I publish this story in my blog in the hope that someone will help assist this hardworking man with finance and farm machinery.
The pictures: Top two pictures show the farmer(L) and is wife(R); (centre L) shows main fish pond; (above left) shows the work of one man, using only his muscle power to set up an integrated rice and fish farm over eight years; (above right) shows the man, his wife, and his family of six children
The full story of the man and is work is published below.
PADDY RICE AND FISH PRODUCTION
EARTH POSITION: Gera is home to a humble soft spoken man in is late forties. His name is William Ulka. He lives and works his land as a way of living; in a typical example of a Papua New Guinean being self-employed. In an age when educated people decide that paid employment is the most attractive way of living, Mr. Ulka decided otherwise. He is a graduate of the University of Technology (1983) as a qualified Surveyor. After a short stint with OTMIL he decided that home and his father’s land were more attractive then a paid job, and bossy bosses telling him what to do and what not to do. He came home to Gera at Christmas 1983.
Ulka’s First Project:
The first project he undertook was a coffee plantation. He organized his immediate family and other clan members to begin on one of the most ambitious ventures - that of setting up the biggest coffee plantation in the rugged terrain of Gera. It took sweat, guts, and an iron will, but after five years William was able to Launch his Company - Krumba Mambuno Business Group Ltd - and also the one and only biggest coffee plantation in Simbu Province - well over 20 hectares of Arusa and Blue Mountain Arabica Coffee. Prominent leaders in attendance at the launching at Gera included the then Opposition Leader and Member for Western Highlands, Hon. P. Wingti, and the then Deputy Primer of Simbu Province, Hon. John Endemongo Bola.
The Company then went on to build a big warehouse near the Highway, which also housed a well stocked canteen, and bought a small Suzuki vehicle to transport parchment coffee from its K4,000 wet bean processing plant to the highway, where bigger transport would lift to coffee mills. The plantation was off to a profitable start, raking in up to K45,000 each coffee season, and employing up to one hundred seasonal laborers. A dream come true for the soft spoken William.
However, events took a turn for the worse, and the plantation ceased operations.
The Plantation’s Demise
William’s family and his clan members had never seen so much money in their lives. While they were happy that their hard work was paying off, they began to question Williams management and entrepreneurial skills and his right to be in control of the plantation and associated businesses. His three younger brothers mobilized and pressured William to hand over the management reigns to them. And so around 1996 the group began to fall apart and the plantation failed.
Eventually in 1998 William reluctantly relinquished management of the business to his younger brothers and their supporters in the hope of salvaging the business. It did not take long for the business to die. William’s dreams of making it big in the coffee business also died.
Why did the business die?
This is a question that would require a discussion into many aspects of business, management , and management of people. However it will suffice to say here that it is very difficult to educate illiterate village people on the inflows and outflows of money in a business. They only seem to look at the total inflow at the end of the financial year and will not/refuse to believe that most of the money goes to GST, loan repayments, and to operations to keep the company going. They then form the opining that the incumbent manager is tricking them out of money - in this case it was, unfortunately, the hard working and soft-spoken William.
William could have easily given up his village and land, after the business failed, but he decided to turn his energies to another self-help project. He decided to grow rice - a new crop just introduced into the Simbu Province by an English man (Peter Craddock) from the VSO in the nearby Rosary Secondary school. He also began digging ponds for inland fresh water fish.
William’s Current Project:
We have read of, and seen pictures of Asian rice paddies and the fish they grow with the rice in the paddy’s water. As far as I am aware paddy technology has not been introduced to PNG by the Department of Primary industry. However, William has experimented and successfully grown rice in paddy fields for almost four years (2005 –2008)now. He produces enough rice to feed his family all year round, and also sells some of the surplus for cash to other village people. The cash he makes, combined with the coffee trees he keeps help to pay school fees for his children, as well as other needs for the family, including travel and electricity bills to PNG Power.
All his paddy fields have been dug out of slopping hillsides at Gera where there is hardly any flat land. William provided most of the labor himself, with some help from his wife and older children. A few of his friends helped him for a few days early on when he began his project. He is blessed with an excellent source of water - a spring that spouts out of limestone in the centre of his property.
Apart from his paddy fields he has dug one big fish pond, and two smaller production ponds. He began with looking after common Golden and Cantonese carp, but has since replaced these with super tilapia, which he reckons have more meat and are tastier.
Apart from all these William keeps a few pigs to meet family obligations, where pigs are considered most valuable in all customary activities. He has tried his hand at rabbit rearing which he gave up after awhile, saying the small animals seemed to eat forever which meant spending a lot of man-hours organizing feed for them. He has also raised cassowaries imported from the coastal lowlands.
However, at the moment William concentrates largely on his paddies and fish.
This is the story of a remarkable man.
Only he himself will be able to tell you the pain and suffering he endured when he watched the demise of his first business. No one except himself will be able to describe the effort, the labor in man hours, the pains of manual labor, and the sacrifices involved in his second and ongoing project.
What he needs now is financial aid to complete the project he has stared and perhaps someone out there can help him with enough finance to mechanize his activities.
C/O Mr. Gabriel Goye, The University of Goroka, PO Box 1078, Ph 675 7311811/675 72194593
Compiled by: Gabriel Goye