By Urshula Jim
A young man from Kea village in Koirai, Central said farming watermelon had been his passion since childhood.
Sly Billy is a young man who had grown up helping his parents to cultivate land and plant watermelon and other crops.
“I initially grew up farming garden produce, fruits and greens.
My parents were great farmers, they are really good in farming crops.
“They’ve always taught us how to grow food to sustain ourselves,” he said.
Billy said he and his elder siblings assisted their parents to make big gardens for consumption and profit.
“We assisted our parents to cut down the bushes, burn them and cultivated the land.
We’ve cultivated variety of crops from vegetables, fruits and garden produce in general,” he said.
He said pigs are a major threat to their watermelons and other fresh produce.
Billy said they weed and built fences around their gardens to protect them from pigs.
He said farming watermelon is interesting.
“I collect seeds and dry them in the sun for some weeks, put them in a container and fill up with water. Once the shoots grow, I dig the ground and plant.
After the planting season, they build fences and weed the gardens.
Insects also eat out the leaves but we use fertilizers that are sold at the markets or stores and spray our leafy greens and watermelons,” he said.
During harvesting season, they paid their relatives to assist them with the harvesting of watermelons.
“Harvesting watermelon is hard work but fun as well. We invited our neighbours to harvest with us and shared some for consumption,” he said.
After the harvesting, watermelons are packed into 50kg bags and are ready to be transported to the city for sale.
“We harvested the day before and transported the watermelons and other fresh produce the next day.
“But when it rained and the roads were not in good condition, it took us some days to organise transportation.
“It is very challenging for mothers and older men to carry heavy loads of fresh produce for long distances,” Billy said.
Billy said the soil was fertile, the people hardworking but there were no proper services like roads to help them transport their fresh produce.
He usually brings 10 – 11 50kg watermelon bags and sells them for K200-K300 at the Boroko market.
“The income that we get from the sale of watermelons are used for school fees.
“It is our first priority and the rest is used to support us daily.”
By Urshula Jim