THE Bena Bena area lies west of Goroka and is predominantly a savannah grassland valley with the Bena River a blessing in this semi-arid habitat.
Because of its geography and vegetation, the Bena Bena area is highly vulnerable to the effects of prolonged drought and El Nino. This was evident in 1997 and we have a replica of those conditions this year.
On a recent visit to Kopafo village in the area, I observed a number of serious effects including the dry beds of creeks and streams which cause people to walk many kilometers to get water.
Ropes and leaves of kaukau wither as a result of the earth cooking and people are now dependent on cassava, certain species of banana, African yams, pumpkins and sugar cane.
Small families can endure for some time but big families will not cope unless the drought soon breaks and this is threatening family units who even now are engaged in a struggle for survival.
Bena society is woven together in an intricate extended family network with extensive genealogical connections. This remains intact but, as food gets more scarce, it will be a case of people fending for themselves.
Bushfires are on the increase and this year’s coffee crop yield has suffered and most people’s budgets are stretched beyond breaking point.
Tomato crops, which provide a good alternative income to coffee, are wilting and surrendering to the lack of water.
In short, the people of Kopafo and Bena need assistance and they need it soon: rice, flour, tinned fish, sugar and drought resistant seeds for when the weather improves.
Such relief supplies should be given prominence as any other assistance is secondary and is out of the equation for survival.
Facilitation should be done through the local Seventh Day Adventist church network which is widely established throughout the Bena Bena area and will ensure credibility, honesty and fairness in distribution.
Potential donors can contact me, a well-known academic with a credible reputation.
Kerry Kimiafa from Kopafo village in Bena Bena and is a senior teacher at Goroka Grammar School. He can be reached at [email protected]