Thursday, June 11, 2009

Wildflowers of Simbu

Edith Babul and her relative
Lina Giuka, Sasha Paru and Cathy Rex at the summit of Daulo Pass showing the way home to Lae
“Anyone for a flower lei,” says this little girl on Daulo Pass. The selling of floral lei made from everlasting flowers and ferns is a thriving business for the settlers along the road
An orchid specimen that is so breathtaking to look at on display in one of the stalls at the show

School children with innovative ideas … making caps from tree moss
The women behind the display at the PNGWiADF stall representing the Bubia Floriculture Group, Sasha Paru, Cathy Rex, Lina Giuka and Monica Mazi
By BARBARA TOMI of National Agriculture Research Institute

The hills are alive … not with the sound of music but wildflowers.
The glorious bright colours lit up the dull and cloudy skies from the foothills of Kassam Pass as we entered the highlands of Papua New Guinea leaving behind the smoldering kunai grass and the smoke-covered plains of the Markham Valley.
The amass radiant colours along the Okuk Highway was a welcome contrast from what was just witnessed and delighted the occupants of the 25-seater Coaster bus as it weaved its way around bends, up and down countless hills and over fast-flowing rivers meandering down into the valleys unknown.
The passengers of the bus scanned the hills from side to side as they attempted to conjure up words to explain the view that sprang up before them even for a brief moment.
“Aiyo lukim dispela flaua ya (look at that flower),” one exclaimed, while another almost screamed, “lukim kainkain tanget stret, (see different kinds of Cordyline [tangets]).”
One would imagine that these were school children going on their first excursion to a national park and not women well advanced in age.
These passengers had keen eyes for flowers and were definitely on the lookout for the exotic high altitude species that could claim a central spot in their backyards if only they could get their hands on them.
Whether they would survive the hot and humid weather in Lae never came into contention.
The cool mountain air up Daulo Pass sent shivers through their bodies and for an instant their minds switched from floral displays to keeping warm as each one rummaged through their carry bags to grab a sweater.
After a quick stop at a watering hole for a taste of a cool and naturally-chilled mountain water the bus continued its journey down the last inch of the Daulo Pass and into the foreboding limestone-studded hillside of Simbu.
The late afternoon sun lit up Simbu’s mountainous limestone ranges and beckoned the weary passengers as their guide and driver known only as Kandre Man announced that “we are now entering Simbu and would soon be arriving at the capital, Kundiawa”.
The words of a song containing Simbu rocks sprang to mind as I tried unsuccessfully to remember the tune summed up the scenes that were unfolding.
With the limestone in the background, the thing that struck the visitors most was the abundant flora in brilliant shades of pink and red welcoming them.
Despite the bumpy ride on some sections of the Okuk Highway due to the continuous natural disasters that had hit the province in the recent past, the carefully-tended gardens of shrubs, the gallant pine trees swaying in the dust of the limestone settling on the branches and an array of Cordylines of different colours and leaf shapes was refreshing and set the scene to what would be a marvelous two days of mingling with flower lovers of Simbu and the interior of the Highlands for this group of women from Lae.
The group finally arrived at the Dickson Oval in Kundiawa after 5pm and was handed over to the organisers of the Simbu Plant Show as their tour guide and driver bid them farewell for the time being until Saturday for the return trip.
All the lovely scenes of the wildflowers were put on hold while the group settled themselves to the space allotted to them to plan their exhibition.
The groups were members of the Papua New Guinea Women in Agriculture Development Foundation involved in two agriculture sectors: horticulture and floriculture.
Horticulture was represented by fruit farmer Edith Babul from Munum and the floriculture segment was represented by the Bubia Floriculture Group of Lae, Morobe province.
The event that drew the group to Kundiawa was the Simbu Plant Show hosted by the local environmental conservation groups Sangamanga Culture Environmental Protection and Simbu Botany Club.
The event was to coincide with the World Environment Day on June 6, 2009.
The show, which spanned two days, was packed to a capacity crowd with various side shows to keep the crowd entertained.
On both days, Thursday 4th and Friday 5th June, invited guests spoke on the importance of plants to the environment and to humans and why conservation and environment protection is detrimental to the survival of both plants and humans.
One of the speakers stressed this importance on scientists’ prediction of El Nino-induced drought and floods in 2012 and its impact on the environment especially the drying of rivers like the Simbu River.
The school children were very much involved in the celebrations putting up displays of orchids, ferns and trees, processed spices, poems, drama and songs based on the World Environment Day and show theme: ‘Your Planet Needs You – Unite to Combat Climate Change’.
Dignitaries outside the province such as the NCD Governor Powes Parkop and the greenest thumb of all Justin Tkatchenko arrived on the last day to put their seal of approval on the show and close the event on a high note.
When addressing the crowd and show committee, Mr Parkop said the large participation by schools, NGOs and community-based organisations, with the support of the Governor of Simbu Fr John Garia, Kundiawa – Gembog MP Joe Mek Teine and Gumine MP Lucas Dawa, indicated that Simbu was serious in addressing issues related to plants.
He said he was happy that this plant show would become an annual event. “Simbu has realised the importance of nature, that plants give life, oxygen, food, firewood, houses, in fact, nearly everything including money. So let’s look after nature,” Mr Parkop added.
For a province that is continually being affected by natural disasters, it is a small comfort to see the support it has received in terms of participation from groups inside and outside of the province in this most important event.
Perhaps the answers to some of the problems affecting the province are in some of the little things that people choose to overlook in the quest of making big changes in the name of development.
Sometimes the most profound/drastic change are in the little things we do and take for granted such as planting trees or flowers.
Our planet needs us now more than ever to combat climate changes which we humans have contributed to.
And in that rocky interior that is Simbu, you have challenged the fertile plains of Markham and Morobe province that gloriously-sparkling flowers do grow on rocks and limestone.
What we have seen will be preserved for a long time just like the everlasting flowers of Mt Wilhelm and Daulo Pass in full bloom.

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