Thursday, March 31, 2011

Beneath the shadow of Mt Giluwe


National Agriculture Research Institute’s high altitude research station is situated in picturesque Tambul, Western Highlands, on the foothills of the majestic Mt Giluwe.

Mt Giluwe towers over the station
Mt Giluwe is the second highest mountain in Papua New Guinea at 4,368 metres (14,331 feet), after Chimbu’s Mt Wilhelm (4, 509m or 14, 793ft), and is in neighbouring Southern Highlands.
Tambul, situated to the west of Mt Hagen and bordering Enga and Southern Highlands provinces, is famous for its fresh vegetables.
Field supervisor Joana Galua in a kaukau (sweet potato) plot

In fact, it is the single biggest producer of fresh vegetables in the country such as potatoes, broccoli, cabbages and cauliflower.
Its people are some of the hardest working who still value their subsistent way of living.
Unlike other parts of the highlands, where tribal fighting, rapes and murders are commonplace, Tambul is one place that begs to differ.
The people are putting down their guns and knives, and picking up their spades and shovels, to work the rich volcanic soils of Giluwe that God has provided.
They are keen to supply the gas project in just a stone’s throw away in neighbouring Southern Highlands.
Tambul station is about 2,224m (7, 296ft) above sea level at the foot of Mt Giluwe, and was established as a government patrol post in the 1950s, with the first highlands highway passing through it in the 1960s to Mendi in Southern Highlands.
Believe it or not, ice and snow are regular occurrences here, and the place is freezing cold, too cold, in fact, to grow coffee
Tambul is already contributing in a big way towards development of agriculture in this country, with the research station.

Wheat grows in proliferation
Around the station, there are cattle, sheep and goats grazing, amidst kaukau, potato, wheat and rice fields in scenes of pastoral poetry.
It’s a joy for visitors like me to wander through the scenic fields, garnished by sentinel-like trees, to the magnificent backdrop of Mt Giluwe.

Taro besides potato screen houses
Tambul, in the Kaguel Valley, is also one of the more lush, fertile and verdant areas of the Highlands.
Vegetables and fruit grown in abundance, supplemented by readily-available chicken, pork, sheep, goat, cattle and fish from aquaculture projects.

 Potato screen houses
Hence, in this land of milk and honey – on the border of Western Highlands, Southern Highlands and Enga provinces - you have a very healthy-looking population.
During my visit, I spent an enjoyable Friday afternoon with NARI staff including programme manager Johannes Pakatul, as well as my former Aiyura National High School mate, scientist Kud Sitango, who showed me around beneath the towering presence of Mt Giluwe.

Station manager Johannes Pakatul at the station signboard
“We have a dedicated team of scientists and staff from all over PNG working here,” Pakatul tells me.
“What we are doing here will benefit the whole country.”
I couldn’t agree more.

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