Crossing borders with sago making

National, Normal

The National, Friday July 5th, 2013


MAKING sago to minister to the Malaitan people, in the Solomon Islands, is testament that God works in mysterious ways to extend his kingdom.

And this is an area that the Assemblies of God church (AOG) PNG will use to start its missionary work in the Solomon Islands – by going into sago making in Fiu village.

The sago-making art and the variety of sago food products is already raising eyebrows and stimulating taste buds among the villagers of Fui.

The tropical rain forests in Malaita, just like any coastal PNG province, has similar village settings with rivers, swamps and mountainous areas. 

They are subsistence farmers and fishermen with vegetable gardens, wildlife, birds, insect-inhabited forest and rivers and swamps filled with fish and aquatic creatures. Along these rivers and swampy banks are an abundance of sago palms.

Despite having similar daily lifestyles and eating similar indigenous foods, they did not know that sago palms are warehouses of delicious food products.

They became aware of the potential of sago products when been told of it by the first AOG missions team that visited last April. 

Pr Philo Kasseng, who was part of that team, told them that sago could provide them with food for months. 

“I told them that they could produce sago and bring it over to Honiara and sell them to a huge PNG population and generate an income,” he said.

A surprised Fiu village Anglican Renewal Centre pastor, Eliot Bula, said they only knew how to use the leaves (commonly known in Tok Pisin as morota) to make sago-thatched roofs and spathe (pangal) to make walls. 

“But not for food,” Bula said.

“We know that pigs love to eat the spongy part (pith) of it located in the centre of the trunk.”

So he asked Kaseng if the PNG team would teach them the art of sago making. 

Kasseng said the team was ill-prepared but assured villagers that the second team would return and teach them how to make sago and cook a variety of sago dishes.

So when the first team returned to Gerehu AOG New Life Family church they briefed the second team members to take sago beating sticks with them. 

The 14 members of the second team were mostly women from Sepik, Gulf, Northern and Chimbu.

Before the second team went back to Fiu last November, they sent word to the villagers a week in advance to cut down a sago palm tree. 

When the team arrived in Fiu, they rounded up the villagers and proceeded to remove the trunk to expose the spongy substance and pounded that spongy substance before grinding it into a soft powder. 

They then built a trough from the huge hollow part of the stem of the sago palm. The trough was supported with strong sticks firmly placed up right into the ground. 

The powder was kneaded in water over an empty rice bag. Water is collected in a dish at the end of the trough. So after the water is collected, sago pulp settles. 

The villagers even tried their hands out by beating out the spongy part and squeezing out the sago into the dish. 

The collected sago pulp was then processed into nangu with boiling water, which is popular among the Sepik people, and the sago was wrapped in banana leaves mixed with banana to make poe, which is popular among the Gulf people. 

The two sago products became a favourite with the villagers and the PNG team promised to teach them more sago dishes.

This activity that was shared and enjoyed by both people prompted Solomon Islands High Commissioner to PNG, William Nii Haomae, to reveal that relations between PNG and thew Solomon Islands was growing stronger in all aspects.

“It is getting stronger at present in cultural ties, economically, politically, educationally, spiritually, music in fact in all aspect of live,”  Haomae said.

He revealed that during the launching of the AOG PNG-Solomon Islands Mission at the AOG New Life Family church at Gerehu, Port Moresby, last Sunday.

Haomae thanked AOG PNG for its contribution in strengthening the relationship through the spiritual area by working with AOG Solomon Islands to bring development to the Solomon Islands. 

In supporting Haomae’s comments, AOG Solomon Islands general-secretary Pr John Subu thanked Prime Minister Peter O’Neill for giving K20 million to the Solomon Islands. 

O’Neill last month offered the money on a state visit to the Solomons.

Subu said not only the AOG PNG church was providing support but the PNG government and people were providing support to the Solomons people.

He thanked AOG PNG for donating a computer and printer for the AOG Bible College at Auki, in Malaita Province, in the Solomon Islands, last year with a workabout sawmill and chainsaw to build an academic school at Fue village, in Malaita.

Subu gave a valuable and sacred traditional shell money necklace (taboo) to AOG PNG missions director Pr Paul Hambukie as a symbolic and customary appreciation for this partnership.