Wednesday, October 22, 2008

You reap what you sow

All forms of gardening are rewarding and satisfying.

But vegetable gardening, largely because the gardener can be in charge of the whole operation from seed collection to consumption, is possibly the most-rewarding.

In addition, well-grown home-produced vegetables cannot be matched for flavour and nutritional value.

And with care, considerable savings – especially in a city like Port Moresby – in the family’s food budget are possible.

Port Moresby, unlike a place like Goroka – where you can grow all types of succulent, mouth watering vegetables – has an arid year round climate.

(This is apart from a brief respite during the December to March period, when the rain comes down in buckets and vegetables – especially corn – abound all over the capital city.)

An old Chimbu man living in the capital is disproving this by growing pak choi (Chinese cabbage), tomatoes, pumpkins, taro, bananas, pawpaw, sugar cane, beans, shallots, aibika, corn, tapioca, yams and pineapple, among others.

All this from a swampy, stinky, grass-covered piece of land just past the Stop and Shop supermarket at Rainbow, Gerehu.

Miuge Opi, from Nombuna village in Kerowagi, Chimbu province, is also making a killing when he sells his fresh vegetables at market.

And mind you, he doesn’t use fertiliser from the shops, rather, dry leaves from nearby trees as compost and mulch.

My daughter and I met him recently while walking down from the supermarket, and as I admired his vegetables, we got into a chinwag and he gave me two free samples of pak choi to try out for lunch.

Necessity, in a city like Port Moresby where the cost of living is very high, made Mr Opi turn to the land.

He was left high and dry in Port Moresby a couple of years ago when he came with his sister to collect his late brother-in-law’s final entitlements.

His sister, Mr Opi says, squandered up the money and he had no means of surviving in Port Moresby.

His respite, fortunately, came in the form of this vacant piece of land beside a smelly drain.

“I have 12 children and two wives back home in Chimbu,” Mr Opi confides.

“I was worried about how I could get back home when no-one could help me to buy an airline ticket.

“I saw that the answer was on the land, government land, covered in swamp and grass.

“I cleaned it up and started to make a garden.

“I planted Chinese cabbages, tomatoes, pumpkins, taro, bananas, pawpaw and others.

“I saw that there was good money in this and was a means for me to earn money honestly and through hard work to travel home.”

Every day, Mr Opi walks down from Gerehu Stage Two, works the land until late, and if his vegetables are ready for harvest, he takes them straight to market.

“I work in the morning and in the afternoon I sell my vegetables,” he says.

“Many people like my fresh garden produce.

“I make K60-K70 a day on good days, while on slow days, I make K30 or K40.

“Don’t be idle, you must work the land.

“Money is in the land.

“I have tried this out and I already have a lot of money, more than enough to travel home for Christmas.”

Next time you’re driving to Gerehu, past the Stop and Shop supermarket, slow down and take a look at the drain to your left.

Chances are, you’ll Miuge Opi amidst his admirable vegetable patch, and you might even be able to pick and buy fresh-from-the-garden veggies.

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