Saturday, March 05, 2011

Flower power to Gerehu

Joe Gimbe and wife Jenny tending to plants at their roadside market.-Picture MALUM NALU
Tete settlement at Gerehu Stage 2 in Port Moresby is a notorious ‘hell’s kitchen’ synonymous with the worst of crimes.
Tete is one of the worst settlements in Port Moresby, where law and order problems have been rife over the years, including murders, rapes and robberies.
On December 16, 2008, leading citizen and businessmen Sir George Constantinou was killed by just petty criminals outside Tete, in a crime which shocked Papua New Guinea and the world, and which saw Port Moresby disparaged as one of the top five murder capitals in the world.
In retaliation, police went in and demolished the settlement two days later to fulfil what the Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare had warned about in November 2003, after 15 people were killed in Tete.
Sir Michael had warned that one more killing would have this settlement removed.
Hundreds of setters were left homeless, with many fleeing the area with their belongings when the police operation started.
The police operation followed a public outcry against the notorious settlement, which has a long history of criminal activity, following the brutal murder of Sir George.
Police personnel from all stations in the nation’s capital went to the settlement around 2pm and began bulldozing it, setting alight buildings and chopping down trees on one side of the settlement.
“In retrospect, we all have very short memories: we are masters of the art of knee-jerk reaction,” businessman Allan Bird said after the Sir George murder.
“Illegal settlements full of young men with little or no education, no skills and little chance of getting a job, who are going to turn on the rest of us eventually unless we do something about their situation.
“Razing the settlements will only move the criminals to another location.
“There are many more places with young men who have no jobs, no life, no hope and no future.
"To them their life has little value, so why should your life or that of our loved ones be worth anything?
“They have nothing to lose while we have everything to lose.”
Three years on, Tete is back, and rising from the ashes with its denizens quietly determined to rub off that mark of Cain which has plagued them since the settlement was established.
In the Biblical Book of Genesis, God declared that Cain, the firstborn son of Adam and Eve, was cursed for murdering his brother Abel in the Garden of Eden, and placed a mark upon him.
When God confronted Cain about Abel's death, God cursed him, saying:"What have you done? Listen! Your brother's blood cries out to me from the ground. Now you are under a curse and driven from the ground, which opened its mouth to receive your brother's blood from your hand. When you work the ground, it will no longer yield its crops for you. You will be a restless wanderer on the earth." (Gen. 4:10–12).
One of those quietly striving to rub off that mark of Cain at Tete, working the land so that it will yield its crops for him, is Joe Gimbe from Amaiyufa village in Asaro, Eastern Highlands province.
He has set up a roadside flower and plant market at the recreational park at Gerehu Stage 2, from his ‘Garden of Eden’ at Tete, and is quietly working towards greening and beautifying Gerehu and Port Moresby: literally bringing us all ‘flower power’,
Since Gimbe set up shop on Wednesday last week, business has been good, with many people stopping to buy plants, flowers and home-made compost for their homes, as well as wandering through his little roadside market.
Not bad for a self-taught gardener, who has never been to school and, ironically, was given his marching orders from the big PNG Gardener Justin Tkatchenko last July.
Gimbe has since been eking out a living by selling beautiful plants and flowers in stylish flower pots.
Many a house in Gerehu and wider Port Moresby is decorated with trademark Joe Gimbe pot plants.
He fashions them at Tete, where he sold them at home, but has now ventured into the public domain at the recreational park.
Gimbe makes enough to put food on the table for his young family, pay the bills, and put his two children to school.
He is adamant PNG would not have such a huge unemployment problem if people eat humble pie and go into such small business.
He is also proud that he is quietly contributing to keeping Port Moresby green and beautiful.
“I first came to Port Moresby in 2000,” Gimbe tells me.
“I started work with Robin Carter at Palm Grove.
“I learned how to nurse flowers, maintain gardens for companies, as well as plant flowers in gardens.
“Robin Carter left for New Zealand in 2004.
“I then started work with Justin Tkatchenko at PNG Gardener, however, left PNG Gardener in July 2010.
“I was without a job, so I started growing plants and selling them, out of Tete settlement.
“Since last July, I’ve been running my own little plant business at home in Tete, where people who knew me came and bought my plants.
“However, it wasn’t that many, that’s why I decided to come out in public to this area.
“There have been many customers since I came out here on Wednesday last week.”
Gimbe admits to me that he has never been to school.
“I grew up growing coffee,” he says.
“There was a tribal fight in my area from 1993-2000, so I left and came to Port Moresby.
“When I came to Port Moresby, I didn’t know anything about this plant business, until I joined Robin Carter at Palm Grove.
“Now I really enjoy what I’m doing.
“If my plants give so much joy and happiness to people, it also gives me a lot of joy and happiness.
“I haven’t made any big sales as yet, or have major clients, and only make small sales to individuals who want plants and flowers for their homes.
“My plants and flowers are reasonably priced, and range from K1 to K40.”
So there you are, next time you’re driving to Gerehu, make sure you stop at the recreational park and buy a plant or flower from Joe Gimbe.
You will make your home more beautiful, help a small local businessman, as well as rub off the mark of Cain from the notorious Tete Settlement.
If you want to contact this little PNG gardener, his number is (675) 72361481. Show him your support by buying one of his plants or flowers!

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