By MALUM NALU
Villagers in the remote Lower Watut area of Morobe province make their living mainly from small-scale gold mining along the Watut River, as well as cocoa.
They do sell vegetables such as taro, bananas and yams – grown on fertile river land – however, canoe transport to Lae through the Watut and Markham rivers is expensive, a lengthy canoe ride of up to six hours, and can be risky at times.
|Motorised canoes along the Watut River…the only means of transport to market for the Lower Watut villagers with the absence of roads.-Pictures by MALUM NALU|
The National visited the Lower Watut area last weekend and was able to see how the villagers made their money.
“We make our money mainly from small-scale gold mining,” Lower Watut community leader Simon Gulup told The National at Maralina village.
|A taro and banana garden in Kapungu village along the banks of the Watut River…high transport costs means much of this does not get to market.|
“We use this money to pay school fees for our children as well as other goods.
“Both men and women work for gold along the Watut River.”
Gulup said it was only over the last five years or so, when Morobe Mining Joint Ventures (MMJV) came into the area, that they started going into cocoa.
“Over the last five years, we have gone heavily into cocoa,” he said.
“However, currently, prices of cocoa are not good and cocoa pods are rotting away because farmers are not keen on picking.
“We need more fermentaries.
“We get help from MMJV with cocoa seeds and cocoa fermentaries.
“But then, we have to pay K40 to 40-Mile (along the Highlands Highway on the banks of the Markham River), another K30 for PMV fare to Lae, and when we come back, we have very little money or nothing at all.”