Gabsongkeg women look to the future

Rased Jobbie Ferea (right) discussing how he is helping women of Gabsongkeg village to achieve their dreams.

WOMEN in the Gomamoz Corridor in the Huon Gulf District of Morobe are a thriving testimony of courage and confidence. The group of 60 women at Gabsongkeg village are starting their first steps to becoming entreprenuers. Their is a humble, small start – haus dua tebol maket (doorstep table markets).
This is not only to make daily ends meet but to make it an important stepping stone for sustainable small-medium enterprise (SME) ventures involving families in future.
There are unseen challenges the proposed Nadzab Township development is expected to bring upon the indigenous inhabitants’[ lifestyles. Gabsongkeg cultural norms, beliefs and environment are all at risk.
The Ngaeng Wampar norm will never be the same again within the next 10 to 20 years.
Although Gabsongkeg is at the centre of Nadzab airport developments, chances for local women to participate in micro to small businesses remain remote and few, even despite the potential of the arable land around them.
Most locals remain uncertain, while only few landowners benefit from leasing their customary land for businesses and increase settlements without by-laws to tackle illicit activities.
However, not many landowners that receive thousands from leasing land are seen to invest in any future businesses to provide employment chances for locals, besides Songkeg Trading and Zeram bus service flourishing inspite of odds.
The famous Nadzab (Northern Allied Deployment Zone Air Base) airport was built upon Ngawampog land parcel.
A Lutheran mission station, primary school and agricultural field extension at Gabmazung, a poultry farm at Durung, the Erap Department of Agriculture and Livestock station at Dogoro were established.
The rainbow over Wampar land lured many nationals and two Asians to flock in and invest in shops, coffee and timber processing mills, auto parts shop, tyre service bays, fast food outlets, motels, private clinics, taverns, among other employment prospects.
Immigrants drifting into particular suburbs like Mongkeng (Gravel), Ngawampog, Durung, Wanof-Didi, Pupuafin, Sagir, Tanam and Ngaromel create a multi-cultural society, rather like colonising the indigenous inhabitants.
Social issues such as killings, drug abuse, alcohol abuse, rape, adultery, underage/unplanned marriages, prostitution and violence against women keep mounting more pressure upon leaders like Councilor Bill Justin, Wampar LLG president Boaras Giuka and Wampar village court chairman David Elijah.
So far, there is no proper police post to deal with the increasing social issues in Nadzab area.
Over time, the peace-loving Gabsongkeg villagers survived on subsistence farming and small manageable cocoa plots. They have been surviving without clean water, electricity and a sealed access road into the village since the inception of Nadzab airport in WWII.
Obviously, everyone still sleeps under thatched kunai grass and sago leaves today.
And yet, Nadzab airport is currently undergoing redevelopment funded by Japan International Cooperation Agency (Jica) to become the second international airport in country.
While the proposed Nadzab Township is in the pipeline the land issue is far from over between the locals standing united with stiff resistance to Morobe Provincial Government and the Department of Lands and Physical Planning, despite their desire for the project.
The rebellion stems from the negligence of government and businesses alike, failing over time to work collaboratively with indigenous people in addressing pressing issues.
There has been a neglect and lack of corporate responsibility in appreciation to locals for the millions of kina generated annually from various businesses including Nadzab airport and the electricity pylons standing on their land.
With many still living in doubt, these 60 women tapped into haus dua teibol maket along the Gomamoz corridor as there are minimal chances for enhancing women’s capabilities to prosper in business.
The Han Paus (Nadzab) and Tanam markets currently offer trading opportunities for immigrants and locals alike.
This corridor has bee in exsitence since the establishment of the first Lutheran mission station at Gabmazung in 1900.
It provided a pathway for many locals that wrote their personal testimonies, nurturing and realising their dreams whether it be in education, business or in their social and spiritual lives.
The Gomamoz corridor (road stretch) links Gabmazung Primary School, the Lutheran mission station, an agriculture extension field and a cemetery. It links farther across to Number 8 (formerly a motor cycle race course) and Durung poultry farm.
Gomamoz remains an ideal leeway for young lovers in serious relationships for a one-night stand, or meetings to exchange intimate tales as well plan for the future, should they be serious in tying the knot whenever time permits.
For the ‘boom box generation’, it unites them to exploit whatever hard earned cash from whichever means for a drinking spree with loud noise and speaking in triple tongues.
For the elderly, it brings like-minded men into critical discussions while sharing zein, unchi and gasur (betel nut, lime and mustard) to find solutions to issues before submitting for approval at Ass Mango during community meetings.
Gomamoz corridor provides that freeway for locals to express personal intention and freedom of choice, enabling many people chart the course of their future.
Among many opportunities Gomamoz corridor offered was when 14 local women started to realise their personal abilities and tap into initiating the haus dua teibol markets. Soon later, interest grew and eventually the number swelled to 60 mothers.
It was an opportunity overlooked for many years as most people had been selling fresh produces and cash crops elsewhere.
Obviously, about 15 per cent of the estimated 1,600 local population is involved in cocoa farming introduced in late 1990 for commercial agri-business purposes.
From late 2015 to 2021, the Gomamoz corridor, as it is termed by Jobbie Ferea, came to the limelight when Nadzab area began to experience impacts of growth, providing formal employment opportunities to skilled and semi-skilled locals and settlers alike.
Among others is the palm oil project from inland Ngasawapum all the way to Wanof-Didi and either side of Markham Farms, which employs local labourers.
Many underprivileged and unskilled people are caught in the informal sector, be it legal or illegal activities, that at least provide food on the table for their families.
The opening of the Han Paus and Tanam markets including two Asian shops have opened an commercial enclave where an estimated K500,000 to K900,000 cash is circulating each day in Nadzab alone.
Money gomes to them
Interestingly, some portion of these earnings, either formally or informally, finds its way into Dangkum Creek down to Gabsongkeg village.
By then the 60 women along the Gomamoz corridor had set up their cash nets decorated with colorful baits comprised of store goods, cooked and fresh foods, cigarettes, meri blouses, can drinks, cold water, etc., and trap whatever amounts they can.
A mother collects about K50 to K100 a day and about K200 to K350 within a week in front of her doorsteps.
The Gomamoz corridor is currently a thriving means of hope for the 60 women that grasped the opportunity to meet immediate family needs.
Walking with heavy loads alongside the Dangkum Creek each day to and from Han Paus and Tanam markets along the highway has been a burden to these women.
They therefore initiated the Gomamoz corridor table markets and the concept is drawing cash to their doorsteps.
One Jane Solomon says “cash flow in the village is huge and one can collect K50 to K100 a day. We never thought of it until employment opportunities at Nadzab enabled local skilled people to bring cash home on paydays.”
Solomons says the group provided an easy, affordable means to sell essential items in demand.
“We also feel for our sons abusing their lives consuming homebrew and drugs so we encourage them to participate in doorstep makets to live honest and honest lifes.
“Besides, most of our husbands never remain home to assist us but instead wander around and bring social issues to families. Thus, we also encourage them to participate with us” says Solomon.
Women leader Mariken Maliaki, wife of late Hiob Maliaki, says that Gabsongkeg village will never be the same again in the near future.
“We’ll have no coconut, marafri (plantains), zein, gasur and cocoa trees as we see them standing today. Most of the land in Gabsongkeg will likely be taken over by the proposed Nadzab township development.
“People will be slotted into settlement blocks which means we’ll have no more land for gardening. So we need to plan ahead and start early before it is late.
“And these table markets will feed family houses in future and our (women’s) vision is to grow the table markets into small-medium entrepreneur (SME) businesses,” says Maliaki.
These women have yet to mobilise, set up their group profile and register with the Investment Promotion Authority (IPA) as an association, acquire a taxpayer identification number (TIN) with Internal Revenue Commission (IRC) and open their bank accounts.
Currently, not all of them have bank accounts to deposit so whatever cash they earn reverts back to the buying of new stocks for selling as well to provide household needs.
Need for training
“We obviously need financial literacy and micro-business management trainings to enable us to manage our business soon after setting and registering as an association with IPA,” says Maliaki.
“We also needed seed capital for the start hence, we submitted our proposal to Huon Gulf MP Ross Seymour to assist through the SME initiative,” Maliaki says, adding that the women contribute K10 commitment fee only to assist people that come together to assist in mobilising and guiding them.
“Electricity is one of our core needs to energise our family businesses and we hope our MP Ross Seymour will soon link the power lines as he proposed,” Maliaki says.
Rased Jobbie Ferea hopes that the Gabsonkeg mothers not only conduct doorstep sales and marketing but also take trips out during cultural, sports, church, educational and other occasions to conduct mobile marketing.
They therefore need and estimated seed capital of K60,000 from which K29,000 will be spent on marques (tents) and tables for the 60 women and the balance (K31,000) will be shared (K500 each)among them to enhance their SME business.
Ferea says after registering the association, every woman will be monitored on a one-to-one basis each month or two to see their progress.
“Whoever picks up, we’ll push them into financial literacy and related micro-business management trainings, as most women are used to the norm of buying-selling-feeding family and revert to the same cycle each day all year around.
“In future, we anticipate to initiate a business group to be named “Gomamoz Corridor Mama” owned and managed by mothers themselves, besides owning their respective doorstep businesses,” Ferea says.

  • Pisai Gumar is a freelance journalist.