Bougainville Culture News : Village Kitchen Rules (VKRs) a feel good and taste good story

 ” Making the best tama(tama) or kakasi isn’t a full time job, but many women now get a cash return for producing their village delicacies, thereby quantifying their efforts in an important way.

The VKRs are paying off because women at home are using the family village kitchen to make, bake, braise, boil, roast, fry, steam and smoke foods that are fetching cash. Often before I leave Buka on weekends I often place an order for seafood so it will be ready when I reach the village to enjoy on my own or share with family and friends. This is a feel good and taste good story.”

Simon Pentanu official Bougainville food taster

The 2017 Election is almost in the past now. The many campaign visits by candidates and their entourage of supporters have come and gone. In the village it is back to normal life.

For the women this includes going back to gardening, the usual kitchen chores, including making tama(tama) for the household, for visitors and travellers that come by, or for cultural occasions to which everyone has to contribute cooked and uncooked garden food and seafood and tama(tama).

My sister’s Village Kitchen Rules (VKRs) ensure there is minimal disturbance and distraction by those that have no business in the kitchen. She is best plying certain kitchen skills for ambrosian dishes on her own.

Ordinary village kitchens are also bakeries that churn out cookies, buns and doughnuts on a daily basis for sale in the village and at the Mangkaki fish market across on the mainland.

The old assumption that a woman’s place is in the kitchen has been turned on its head by these smart and resourceful women who are using their kitchens to produce mouth-watering delicacies that lubricate the social wheels and provide a steady income.

With a population guesstimate of some 700 men, women and many children, Pok Pok has a ready market for the homemade cookies, buns and wrapped and packed seafood. Tama(tama), which is prepared only by women, is the most popular delicacy for visitors.

In addition to selling at the popular fish market on the mainland during the day there are now night markets by the village main street by lanterns and Chinese solar lamps making it possible for women to sell wares, snacks and drinks in the evenings.

The amount of effort that women put in the kitchen from start to finish, is worth paying for. It brings a sense of worth for the person preparing it as well as pride of place in the basic village kitchen where it happens.

So, here are my sister’s VKRs – the rules she expects men and boys in our extended family to observe, especially when she has been asked to make tama(tama) or kakasi.

1. men are not allowed to get in the way
2. don’t offer advice unless asked, the food will
be ready in time
3. don’t complain about delayed service – perhaps you didn’t fetch enough firewood
4. eat everything you are served, there is no
‘cleaning up’ after
5. it is insulting not to try local food – remind
your foreign visitors
6. say nice things about the cook and the
cooking
7. don’t talk too much while eating – you won’t
enjoy it as much
8. there are no doggy bags in the village – eat
everything
9. hands were made before spoons and forks, my cutlery been borrowed
10. there are no dishes to do after meals, this avoids complaints about doing dishes

Bougainville Tourism _Chocolate Festival

Book your tour visit to the Bougainville Chocolate Festival 6 and 7 September thru International tours and accommodation services at Bougainville Experience Tours www.bougtours.com

Or Direct through Uruna Bay Retreat Pok Pok Island a few minutes from Arawa

BOOK HERE by Email

Bougainville News : For a positive future Bougainville should be paddling in the same direction

 ” When we grow up in traditional societies in communal villages, the values and traditions that we grow up in play a profound part in our working lives in the modern world.

To put it another way, where and how we start out early in life will often determine where we end up.

Most of all we must demand they must work together for the common good of the People. I will certainly be doing my part in this endeavour which has eluded us in the past.

What so often gets in the way to appeals for the common good is the pursuit of personal agendas.

When everyone puts in the same effort and moves together – like in the canoe, making sure their paddles are in the water pulling in the same direction with the same purpose – it is easier to reach your destination. Everyone appreciates each other’s efforts. Everyone benefits from each other’s efforts. “

Simon Pentanu Speaker of the House Bougainville

Work and Fun rooted in childhood memories .I am a speaker. That’s my job in Bougainville’s challenging and interesting Journey at the moment. Speakers do not speak much, unless it is necessary or they are asked to do so.

This is only part of the story. The corresponding part is, when we grow up in traditional societies in communal villages, the values and traditions that we grow up in play a profound part in our working lives in the modern world. To put it another way, where and how we start out early in life will often determine where we end up.

This is true of many Bougainvilleans/PNGns that have ventured out and succeeded in private, public and corporate life but who are still deeply rooted in their traditional society that played a significant part in the formative years of their upbringing.

And so, speaking for myself, out of the House I am also an amateur photographer who sees life and value in everything that crosses my path. I talk to and photograph objects and subjects in the hills, on the beaches and around the waters mostly, but not only, where I grew up.

The photo here is a sand spit on one of many outer reefs I used to paddle out to as a boy with my folk to dive, spear fish, harvest seaweeds and gather shells, crustaceans and molluscs.

Children still do this today. But instead of paddling by canoes they are whisked out there by motor boats. And rather than eating and sharing what they catch and collect, as we used to, most of their catches, gatherings and findings from the reefs are sold for cash at the fish market.

We would go out once, twice, or occasionally several times a week. Paddling the distances on the open sea was hard work and back-breaking during stormy weather. But looking back, I would do it all over again.

Today they can motor out as often as they like, often twice to thrice on the same day if the fish are biting or if the price of sea slugs is good. Weather is not a worry with fibreglass motor boats, as it is when you’re in a wooden canoe with paddles.

These comments and comparisons are not necessarily about the hard times of the past or the conveniences of modern times that we take for granted.

I am more interested in making a point about living, enjoying and appreciating the things and people we engage with every day. And not doing it to the detriment of the natural world we all rely on to sustain us.

The pressures of everything from population growth to the cash economy to seeking elected office to poor eating habits are taking their toll on our species.

But rarely do we stop to think about the pressures we compound upon the planet – from wreaking human havoc on land and sea to depleting finite resources.

We must do a much better job of looking after the world that is the source of our life. And we must recognise that natural resources like the forests, minerals and productive soil – even clean air and water – are finite.

Let us be responsible and be light on the planet. It is a beautiful living thing that deserves our care. It supports all species, most of all humankind. Yet we pose the most perilous threat to the planet that supports us and our livelihood.

When the 2017 national election counting is finally over and we know who our four MPs are, we must demand of them, together with our MHRs, to be true leaders by conserving these essential natural values so we and our children and grandchildren can enjoy them too.

Most of all we must demand they must work together for the common good of the People. I will certainly be doing my part in this endeavour which has eluded us in the past.

What so often gets in the way to appeals for the common good is the pursuit of personal agendas.

When everyone puts in the same effort and moves together – like in the canoe, making sure their paddles are in the water pulling in the same direction with the same purpose – it is easier to reach your destination. Everyone appreciates each other’s efforts. Everyone benefits from each other’s efforts.

In a motorised boat everyone sits down and they get to the fishing destination with little effort. There is no paddling, no exertion, no communal effort. The engine, fuel and propeller zips you out there. And everyone does their own thing. It’s the competitive world of cash economy. It’s a long way from the days of sharing and living for each other in a unified way where the family unit, the extended family and clan are important.

Happy Life

Bougainville Day 2017 Reflections on the past : Are our greatest resources the environment, our cultures and our people ?

 “June 15, is a very symbolic occasion. It marks the anniversary of the day when Bougainville’s political aspirations were recognized with the formal establishment of the Autonomous Bougainville Government, in this sense Bougainville Day captures the hopes, dreams and aspirations of all Bougainvilleans.

The last twelve years have been some of the most challenging, yet fruitful, for the Autonomous Region of Bougainville as we continue to forge ahead to decide our ultimate political future.”

Happy Bougainville Day and God bless you all.

Chief Dr. John L. Momis GCL, MHR
President

” As another Bougainville Day arrived and passed us by we continue to contemplate, celebrate and share the belief, hope and faith that with the right efforts and proper use of resources Bougainville will continue be a resilient society among its Melanesian brothers in the country and in the Pacific Islands.

What are Bougainville’s greatest resources?”

Simon Pentanu asks in Part 2 below

Part 1 The President

The Autonomous Bougainville Government has made significant progress in strengthening its faculties through passing important laws in the Bougainville House of Representatives and revitalizing the Bougainville Public Service into a lean and effective service delivery mechanism.

We have passed many new and important laws such as the Bougainville Mining Act 2015 which is one of the very best in the world as it gives Bougainville resource owners more control over their land and resources. The recent partial lifting of the Mining Moratorium on Bougainville is a clear indication of the ABG’s drive to foster fiscal self-reliance in the region.

Over the years our public service has been plagued by corruption; it is a deeply rooted problem that continues to hamper our development but we have since made efforts to curb this problem.

The setting up of the Auditor’s Office and the recent opening of the Ombudsman Commission’s office in Bougainville has provided us with the necessary means to tackle the corruption problem head on, not just in the public service but throughout Bougainville. The recent developments in the public service shows that the ABG will no longer tolerate corrupt practices.

We have set the indicative date for the referendum to be held on June 15, 2019. The ABG is already preparing for this very important event and the newly created Department of Peace Agreement Implementation will be taking the lead on this.

I would like to remind you all that our people are a people highly favoured. We have been blessed with the right to self-determination and this right we have paid for with the blood, sweat and tears that we shed through the darkest hours of our history, and that was the Bougainville Crisis.

We will not go quietly into the night, we must stand firm and stand united and make our voices heard, for at this juncture, unity is our greatest bargaining power on the eve of the referendum.

Today I ask all Bougainvilleans to reflect and to consider what you can each do to help Bougainville achieve its true destiny and dreams.

All of us have a role to play – our farmers, industrialists, students, teachers, health workers, public servants and our elected leaders.

By working together and moving ahead with a common goal there is much that we can achieve.

My challenge to you is to embrace this change and contribute to the journey. Together we can achieve greatness and as your President that is my ultimate goal – for a proud, united Bougainville.

Happy Bougainville Day and God bless you all.

Chief Dr. John L. Momis GCL, MHR
President

Part 2 Simon Pentanu

Not everyone will agree with me, but I believe they are our environment, our cultures and our people.

When we think about how to transform Bougainville into a developing, progressive region in the modern world, it’s important we do so by harnessing and protecting these resources.

Our environment, cultures and people are the things that have sustained us for countless generations past – and they can continue to do so today and into the future if we are smart.

Keeping our natural environment healthy while transforming Bougainville into a modern, progressive region is something the ABG can achieve only in close consultation with communities – the land owners and culture custodians.

Wherever we look around the world, there are lessons we can learn. Some communities and their environments have become victims of progress, not partners in development.

Think about the Melanesian people of West Papua. In the past 40 years vast quantities of their gold, copper, timber, palm oil and other resources have been mined, chopped down, extracted and exported, but few impartial observers would say this has been to the benefit of West Papua’s environment, cultures and people.

Of course, the vast majority of the resource extraction that has happened in West Papua has been undertaken with little or zero community consultation.

We have the opportunity to do things differently. To this end Bougainville’s mining legislation and policies address this. Let us hope it works in practice so that all parties involved in this industry and any such investment which harnesses resources are equal opportunity benefactors.

When we consider the various options open to us, I believe a CGP (community government partnership) is a more sustainable choice than a PPP (public private partnership).

CGP has the community as its starting point. CGP is a partnership that regards and protects the environment as enduring capital for sustainable humanitarian development.

A PPP is fine if it regards resource owners in communities as equal partners. But too often PPPs see resources merely as disposable commodities and consumables in a profit-oriented business model.

That way of thinking ends up depleting our strongest long-term assets for short-term gains that are here one year and gone the next.

Bougainville’s greatest resources – our environment, our cultures and our people – deserve so much better than that.

We can learn from the lessons from the past – some of which have been the most profound insofar as they have affected our society more than any other society in Melanesia, and the whole of the Pacific for that matter.

 

Bougainville Cultural Tourism News : Teeth-Bits The Tama (Tama ) in modern culinary delights

 

” The variety prepared in earthen clay pot is called kakasi. It is a favourite often prepared for first time visitors or high end guests.

These days however, you can ask and have a kakasi done for you.

The kakasi feeds and is shared by more people as it comes in larger quantities the shape of dumplings fitted into a clay pot. The kakasi also keeps better overnight.”

From the Uruna Bay Resort, Pokpok Island Tours and Accommodation

Tama(tama) is the value-added product of 4-5 varieties of cooking bananas, pick of the best taros and white and yellow cassavas prepared in hot coconut oil by gentle hands.

Women collect the best mature coconuts from marked trees they and those before them have been selectively using for the best coconut oils. If they are from the one tree the end quality and taste is even better.

These (in the photo) long sausage-like shapes stirred hand cooked in virgin oil on selected banana leaves is called toronisi. A toronisi can also be a flat flour bun shape prepared in similar fashion in hot virgin oil on banana leaves.

How much of it should you eat? Tama(tama) and kakasi are best eaten on their own in moderate quantities. Eat too much and it can be too filling and get in the way of appetite and desire for the main dish. That is why it is best taken on its own as a culinary delight in its own right. In a way, in the annals of healthy eating advice it’s like saying protein and carbs and starchy foods do not mix very well.

But these days, especially at feasts or at receptions with varieties of other tuckers that come in all descriptions, shapes, tastes, sizes and colours it is the eyes that do most of the eating. The idea of proper food combination becomes merely a hand-to-mouth delight.

The tama(tama) has been thrown into the mix and fray when in fact it is a vegetarian dish that can best delight and be best enjoyed and satisfy any palate on its own.

Bougainville Tourism News : Our 2017 challenges will be opening up tourism opportunities resulting in quality tour products

 

pp3

  ” Tourism is not an easy industry to grow  and develop as many people and countries might think or expect. In fact it can be a daunting and, at times, difficult industry to be involved in if you don’t have the right advice, proper support, a good kappreciation and sensitivities of others’ cultures, government support, and of course capacity and resources, to start with.

Bougainville can learn a lot and benefit from the advances PNG and neighbouring pacific states have made in tourism. The biggest income earners for our Melanesian neighbours Fiji and Vanuatu, for example, is mass tourism. “

Simon Pentanu see Pokpok Island webpage for info

Picture above and below : Travellers and crew from the cruise ship True North on Pokpok Island 19 December 2016 experiencing a cultural performances

bt-1

Governments that have realized and seen the potential to add substantial tourist dollars to their GNP have developed elaborate policies and support to public and private corporations to promote the industry in a big way.

In this venture and adventure local communities who are the custodians of their environment, interesting natural attractions, historical sites and indigenous arts and cultures must see some benefit in the development of tourism by the government and the private sector through tour agents and operators.

Developing what Bougainville offers, step by step and not en masse is the most sensible approach with VAs. Tour companies and local operators and agents can pick and choose with local communities what is on offer regionally and locally around the Island.

pok-pok-2

All that begins well ends well means a lot. For Bougainville every little successes in this industry is important. The adage which goes something like, “to succeed we must know what we are doing and we cannot be too satisfied until it’s done and dusted”, is true, isn’t it? 

The advice we often hear how best to rebuild Bougainville is to  build from the ground up is equally true, isn’t it. For starters and from experience it is a good advice to start and keep things simple, affordable and manageable from the start. This involves listening to industry experts, not being afraid to ask questions and have early meaningful discussions and consultations with the buyers of the product we are trying to promote and sell.  

bungalows-300x300

New Bungalows at Uruna Bay Retreat on PokPok Island

A successful tour or promotion is a win-win outcome for the travelers and the communities visited, including service providers. The win-win formulae requires proper consultations between all parties involved in the arrangements in advance.

This gives everybody a breathing space as no one is choked or shocked not knowing what is happening, who is coming and going, how the community is involved, how the benefits are shared and there are no surprises and disappointments.

Bougainville is a good product to promote. Areas all over Bougainville in the North, South and central will surpass expectations of any traveler if these are promoted sensibly and not just for the sake of quick profits. 

Slowly but surely we can all contribute  towards a sensible policy discussion and a well construct for tourism for Bougainville.

We have a good product on Pokpok Island. for example. Water sports such as Kayaking , surfing and Skin diving have huge growth potential

water-sports

More than that, on this first occasion we thank Bougainville Experience Tours for gracing us with three cultural groups from the mainland, prearranged and prepaid to perform for the travelers and crew on the cruise ship True North.

If anything else it does a lot and speaks volumes in familiarizing and promoting unity and union between and amongst different cultural groups from different areas in Kieta district. 

When we look back  this is a win-win formulae as it spreads the benefits directly into communities. The early meaningful tripartite consultations which started more than five months ago between North Star Cruises Australia, Bougainville Experience Tours and Chief Peter Garuai of Pokpok and Uruna Retreat venue owners on Pokpok meant that every “i” was dotted and every “t” was crossed as much as it was practically possible to do so.

There will always be issues and hiccups to sort out when a number of parties and groups are involved in trying to achieve something together. We must be prepared to put a positive spin to any differences and challenges faced.

When dealt with and addressed sensibly challenges more often than not opens up opportunities to try harder to do things better for even better results.

The True North is expected to make another visit in December 2017.

 

 

 

Bougainville Lifestyle News : Wonders of the past. Lure into the future . A world to be shared

sp-3

“We should tell our stories in the first person because this is the best way we used to share our stories and exploits as children growing up in the village. I still see and hear kids in the village doing the same today”.

Simon Pentanu

Picture 1 Above : The faithful canoe still very much in use to take you anywhere : Modernization has brought speed and progress but will not take the fun and joy away from using canoes.

As I remember, growing up more than three score years ago, Pokpok Island was covered with a lot of primary green forest, thick jungle, dense canopy and impassable undergrowth. Along the coastal beaches the forest laden with its vines and creepers came bearing down to meet the sea.

This was before Lucas walkabout sawmills, Stihl and Husqvarna brand chainsaws, purseiner nets, and material affluence and its effluence from mining arrived and happened on Bougainville.

Growing up on the Island what we mostly liked and enjoyed was what we did, not what we had or acquired. Our idea of abundance and being happy growing up was not toys, computer games, gifts of sorts for every occasion or a treat in shops where mum and dad could get you whatever you asked for.

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Picture 2  :Children still create their own fun climbing up or sitting on tree branches above ground

Rather, and looking back, it was more about what we did with a lot of time we had like making kids bows and arrows, going up trees and hanging from their branches, getting into canoes and paddling out, staying out in pouring rain and playing in puddles or small floods, swimming a lot, or running into the bushes looking for wild fruits and nuts and admiring the pingtu (praying mantis).

Growing up in the village you couldn’t miss noticing the Island always teemed with a lot of life and innocence that was simple. Everyone then seemed more caring. The whole Island also looked bigger and taller with taller and bigger old growth trees still standing from the beaches up to the hills and mountain.

Possums, other tree climbing marsupials, and snakes roamed the island from end to end along tree tops and along the forest canopy without touching the ground. This might sound like something like a story with drawings from a children’s story book.

No, this really is true about what was then before human habitation, starting with first initial years of settlement of the Island by Chief Sarai and his son Miramira.

In the bushes, brushes and shrubs the hissing flow of pristine creeks was unmistakable for anyone walking or doing gardens or hunting and gathering that wanted to quench their thirst.

Near the ground on the small branches and vines the pingtu always camouflaged itself well but its stationary, slow motion stick dances and sways gave them away.

I used to wonder what they ate and lived on. As for the kids we could wander and walkabout most of the day feeding off the bush on wild fruits, ground tucker and tree nuts like the galip.

Birds sang as they liked, the crickets cranked, the cockatoos blah blah’d at the slightest sight of any human movement below. Other birds shrieked and whistled their unique sounds.

You could never miss the flying hornbill couples by the continuous harmonica like noise produced by the flapping of their wings.

We came to know and realise that the deep-thong gooey sounds of some birds meant it was time to make headway home before the sun set and night fell quickly.

A lot has changed since of course. And not all of it for the better. Along with many of the old growth trees have also gone family members, relatives and friends.

But those of us that are still here still remember them by the trees that still stand, the same bush tracks that we used to walk following each other, and by the familiar sound of birds though they aren’t plentiful and boisterous anymore.

Pokpok Island still supports its inhabitants in increasing numbers. The Islanders are more conscious and have increasing awareness and respect for the environment. There is less and less food gardening in the hills.

Fishing is the mainstay of food for protein as well as being the main reliable income earner.

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Picture 3  :Modernization has brought speed and progress but will not take the fun and joy away from using canoes.

To all inhabitants this is their Paradise, a safe and peaceful haven where everyone knows and respects each other.

It is an Island of peace, of peaceful people and is quickly becoming an allure for day visitors and short stayers.

Our traditions in Bougainville are founded more in sharing than in giving and taking. This is the case with most traditional societies in most parts of this planet.

We share the lavish beauty that surrounds us, the food that we grow in family or communal plots, the sunshine we allow everyone to get by sharing open spaces with no boundaries, the beachfront where we swim and play together, and staring into each other’s eyes and faces as a gesture to acknowledge we all have similar differences.

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Picture 4  : Sharing village beach with young Australian visiting Marist students.

If you venture to Pokpok Island today you can still soak some of the past but it is a stay that is more about how much time you have to enjoy what is around today.

Accommodation is available at Uruna Bay Retreat that is already catering for the quiet, adventurer short sayer type that want to be left on their own, that prefer swimming, snorkelling, fishing, canoeing, kayaking, bit of surfing and other water sports. Trekking  is included in the mix.

It’s fun. Come and rejuvenate, enjoy, and leave with a clear head, as a kinder soul, and with a mindful heart. It is in places and surroundings like this that you can find peace, stop talking and listen to and understand the language of your heart.

😇 May you enjoy the rest of the remaining days of your life with joy, peace and happiness as you desire.

For more info about or book

Bougainville’s PokPok Island and Uruna Bay Retreat

 

Bougainville Education News : Improving literacy in Bougainville, one step at a time

books

 

Literacy is very important in the community; teaching people to read and write is vital, because a lot of kids here during the crisis did not go to school and are only just now learning to read and write.”

Aravira’s Head Teacher Herman Parito

WATCH VIDEO

“There are strong indications that the benefits of mobile reading like kindles are long-lasting and far-reaching, with the potential to improve literacy, increase education opportunities and change people’s lives for the better.

A revolution in reading is upon us…”

Ex President James Tanis Founder of another local Arawa based project

Bookgainville E Kindles Project see Below

png-read-students

Students  from Aravira Primary School in central Bougainville, Papua New Guinea on their walk to school – which for some, takes up to four hours

From Tom Perry World Bank report

After a two-hour drive from the nearest main road, our 4WD can travel no further; me and my travelling companions will have to trek the rest of our journey to Aravira Primary School in Bougainville on foot. As we set off, a group of students from the school emerge from the bush in front of us. They smile, extend their hands in welcome and immediately offer to take my backpack.

I politely refuse, yet within minutes I regret my decision to turn down help. As we move through the long grass along the mountain ridge, the heat which a few minutes ago was manageable is now unbearable. I’m pouring in sweat. My backpack feels 10 kilograms heavier, and the ground beneath me feels as if I’m stepping onto ice. Ten minutes into our journey, I lose my feet, slip into a crevice, and land face-first in the nearest bush.

As I’m helped back onto my feet by the kids, I ask them how much further we have to go to get to the school. They giggle, then simply start walking again. I discover soon enough that the answer to my question is ‘two and half gruelling hours.’ This is a seriously hard trek, clearly not for the faint of heart.

An hour later, I struggle up the next ridge, hiking boots still soaked from yet another river crossing, and it really hits me; this is their daily walk to school.

Aravira Primary School is located deep in the Bougainville mountains. It’s a remote, picturesque spot, and is home to 120 students from Aravira and Remsi, the two communities located within ‘walking distance’ of the school. Yet given the school is at least four hours’ journey from the nearest town, Chairman Henry Topowa tells me after I arrive that ‘walking distance’ is a relative concept up here.

“Access by road is very difficult. Both communities are quite far from the school, so the students have to walk a fair distance and cross rivers to come each day to school,” Henry explains. “When it rains, we have to send the children home because of the weather, because it’s very risky in certain areas.”

Henry says that for those coming to the school from beyond the two nearest communities, it’s an even bigger challenge.

“A lot of people here, especially the teachers, travel back and forth on foot. It takes between four to five hours by foot. If we travel into town as early as 6am, we usually arrive back in the village around 9pm or even 10 pm.”

Due to this remoteness, my travelling companions and I are the first non-Bougainvillean visitors to the school in over a year. Yet this is not an unusual story across much of the country. An estimated 60% of Papua New Guineans live in rural areas, which in Bougainville means they’re likely living in dense, mountainous jungle or in small villages dotted along the coastline. In these areas, services such as schools and medical clinics are few and far between, a fact further compounded by the island’s ten-year conflict that saw tens of thousands of families living in hiding in the bush for much of the 1990s.

This remoteness and decades of limited opportunity has driven the students and teachers at Aravira – and many schools just like it – to push for better education, including through the World Bank-supported READ PNG project. In addition to training more than 24,000 teachers, the project has seen the establishment of 21,000 classroom libraries filled with around 1.1 million books to schools across PNG.

More than 21,000 classroom libraries similar to this one have been established across Papua New Guinea through the World Bank-supported READ PNG project in an effort to improve literacy in PNG.
More than 21,000 classroom libraries similar to this one have been established across Papua New Guinea through the World Bank-supported READ PNG project in an effort to improve literacy in PNG.

And having made the brutal trek in to Aravira Primary School, I ask School Chairman Henry Topowa about the challenge of delivering hundreds of books to a place so remote. He beams with pride when he recounts the story.

“The road was muddy and slippery. We crossed a river along the way which was flooding. We had to balance ourselves carrying the books over an unsteady wooden bridge at the river,” Henry tells me.

“It was raining and we were scared that the books would get wet, so we cut banana leaves and placed them over the box of books and onto our shoulders. Others placed them in bilums [a woven bag, common across PNG] and carried them on their backs. It was very hard.”

Henry is steadfast in his belief in the power of education on the lives of the students at his school.

“Literacy is very important in the community; teaching people to read and write is vital, because a lot of kids here during the crisis did not go to school and are only just now learning to read and write.”

Aravira’s Head Teacher Herman Parito says that even before the books arrived, the community deeply understood the value of reading, and therefore are all willing to do their part to support it.

“The community here are always willing to help. When I said we needed labor to build classroom libraries, they did it. We brought in the plywood needed to build the mini libraries, and the parents responded.”

He adds that since the READ PNG books came in mid-2015, he’s already seen their impact.

Aravira Primary School Chairman, Henry Topowa says the school was determined to bring READ PNG books to the school, no matter how challenging the journey to bring them in.
Aravira Primary School Chairman, Henry Topowa says the school was determined to bring READ PNG books to the school, no matter how challenging the journey to bring them in.

“We’ve been using the books for two terms now and I’ve seen a big improvement in students reading according to their test results.”

After our chat, Henry and Herman then invite me to a class to see the new books for myself. As I’m introduced to the class, the confusion I expect of seeing a stranger in class is largely absent. I get a few grins and a couple of giggles, but beyond that, most of the students are focused squarely on their books.

Considering the hard work it took to get those books here and into these students’ hands, it’s no surprise that they’re so committed to soaking up every word in those pages.

Improving Literacy in Remote Bougainville  

 For More Info about Bookgainville this local project contact James Tanis , Simon Pentanu , or Contact Theresa Jaintong at the Arawa Womens Centre

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Bougainville Tourism News : Communities See Tourism Gold in Derelict Bougainville Mine

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Panguna is one of the historical sites in Bougainville. People go up to Panguna to see for themselves the damage done and want to know more about why the Bougainville Crisis erupted,”

Zhon Bosco Miriona, managing director of Bougainville Experience Tours, a local tourism company based in the nearby town of Arawa, which caters to about 50-100 international tourists per year, agrees.

Our future is very, very dangerous if we reopen the Panguna mine. Because thousands of people died, we are not going to reopen the mine. We must find a new way to build the economy,

We envisage tourists visiting the enigmatic valley in the heart of the Crown Prince Ranges to stay in eco-lodges and learn of its extraordinary history

Philip Takaung, vice president of the Panguna-based Mekamui Tribal Government

Originally published here

Picture Landowner Lynette Ona, along with local leaders and villagers in the Panguna mine area, look to tourism as a sustainable economic alternative to large-scale mining in post-conflict Bougainville, Papua New Guinea. Credit: Catherine Wilson/IPS

PANGUNA, Autonomous Region of Bougainville, Papua New Guinea, Sep 7 2016 (IPS) – The Panguna copper mine, located in the mountains of Central Bougainville, an autonomous region in the southwest Pacific Island state of Papua New Guinea, has been derelict for 27 years since an armed campaign by local landowners forced its shutdown and triggered a decade-long civil war in the late 1980s.

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The former Rio Tinto majority-owned extractive venture hit world headlines when the Nasioi became the world’s first indigenous people to compel a major multinational to abandon one of its most valuable investments during a bid to defend their land against environmental destruction.

“That is what we were fighting for: environment, land and culture.” — Lynette Ona

Today, local leaders and entrepreneurs, including former combatants, see the site playing a key role in sustainable development, but not as a functioning mine.

“Our future is very, very dangerous if we reopen the Panguna mine. Because thousands of people died, we are not going to reopen the mine. We must find a new way to build the economy,” Philip Takaung, vice president of the Panguna-based Mekamui Tribal Government, told IPS.

He and many local villagers envisage tourists visiting the enigmatic valley in the heart of the Crown Prince Ranges to stay in eco-lodges and learn of its extraordinary history.

“It is not just the mine site; families could build places to serve traditional local food for visitors. We have to build a special place where visitors can experience our local food and culture,” villager Christine Nobako added. Others spoke of the appeal of the surrounding rainforest-covered peaks to trekkers and bird watchers.

An estimated 20,000 people in Bougainville, or 10 percent of the population, lost their lives during the conflict, known as the ‘Crisis.’ Opposition by local communities to the mine, apparent from the exploration phase in the 1960s, intensified after operations began in 1972 by Australian subsidiary, Bougainville Copper Ltd, when they claimed mine tailings were destroying agricultural land and polluting nearby rivers used as sources of freshwater and fish. Hostilities quickly spread in 1989 after the company refused to meet landowners’ demands for compensation and a civil war raged until a ceasefire in 1998.

In the shell of a former mine building, IPS spoke with Takaung and Lynette Ona, local landowner and niece of Francis Ona, the late Bougainville Revolutionary Army leader. A short distance away, the vast six-kilometre-long mine pit is a silent reminder of state-corporate ambition gone wrong.

According to Ona, the remarkable story of how a group of villagers thwarted the power and zeal of a global mining company is a significant chapter in the history of the environmental movement “because that is what we were fighting for; environment, land and culture.” And, as such, she says, makes Panguna a place of considerable world interest.

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Bougainville Experience Tours

Zhon Bosco Miriona, managing director of Bougainville Experience Tours, a local tourism company based in the nearby town of Arawa, which caters to about 50-100 international tourists per year, agrees.

“Panguna is one of the historical sites in Bougainville. People go up to Panguna to see for themselves the damage done and want to know more about why the Bougainville Crisis erupted,” he said.

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In a recent survey of Panguna communities by Australian non-government organisation, Jubilee Australia, tourism was identified as the second most popular economic alternative to mining after horticulture and animal farming. Although realising the industry’s full potential requires challenges for local entrepreneurs, such as access to finance and skills development, being addressed.

Objection here to the return of mining is related not only to the deep scars of the violent conflict, but also the role it is believed to have had in increasing inequality. For example, of a population of about 150,000 in the 1980s, only 1,300 were employed in the mine’s workforce, while the vast majority of its profits, which peaked at 1.7 billion kina (US$527 million), were claimed by Rio Tinto and the Papua New Guinea government.

Today, post-war reconstruction and human development progress in Bougainville is very slow, while the population has doubled to around 300,000. One third of children are not in school, less than 1 percent of the population have access to electricity and the maternal mortality rate could be as high as 690 per 100,000 live births, estimates the United Nations Development Program.

People want an economy which supports equitable prosperity and long term peace and local experts see unlimited possibilities for tourism on these tropical islands which lie just south of the equator and boast outstanding natural beauty

“In terms of doing eco-tourism, Bougainville has the rawness. There are the forests, the lakes, the sea, the rivers and wetlands,” Lawrence Belleh, Director of Bougainville’s Tourism Office in the capital, Buka, told IPS.

Bougainville was also the site of battles during World War II and many relics from the presence of Australian, New Zealand, American and Japanese forces can be seen along the Numa Numa Trail, a challenging 60-kilometre trek from Bougainville Island’s east to west coasts.

“There are a lot of things that are not told about Bougainville, the historical events which happened during World War II and also the stories which the ex-combatants [during the Crisis] have, which they can tell…..we have a story to tell, we can share with you if you are coming over,” Belleh enthused.

Improving local infrastructure, such as transport and accommodation, and dispelling misperceptions of post-conflict Bougainville are priorities for the tourism office in a bid to increase visitor confidence.

“Many people would perceive Bougainville as an unsafe place to come and visit, but that was some years back. In fact, Bougainville is one of the safest places [for tourists] in Papua New Guinea. The people are very friendly, they will greet you, take you to their homes and show you around,” Belleh said.

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Bougainville Communications/ New Technologies PART 2 : Creating awareness on the referendum and development

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People can now listen to information on radio by tuning in to Shortwave 1 frequency; 3.325 kilohertz on NBC Bougainville and the shortwave radio signal covers all parts of Bougainville and can be heard as far as East of Hawaii, Germany, Australia and the Pacific,”

“To stimulate public interest and create awareness on the referendum and development in Bougainville we have since June conducted 10 live talk back shows hosted by ABG’s Mobile Community Radio – Radio Ples Lain and relayed over NBC Bougainville and New Dawn,”

ABG President Grand Chief Dr John Momis

Pic Caption: ABG President Grand Chief Dr John Momis (seated), with UNDP reps, chiefs and local leaders at the official launching of the upgraded NBC Bougainville studios last week.

The Autonomous Bougainville Government is making headway in developing the media in the region to allow people more access to information.

This move has seen the upgrade of the NBC Bougainville facilities where the ABG committed K5 million to improve the coverage and broadcasting of the radio station.

In opening the facility ABG President Grand Chief Dr John Momis said this included the procurement of new studio broadcast equipment, renovation to the Hutjena studio, procurement of a brand new fully digital 10 kilowatt shortwave transmitter.

We intend to embark on a region wide awareness campaign working closely with Constituency members, Communality Government, Village Assemblies, Women, Youth and Churches.

Momis added that the Bureau of Public Affairs, Media and Communication has so far produced and air 160 radio programmes since February to August 2016.

These radio programmes have been well appreciated by the people as they gain insight and understanding on what the government is doing at Department and Ministry level.

Another important development is the ABG’s very own Bougainville Bulletin which has progressed well with well over 150,000 copies distributed all over Bougainville since 2015.

President Momis also revealed that the ABG has started developing resource material to support awareness on the Bougainville Peace Agreement and especially Referendum.

The UNDP as per the ABG’s request has supported the government with the procurement of equipment.

The equipment will be utilised to conduct awareness at the community level and includes a new information center based in Buka Town with literary material and a mobile audio visual vehicle convinently named Piksa Ples Lain.

 

Bougainville Tourism News : Takanupe we must conserve for future generations

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 “These aren’t just beautiful islands with white beaches surrounded by pristine waters and bountiful reefs. They serve a multitude of existential purposes for man and for the larger purpose and meaning of nature with which we are inexplicably linked and bound.

It must behove us and is incumbent upon us to do our part to care, respect and conserve these fragile islands and marine eco-systems for our generations to come just as our ancestors have done for our generation. This is a covenant that is sacrosanct and timeless that we must be beholden to in a symbiotic world that we share with living nature.”

Simon Pentanu Uruna Bay Retreat – Pok Pok Island Bougainville

An island of the gods, resplendent in its natural beauty at sea, mimicking a miniature land and forest that Moreha (Bougainville ) is, beatified by its beauty, rich in its colours and alluring with everything it displays, from its crab-like shape with its claws harbouring it’s azure deep sky blue kakunibarra (lagoon) and the beach and trees seeming like a longish body of the crustacean seen from above.

There are more than a dozen small uninhabited islands that dot this stretch of east coast along Central Bougainville, like from Vito past Takanupe and its sister island Kurukiki nearby, and past the Zeunes where the planes make their approach to land at one of most picturesque beachside airports at Aropa.

Most of these small islands have their own kakunibarra of some size, shape, depth or other. But Takanupe’s kakunibarra  is the most conspicuous because it is larger in surface area than the land area of the island itself. It is curiously beautiful and alive from the satellite’s view from above.

These kakunibarra teem with all kinds of fishes of the sea. They are respected by fishermen along with their tales that serve the purpose of conservation when you find out what the moral of these stories is.

Myths and folklore about places and about real life stories are passed down to serve a purpose. Many were passed down to protect and conserve the islands, its reefs and its natural but fragile environment.

It used to be you could only get to this and other islands by canoe, get  enough for your needs as a subsistence fisherman and paddle back home.

If you wanted more fish for a feast or ceremony or some other important occasion you stayed overnight or longer and returned home with a canoe-full of smoked fish mixed with some fresh fish caught as you returned home. There isn’t this abundance of fish stock any more, because of the easy and more frequent forays by fishermen and others using motorized boats to get to these islands and their kakunibarra.

It must behove us and is incumbent upon us to do our part to care, respect and conserve these fragile islands and marine eco-systems for our generations to come just as our ancestors have done for our generation.