By Seniorl Anzu
Making a living through farming is something hardly perceived by many of today’s youths. Many tend to dwell in towns and cities in the hope of a better life. Their hunt for a better living becomes a daunting task, often confronted with challenges, leading to petty crimes in urban areas.
But Among Heni stands out to tell others that there is more than what many would think of life in a village. He finds community development activities, particularly agriculture, a way to go to earn a decent living in a typical rural setting of Papua New Guinea. From Yawer village in Tambul, Western Highlands province, Among has beaten all odds to be a model farmer, a motivator and a leader in his own right since childhood. He is can be described as a ‘jack of all trades.’
Now in his early 30s, Among, son of a former well-known smallholder farmer – Heni Basa -of the 70s and 80s, has taken his father’s footstep. Among has not only become an ideal farmer but also a trainer and promoter of agricultural technologies and new innovations for the benefit of others. He has been doing this while getting exposed to and trained on. And he does this for the love of doing it, with passion.
The model farmer says he is keen in new and innovative ways of living on land. This eagerness has enabled him to link up with various development-oriented groups and organisations like NGOs, research and development organisations, churches, farmer associations, community development groups and farmers. Through these networks, he has equipped himself with improved skills and techniques in food crop and livestock production and other initiatives on self-sufficiency.
Among currently has farms of wheat, pyrethrum, sweet potato, temperate vegetables and livestock such as piggery, Australorp chicken and Muscovy duck and aquaculture (fish). With his piggery project, he has been an active pig nursery farmer with the Highlands Piggery Farmers Association. Through this arrangement, Among has been assisting other pig farmers from Tambul and other parts of Western Highlands.
Among was a pioneer in wheat farming in the Tambul area. So far he has assisted over 2500 interested wheat farmers in seeds, production systems, milling, post-harvest and food preparation techniques. Among says he will still keep this crop and promote it as it is a good source of food, livestock feed and money-maker. His success has been boosted with assistance provided by the National Agricultural Research Institute (NARI) with improved wheat varieties and cultivation techniques. Among says high altitude areas such as Tambul are prone to frost, and because wheat can tolerate it, people should cultivate it as it is able to provide food when sweet potato and other crops are affected. NARI has also assisted him with pyrethrum and Muscovy duck with information on a range of farming techniques.
In health, Among is a volunteer with the ‘community based health care’ programme under the Nazaren Church. He is also a motivator with the Lutheran Development Services’ (LDS) agriculture programme. Among also coordinated a training on fish farming for youths in the Tambul area in which Maria Queen of Banz supplied fingerlings, with support from a group called Destiny Foundation. He recently attended a training to participate in a programme known as “Meri Kirap Sapotim”, an initiative against corruption in PNG.
Among owns a training centre, Yawer Resource Training Centre, at his Yawer home. He says a range of community development activities, including training and meetings in agriculture and health have been conducted at the centre in the last few years. Some of these trainings were in potato and wheat farming, Australorp chicken production, community health, introduction to credit scheme under LDS – known as “Putim na Kisim” – and pig farming. In all of these, he has played a key role as a coordinator and trainer and has benefited hundreds of participants.
He is also an active participant in youth development initiatives such as sports, drug awareness and church activities. In 2007, Among was part of a drug awareness campaign that led to more than 20 youths giving up their bad habits of smoking marijuana.
Among says people should take lead and become innovative in community development activities to help themselves, rather than expecting others to do things for them. “We should not just call for help from others. Instead, we should initiate things ourselves and do what we can before seeking assistance,” Among says.
One thing for sure in his mind is to help people becoming better and living happily with whatever resources available to them. “I’d like to see more people becoming productive using locally available resources and knowledge and skills they possess. I am interested in voluntary work and I want to help others who need help,” he says.
The young farmer does not keep his skills and knowledge to himself. He shares them with others. He has participated in numerous public events to demonstrate and share his skills to those who need them. Such events included shows, agriculture field days, and farm visits. At those gatherings, Among would put on shows in the form of displays and demonstrations. Amongst others, he has conducted demonstrations on wheat milling using simple technologies, processing them into flour and other foods, and even allowing the audience for a taste.
Among is a colourful young farmer and motivator. He feels satisfied in what he has been doing and enjoys them very much. He has no regrets of living on land and challenges others to become innovative and reap the fruits of tilling the earth. Although he has no proper education, Among says he has developed himself over the years and is dreaming of going into better and bigger things where possible, building on from his strengths. “I am currently concentrating on field work. After I gain enough experience, I will renovate the training centre and train more farmers,” he says.