Kiluwe, oh Kiluwe
The Rabaul stickybeak incident

High school drop-outs could make millions

Vanilla garden top
Paul's village vanilla garden showing the 'tithe row' - God's 10 percent cut

| Gary Juffa’s Facebook

PORT MORESBY - I was recently on Ferguson Island in Milne Bay where I met a young man named Paul who was only educated to Grade 9.

Paul was a leader in the local church there. He was a missionary and subsistence farmer - and I discovered he was also a vanilla farmer with the biggest farm in his village.

At a conservative price of K200 per kilo, he will be harvesting and selling vanilla worth over one million kina next year.

If the price doubles, he will make more than K2 million, if it drops, he will make around K500,000 - still plenty of money for a villager who doesn't pay rent, doesn't own a car and doesn't have an expensive touch-screen phone.

Paul uses a one bang phone and has to climb up a tree to get reception.

He is part of a vanilla growing project run by the Adcare Foundation and supported by ADRA and the PNG Spice Board. 

More than 600 farmers are involved and each stands to harvest vanilla worth between K100,000 and K400,000.

What is being done differently here is that all vanilla farmers have 10 rows of vanilla tree vines, the first row being marked for God as his 10% tithe.

The bible says if you pay your tithe, God will give you a rich harvest and protect your crops from pigs, pests and anything that might harm it. They call it the God First Principle.

Paul doesn't have a Grade 10 or Grade 12 certificate or a diploma or degree. Yet this humble farmer is set to make more than his educated peers.

His ambition is to buy a helicopter one day. Due to the remoteness of his people, having one would help him with his missionary work. At the rate he’s going, he will be able to do that in a few years. A second hand chopper costs around K2 million.

What makes him different? As he was unqualified, he accepted that the only thing he knew how to do was manual labour. Hard work in the sun.

Vanilla - farmers
Paul and friend in his vanilla garden

Paul is a slightly built person, I see people physically bigger than him begging on the streets of Port Moresby, who worked as an oil palm harvester in Alotau before returning to his island to plant cabbage and peanuts and raise chickens.

He planted 500 cocoa trees but, due to the lack of access to markets, cut them down as soon as vanilla was introduced to the village.

Then a Milne Bay based cocoa buying agency, run by Reuben Aila and his business partner John, began travelling around the province buying cocoa, so Paul and other villagers started cultivating cocoa again. Personally, I am inspired to set up my own farm back in Sepik.

I will be assisting farmers in Milne Bay obtain NID cards and open bank accounts. When I return we will also do financial literacy training. I thank the Adcare Foundation for their work here.

My encouragement to new graduates is that, if you have fertile land in your home provinces that is not under dispute, your village has reasonable transport infrastructure and there is effective farmer support provided by either Department of Agriculture or private buying agencies, then go back home.

Don't hang around Moresby or Lae, struggling to pay rent and find a job. Young people of your age and younger are making thousands from vanilla, cocoa and coffee. It's your birthright.

So get out of your comfort zone. Everything has its challenges and there is always a learning curve. Be brave. Try it out. Be persistent. Eventually you will succeed.

Des Yaninen is chief executive officer of Pacifund


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Philip Fitzpatrick

I agree with Joe about the underlying religious tone. It's a worrying interpretation.

I also find the inference that the purpose of education is to make money unsettling too. That's a line that the neo-liberals push - everything is about profit. Believe it or not, some people get educated to make themselves a better person, not a fast buck.

Otherwise I like the story of success.

Joe Herman

This is an excellent success story. May Paul, this young farmer continues his successes.

The underlying religious tone is concerning though.

Some people preach “prosperity gospel”, mostly an American Evangelical cultural theology, that places individual efforts against collective or government responsibility.

A measure of success is conditional on one’s behavior towards God.

Many young people are trying to survive in the cities but just as many are on their land in the villages trying to grow cash crops or start their businesses.

They need reliable transportation, roads network, assistance in access to markets and distribution.

It would go a long way if a small fraction of the funds that disappear in Waigani could be used for infrastructure and support the underfunded didimans who are in direct contact with the rural folks.

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