Grade 2 leaver does well with onions

Bobby and his hired youths harvesting bulb onions at his farm at the foot of a mountain in Ggolme. -Nationalpics by ZACHERY PER

PROMISING bulb onion farmer Bobby Komba, 31, abruptly ended his educational journey after Grade 2 at Goglme Primary School in 1999 due to his parents’ marital problems.
His father, a former policeman and his mother broke up and that that created an environment not conducive for him to continue on to Grade 3 and beyond.
Bobby recalled living with his grandparents at his Goglme village in Gembogl sub-district Chimbu.
“When I my school mates were going back and forth from school, I thought they would continue in school to find paid jobs. I am now out of school feeling bad but I said its okay, and I got into coffee planting without any parental support.
“I struggled to do coffee business but it helped me. I planted on the land and I got much money it helped me. “I spent seven to eight years to do coffee business, I looked after coffee and coffee looked after me,” Bobby said.
Then bulb onions entered the scene.
He said bulb onion was first introduced into Gembogl area after 2010. Farmer from the Kuglkane tribe in Womatne area were the leading farmers that produced a lot of bulb onion.
“I had no idea about bulb onion until 2016 when I started to plant bulb onion. I lacked skills and knowledge on growing bulb onion so I spoilt the harvest in my first attempt. I saw farmers getting more money from bulb onions, I did not give up and continued until I picked up (the correct way of growing and treating them),” he said.
“I realised that bulb onion has huge market potential but not many farmers are going into planting it in PNG. I saw other provinces like Jiwaka, Western Highlands, Eastern Highlands and parts of Chimbu plant cabbages, carrot, potatoes and other vegetables. As for bulb onion I saw it grew well in my locality. I left coffee now and concentrate on bulb onion as it gives good monetary returns and has good market locally and with companies,” Bobby said.
He said from the money he earned from bulb onion, he built himself a house, bought a television set, expensive household items, coffee pulpers, a generator, solar panels for electricity and many more household items.
“Today we as farmers are getting money every day unlike public servants and company workers waiting for fortnightly pay. Many people today realise I have money in my pocket though I did not complete my education. I simply work hard on my land planting bulb-onion,” Bobby said.
He said everyone in the village owned portions of land to till and grow vegetables including bulb onions.
“It will always be a struggle in the beginning but once the operation picks up, it will be fine,” says Bobby.
“When we waste time play cards, drinking beer our lives will be useless. Today I decided to go deeper into bulb onion business and I’m deep into it. I spent K27,000 I earned from bulb onions to buy building materials to build a drier shed and other materials. In one round I am able to take 150 net bags from the drier shelves at any one time. The farmers here make maximum harvests of 30 to 40 bags, and that depend on their capacity and market.”
From his seven farms Bobby supplies his produce to NKW Catering and Andersons Foodland in Lae Morobe Province, Simbu Farmers Marketing Limited (SFML) and lately Agro-Tech Limited placed an order for him to supply 150 bags.
Bobby got married in 2018, he has a two-year-old son Andrew Bobby. Through farming he has everything a family needs to survive comfortably.
“My wife graduated with a Diploma in Accounting from the Port Moresby Business College and is now helping me in doing bookkeeping and running my operation. She will pursue employment after we settle well in our bulb onion business,” he said.
Bobby is the last born of a family of four. Their divorced parents are still around. His former policeman dad is at Goglme village. His sisters and a brother are all married pursuing their own interest in other things.
“I have a future plan to buy a vehicle with the money I am making from bulb onions. I attend church services three times a week as a dedicated member of the Revival Church. I travel often to our church uphill and I need a vehicle to travel often,” he said.
Bobby’s said his was vision to support young farmers to get serious with their bulb onion farming or any other crop of their choice and not to waste time on unproductive or meaningless activities.
Fresh Produce Development Agency has given Bobby seed potato but he says is land is not viable for potatoes so his family grows potatoes only for their own consumption and not for commercial purposes.
He said Kundiawa-Gembogl MP Willie Onguglo who is very supportive of agricultural activities has helped in identifying markets for the farmers’ produce.
Bobby described the recent visit by a high-level delegation from International Fund for Agriculture Development (IFAD) and Market for Village Farmers (MVF) Project Management Unit and relevant agencies to his bulb onion drier shed a blessing.
“I believe IFAD and MVF came as a blessing; they want to see with their own naked eyes who is doing farming and who is just doing the talking. When they come to my shed and see for themselves. I am happy that they would help me and if my lead farmers bring help to me, that is going to be great.”