  Nobody is cheated.

Theirs is  a relationship based  on trust and constant communication.  No lawyers. No overseas consultants. No written agreements.  It’s an arrangement that  is working with little trouble.

“We’ve bought 10 boats  from our buai sales,”  says Robert.   “We are working to get a few more.

“We are in control of our own economic development. We are deciding what we want to do and how much money we want to make”

The Buai trade isn’t their only income source.  Every week,  a boat  goes to  the East Sepik Provincial capital of Wewak  loaded with bags of dried cocoa beans.  This is  another community effort that brings in a collective income of  up to 1500 dollars a week.

“We used to sell unprocessed cocoa beans to  buyers from other villages,” Robert says.   “Many of us aren’t well educated and we knew very little about cocoa prices and we used to get cheated a lot.”

Led by Henry, the people of Samap,  sought the  expertise of a relative who built them a cocoa fermentery.  This reduced the weight they had to carry into town and increased the value of their product.

What the people of Samap are doing is in vast contrast to those in the nearby villages  of Kaup and Tiring  where Malaysian  loggers are clear-felling   large areas of rainforest. They’ve been promised oil palm development as well as benefits  under a special agriculture business lease (SABL) which is currently the focus of an investigation.  So far, there’s  no hint of progress and they’re still waiting for that “development.

“We kicked  those loggers off our land. They drove their bulldozers into a wildlife management area that our fathers established,” Robert says.  “But the people of Kaup and Tiring have  taken what we rejected.  We told them but they haven’t  listened.”

After more than  three decades  since the Australian colonial administration left, Samap is still without a road link to the provincial capital of Wewak.   The road ends at the nearest mission station of Turubu which is a day’s walk from Samap.  Malaysian loggers are  pressuring leaders  of  Samap to sign logging agreements that come with the promise of  a road link.

“Those Malaysians  haven’t learned and still think we’re dumb!” says an amused  Samap elder. “How can you build a road with 500 thousand kina? We know they  only want the trees.

“Besides, what would we need a road for?  We already have what we need.”

As the Local Level Government Councilor,  Robert is the man responsible for the implementation of government policy.  But he gets no support from the provincial or national governments and he doesn’t get paid.  Yet it doesn’t bother him.

“We don’t need government handouts. We don’t need employment provided by a logging company. We’re making more money on our own.”

The important thing for them is that  they are in control and they can choose what they want.  Next month, Robert and his brothers will buy a sawmill.  This will help his community build new houses for themselves from timber harvested from their  land.

“The next time you come, these houses will be gone. We will have  posts made of sawn timber and houses that have corrugated iron roofs. People deserve to live in good houses.”

By John Roughan

Visitors to the Solomons always bring baggage with them. I speak not of the luggage we carry off the plane, but the mental baggage we bring when we meet Solomon Islanders for the first time. The mental baggage I speak of is tied up with our own national and personal identities, our normal patterns of social interaction, our (so-called) ‘first world’ economic understandings.

This baggage is not unusual, one could almost say inevitable. But our other nation lifestyles also get in the way of seeing the value of a different worldview.

My first assignment as a missionary priest was to Tarapaina Misson Station on Small Mala in the East Are language area. My first village visit on Malaita’s east coast, a small hamlet called Hotonima close to East Kwaio language line, was both an eye-opener and profoundly disturbing. These people, I was convinced, owned nothing. No radios, no machines, nothing that I could label as wealth: yet they were as happy as any I had ever met.

They greeted me as some kind of extra special guest, insisted I stay in the village’s only house that boasted a wooden floor and fed me on my first night in the ‘bush’ with the best they had: a newly roasted yam with a separate plate of coconut flavored cabbage. To this day a roasted yam remains my favorite kai kai. But I kept asking myself: how can these people who looked so healthy, well-built and happy beyond description be that way without any wealth to speak of?

Unknown to me at the time, I was experiencing a steep learning curve. Here in a Solomons village, everyday life’s essentials – food, shelter, water, fuel, medicine, etc. – was found a short walk away in the nearby bush. Moreover, the typical person’s deepest spiritual needs – security, safety, peace, sense of identity—were also evident. These basic life essentials were theirs automatically. They came with membership in the local community. Moreover, people enjoyed these profound securities free of charge, as the village’s gift to them.

Not so when a villager moved to an urban centre. So a fundamental lesson was coming home to me loud and clear: how critical village living is for the wellbeing of the nation.

From the very beginning of its existence in early 1982, the Solomon Islands Development Trust (SIDT) questioned prevailing development wisdom, which did not recognise this inherent wealth and capital owned by village people.

SIDT’s initial task was formidable: to unlearn villagers from thinking of development as something initiated from the outside through heavy overseas funding, and to convince them to accept the idea that development was fundamentally an internal process locally owned and directed.

SIDT taught that development was fundamentally a home-grown exercise, more in need of local leadership than overseas funding and was more about improving village life than focusing in on national airlines, paved roads, and other projects so beloved by politicians.

It made little sense to the newly formed organization to fund such projects when villagers’ very life sources – their forests, streams, ground, reefs – were being destroyed by commercial logging companies, mining enterprises and cash cropping groups

As SIDT’s experiences grew working closely with village communities, it became clear that many rural problems really started in the urban area. Lack of clear, precise information, for example. plagued the rural majority. Where could a villager, in fact, obtain solid information so as to make wise decisions?

In recent times, major transformational forces on village life – modernization, technological change, cash economy-driven  economic development etc. – have reduced confidence in the nation and in the ability of its customary political leadership to defend much less promoted villager interests.

In the Solomons, then, the word ‘village’ acts as a code word. It is the major sociological factor of the nation–more than 84% of the population resides there, it controls access to the country’s mineral, agricultural, water and timber wealth. The village acts forever like a prism through which the vast majority of island people view the world.  It must be factored into our deepest understanding of how important and vital it is to the majority of the daily lives of our people.

I couldn’t help eavesdropping on a phone call by a friend sitting next to me – well it wasn’t exactly eavesdropping.

Dixie believes change is possible if we all do our little bit…

This is Dixie Hoffmann, an ordinary mother of 5 young men living in Goroka. She had been away from home when the incident happened.

Her second son had hit his uncle’s wife. “Hey you know what you did? You hit a woman. And the police will be on you,” she told the son. “You had no right hitting your uncle’s wife,” she continued.

The next day the son called from Goroka police station. He had been arrested. His elder brother went along with him.

Dixie turned around to me and said, “he’s my son but he hit a woman. I will not allow it in my family.” This humble woman believes change starts with her. She admits it is not easy but, “if we cultivate a culture of respect and put value into it, we will see a better community and a better Papua New Guinea. We cannot let violence dictate the norms in our lives.”

Women bashing and other violence against women have become a real problem in many parts of Papua New Guinea and women in the Eastern Highlands would not stand by and let this go ahead. They have worked hard to help the police realise how important it is to stop these violences.

Dixie is an example of these efforts. She has stepped up and is inviting all mothers in Papua New Guinea to educate their sons to respect women at home.


Once upon a time there lived two fishermen that got lost in the middle of the Pacific ocean without food or water. Five weeks later, they washed up ashore of a neighboring country 500 miles away in relatively good health. The chances of these men surviving were always going to be pretty slim but the chances of them finding a long lost relative on the tiny island they washed up on? Slim to none wouldn’t you think? Well I thought so. But then again these men aren’t ordinary men. These men are I-Kiribati and are the best navigators, fishermen and survivors in the world. They are also my relatives.

I told this story to a good friend the other day and he refused to believe me.  ’That can’t possibly have happened.  No one could survive 33 days without water or food.’ Now as someone who goes into a fit of rage if I skip breakfast I know that my friends reaction is completely legitimate.  Except for when it comes to the I-Kiribati people.

So basically what happened was that when we were on Marakei – the day before first round elections – my cousin came to our hut and told us that her father was missing.  The day before he had made a trip to the neighbouring island – Abaiang – to get more fuel and hadn’t  yet returned.  This trip would usually take 1 day so for him not to return was a bit odd.  After 4 days, we all began to worry.  The men had gone out in a small fishing boat.  No lifejackets, no radio, hardly any supplies.  These trips are common and my Uncle had done this so many times.  He was known as one of the best sea navigators and fishermen on the island – people usually employed him to accompany them on their boat trips between islands.  So for him to be lost we all assumed that it was engine failure.  We were all worried but in true I-Kiribati way, there was never an assumption that he could have died at sea.

We all assumed that they were drifting at sea, they’d be found eventually when they drifted to land and then they’d return.  Four days turned into seven, one week turned into two, two weeks turned into a month and yet the only person that even suggested that they might not ever come back was my cousin’s wife who is known as a bit of a rebel in the family – when I asked her what she thought would have happened to him she dropped her head and let her tongue hang out before laughing and continue hanging the washing.  It wasn’t denial on anyone else’s part, there was this general feeling that they would come back eventually.

33 days later, we learned that they had been found in the Marshall Islands – 500 kms from Marakei – after I jumped on the internet at 2am after playing a particularly long game of cards with my Mum, Auntie and Grandma and read a report on the ABC website that confirmed that these men had been found.  We jumped in the car and drove up and down the island, waking up relatives and spreading the news.  Funny how we had to learn about the news from Australia but that’s island life – not everyone has a phone/electricity so everything is done word of mouth.

Four days after we learnt the news, I had to fly back to Australia.  You can then imagine my surprise when I found news articles everywhere – newspaper, websites and even the 7pm project on Channel 10!  No one had ever heard of Kiribati before but suddenly people were chatting about it.  The funniest report I saw come out was this one on ‘How to survive a month adrift at sea’.  I say funny because they mention things like using cardboard as hats, not panicking and collecting freshwater in buckets.  I don’t mean to sound patronising because this is great advice – advice that I will surely remember should it ever happen to me – but it’s clearly not written with experienced Kiribati fishermen in mind.  These men didn’t have cardboard or buckets and Kiribati people are known for their ability not to stress.  They are so laid-back about everything that I’m pretty sure any other I-Kiribati person would agree when I say that the men would have sat there, quietly talking about which way the tide was, predicting the weather and tried to figure out which island they were closest to.

Kiribati people are born survivors.  They catch fish in the middle of the night with a knife and a torch.  They make rope out of coconut husks that are strong enough to hold a house together.  They climb ridiculously high coconut trees.

Here is my cousin Kairo climbing a tree to get me a drink after we went mudcrab hunting.  Please ignore my ridiculous commentary!

After what I’ve told you, I would like you all to realise how much of an idiot Bear Grylls looks like in this video.  Hilarious and completely over the top but very much entertaining.  And yes, he is serious.

In the Pacific ocean? I love that he’s still wearing all his clothes and even his shoes.

Mine is a warrior culture. One that prided itself on conquest, expansion of territory and on the ability of its young warriors. But the great battles fought over long distances to lay claim to enemy lands wasn’t the central part of my people’s existence.

Diplomacy was of utmost importance and the skills to prevent violence through diplomatic means was and still is highly valued. Such skill didn’t come into play only to prevent war. It was part of everyday life.

Brothers resolved issues by talking for hours or even days so that their present disagreements didn’t affect their relationship and their children’s relationships in future. Past relationships between members of distant clans were also equally important. Each word used in the dialogue was chosen with care. The potential effect of every gesture was considered before it was made. Elders listened and were slow to speak because to offend someone physically or verbally was costly. It was the equivalent of an expensive lawsuit in today’s justice system. Resolving the issue involved an apology and compensation which included payment in the form of pigs and other gifts. So sincerity and honesty were of paramount importance during negotiations.

While the men provided protection as warriors of the clan or tribe, their economic power both in peacetime and in times of war rested on the women. Women were highly valued members of our society. They were our mothers who gave us life. They were key in the man’s economic and political status and they raised the warriors who laid claim to new land and resources.

Traditionally, women were marked to become wives. But that didn’t stop girls from choosing their future husbands if they so wished. In many instances, a girl would take her possessions and go to the family of the man she wished to marry and be accepted as part of the household. If she was rejected by the young man, another process of diplomacy was initiated by his father and mother. The young man’s family would take gifts – pigs included – to the girl’s family as a sign of respect. That gesture simply said: “We appreciate your daughter’s decision to choose our son but our son will not take your daughter as his wife. We value your daughter and respect the decision she made and we apologize to your family for the inconvenience this may have caused. We give you these gifts as a token of our appreciation and we hope our relationship and that of our children and our children’s children will not be affected by this event.”

In family life, disagreements between husband and wife rarely erupted into physical violence. This was because apologizing to a woman and her family was an extremely expensive exercise. The number of pigs demanded for the harm caused to their daughter or for the open display of anger was determined by the woman’s uncles and brothers.

The raising of children also had to be done creatively. Children were not only the responsibility of the parents but also of the uncles and aunts. Spanking and even raising your voice at your child in the presence of other family members or guests was offensive. It also called for an expensive apology.

Today many of those practices have lost their meaning. It’s the 21st Century and many feel that these customs are ‘stone age’, that we have no need for them. Similarly, some feel there is ‘no need’ for the extended family and children are our responsibility and we can do what we want.

Today, we march against gender based violence and inequality. The man is called the the ‘breadwinner’ and the ‘head of the family’. We attend conferences on child abuse run by overseas consultants. We use child protection methods that come from other countries and we’ve forgotten that violence against women and children was shunned in our societies.

Recent initiatives in the Pacific prove we can find a street trading relationship that is a win-win for everyone.

The ‘informal’ economy continues to expand here in the Pacific. For example, recent research has found that as more people shake the delusion that being a buai trader is socially unacceptable, urban Papua New Guineans are quitting their 9-5 jobs to get in on the ‘green gold’ business. They soon realise the buai trade offers more lucrative prospects and better social security than the so-called ‘formal’ economy.

The expansion of self-employed trade can be seen as a positive, given the unparalleled economic advantages of this economy: it keeps prices down, and the income generated (based on using home-grown resources and capital) stays in our country and communities.

But, as this economy expands, the market infrastructure struggles to accommodate its growth, resulting in more litter and overcrowded markets (as we examined in this post last week).

However, recognising the vital role of these entrepreneurs in our communities can go a long way to solving those issues, as recent initiatives in the Pacific have shown.

In the Solomon Islands, Fiji and Vanuatu, new ideas are helping to make markets safer and cleaner, for the traders and customers.

A new program by the Rakiraki Town Council aims to improve the financial skills of women vendors – how to budget, keep accounts, customer service, and so on.

Meanwhile the municipality of Ba, Fiji is showing that supporting and respecting our traders is in the best interest of consumers as well. Ba provides kitchens, toilets, showers, and safe low-cost places for women vendors and their children to sleep. In addition, “a learning and handicraft centre is helping to train and diversify traders’ skills and increase their incomes”, resulting in more diversity and choice for consumers and tourists.

These initiatives could turn out to be an economic and cultural boon for these progressive island nations. In what’s being touted as ‘the future of the economy’, government support for Durban, South Africa’s self-employed traders has resulted in one of the most successful duel economic and tourism ventures in the country.

It seems likely the People’s Economy will continue to grow and thrive throughout the Pacific. Oppressing and removing markets is therefore unlikely to solve the perceived ‘problem’ of markets: and will also result in the Pacific missing out on capitalising on arguably its most prospective economy.

With adequate government and community support for the Pacific’s most vital trade, we can clean-up our cities and promote and improve the sustainable, diverse, and lucrative People’s Economy that has sustained our peoples and our ways for 50,000 years.

* Watch: Making marketplaces safer in Fiji

“We must not be afraid to make a detour from wayward ways and go back to the past that the National Goals and Directive Principles of our Constitution prescribe for us”

“The constitutional fathers dreamt that one day we would be free. We worked very hard to look at the needs and the aspirations of the totality of the highly diversified – culturally, linguistically, even religiously – people of Papua New Guinea. And we tried to come up with something that would form them to become a great people with a great vision and motivate them to take the necessary steps to become activators of change and development, not mere passive recipients of goods and services.

It is sad that we have leaders of this country who are, for their own political and selfish ends, prepared to sacrifice the collective good of the people of Papua New Guinea. Using political parties … as vehicles of convenience to get into power, to manipulate and exploit the people of this country.

We have been marginalised.  And we are marginalised because a number of our leaders have been bribed.

And that is why young people today must unite and be educated with those universal, perennial values that are very important for any nation. We must not be afraid to make a detour from wayward ways and go back to the past that the National Goals and Directive Principles of our Constitution prescribe for us.

We have some hope of reversing the situation that is fast developing this country with detrimental consequences of making Papua New Guineans totally dependent on government hand-outs and so on. PNG I believe now stands at the threshold of a new order. But we have a great mission to liberate and empower our people not only objects of development, but subjects of development as well. We must be the agents of change. We must not be prepared to be told ‘yu no can askim plenti question.’

But we have many problems, because when you try to redirect a warship that is set on a course, it is not easy. But it does not give us the excuse not to try.

I think that the National Goals and Directive Principles are still very relevant. And if all of us tried to implement (the vision) enshrined in the National Goals and Directive Principles, Papua New Guinea would be a better place.

National sovereignty and self-reliance are very, very important. National sovereignty calls on leaders not to sell their people’s rights. Not to allow this country to be ripped up and raped by foreign investors. National sovereignty calls on leaders to reject bribery. National sovereignty calls on leaders not to use public funding to make investments overseas while their constituents are barely making enough money to buy medicine, school fees, and so on.

Self-reliance means embarking on a massive program of empowering people to get involved in small scale socio-economic activities. Activities that would take into full account the Melanesian way.

We are communal peoples. Social relationships, interdependence, to us is very, very important. We don’t want to marginalise people. We don’t want to compete and destroy one another. We want to collaborate, we want to form interdependence. Interdependence: we are all leaders. We depend on one another.

Good leaders must be servants. Good leaders must be educated enough to appreciate the values of human dignity, the right of each citizen to participate, the right of each citizen to have a say, the right to have a voice. We are all equals. Good leaders should not have the license because of their position to make policies and decisions that are detrimental to the common good.

In my view, every province in Papua New Guinea should be given greater autonomy. Giving autonomy to Madang, for example, doesn’t mean Madang would want to secede – nogat. Giving autonomy means you are now structurally forcing this highly centralised and bureaucratised government in Port Moresby to give the people of Madang their due. The sources of revenue, sources of employment, sources of information should be decentralised. The national government should not usurp the role of the provincial governments.

If you look at the natural resources that are being destroyed and are being developed today, what are the tangible results of the exploitation of the people’s resources? In 1974, PNG leadership was talking about a need for sustainable development. For ecological balance. Preserving our rainforests and only using what we need, and not destroying the beautiful rainforest and the seas we have.

As active agents of change, we can create an educated, intelligent, just society for PNG. Out of the many combinations of tribes and languages we can create a very good country with all its differences, and create an independent spirit right throughout the nation.”

To watch short films featuring John Momis  discussing writing the Constitution, click here and here.

To watch a video about the National Goals and Directive Principles, click here.