By ROSELYN ELLISON
FORMER mine worker Augustine Valiling agrees with the Government that unemployed people should return to their villages and farm the land to earn a living.
His thriving pineapple farm at Ulunga village in the Kokopo-Vunamami Urban local level government proves how the land can yield a lot if one wisely and diligently uses it.
Augustine, 57, and wife Rosina are reaping the fruits of their labour from their pineapple farm at Ulaguna which they started in 2016 when he left his job at the Lihir mine. He previously worked for the Panguna mine until the crisis in 1989. They have four children.
“Why I choose this crop is because I see that interest in it is dying out in the communities. It is an important fruit.
“When I was working in Lihir, I saw pineapple every meal time on the table. I told myself that I should go back home, plant pineapple and supply the company.”
Augustine completed Grade Six in 1974 at the Ulagunan Community (now primary) School and attended the Kokopo High (now secondary) School where he completed Grade 10 in 1978.
From 1979 to 1980, he attended the Arawa Technical College and worked at the Panguna mine until the 1989 crisis. He returned home with his family and began farming the land.
“ When I was working in Lihir, I see pineapple every meal time on the table. I told myself that I should go back home, plant pineapple and supply the company.”
Before he left to work in Lihir, the family already owned more than two hectares of pineapple. His plan was to supply shops in Kokopo and companies in other provinces.
He decided to leave his work in Lihir to return home and concentrate on his pineapple farm.
“From the earnings I receive from pineapple sale, I support my family, pay my children’s school fees, build a new home and buy a truck.”
He could earn K600 to K700 when companies ordered pineapples from his farm.
Wife Rosina can earn more than K300 a day from her sales at the Kokopo market.
They supply Anderson supermarket and have contracts with others who buy farm produce from them.
They also sell pineapple suckers at K1 each.
In a year, they can have three harvests. But the best crops are in August to December.
Compared to other crops, Augustine thinks pineapples are better because they can be kept for a week and not rot.
Augustine plants vegetables, peanut, corn and other greens.
But he sees his future and wealth in his pineapple farm.
“I encourage people to join in and let us revive pineapple farming in our province. I have been in the business long enough now to see that the demand is high. I am happy to share what I know with starters.”
One thing Augustine has learnt is that small people can prosper by doing small things every day but they must be committed and prepared to work hard.
He has never regretted leaving his mining work to return home and farm his land because that is where all the treasure is hidden.