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Precious land & the good life on Block 168

Gov Gary Juffa
Governor Gary Juffa - "I am beginning to truly understand my grandfather’s deep joy for working the land"

| Asia-Pacific Anticorruption & Human Rights Advocate Group

KOKODA - Finally my cocoa trees are growing and bearing fruit. Kokoda Block 168 is slowly coming back to life.

As a child I used to wander this small portion of land so treasured by Victor Juffa, my grandfather and adoptive father.

He lovingly cultivating cocoa, coffee and rubber trees, and ran a small piggery. He cut timber with giant two-man handheld saws and sold it to whoever needed it.

He baked bread in an underground oven that he’d made from discarded 44-gallon drums. The bread from those ovens was the most delicious I have ever tasted.

I was his trusted sidekick everywhere he went.

Whilst he tended his nursery of cash crops I would make a beeline for a nearby patch of wild cherry tomatoes and feast on them until I dozed - my little fists oozing with tomato juice.

When he found me, he would hoist me onto his broad shoulders and take me home.

Such was a blissful life on Block 168 Kokoda to which my Papuan Infantry Battalion soldier had retired and raised seven children including me, the first-born son of his second born daughter.

He had adopted her so she could finish her studies and carve out a career.

All the old trees are gone now, but I have started to replant them, of course with the help of some kind souls - Moidale, Laban and others to whom I offer thanks.

Gary JuffaFirst the cocoa trees, then the coffee and then, perhaps instead of rubber, moringa, sometimes called the drumstick tree, oh, and vanilla.

I am beginning to truly understand my grandfather’s deep joy for working the land.

Truly there is no better way to earn a living than working your land.

If you have some land, make use of it. Be grateful for the opportunity.

Gary Juffa is leader of the People’s Movement for Change, Governor of Oro Province, Chairman of the Public Sector Reform Committee and Deputy Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee in the PNG Parliament


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Lindsay F Bond

Sweetly coincidental it is that at present, Loop PNG has an item in which Governor Garry Juffa has the satisfaction of thanking Australia's Transport Sector Support Program (TSSP) for current restorative works on two major roads in Oro Province. See:

Sasembata near Sumbiripa (Mount Lamington) is on the Kendata feeder road that was bestowed with a gravelled surface in 1969 along with other feeder roads and much of the main road Popondetta to Kokoda, all an enormous upgrade.

That feeder road I travelled on a small Honda motorbike for a few years and also walked, I walked again in 2019 by placing each footfall with care among the rounded stones of the watercourse to which the 1969 road had succumbed. Easier by far to tread paths smoothed by locals' ambulation.

Sadly too the main roads of recent years have been eroding and draining water along those tracks, thus leaking energy from traveling persons, local inhabitants and equipment. Major concern is at Iovi (toward Kokoda), Banderi (toward Pongani and Afore) and not unsurprisingly, at a voracious sweep of Sambogo River.

Significantly, reported a few years ago and much appreciated, is completion of gifted bridges to replace four large structures that were felled by flooding in 2007. Hope is for yet one more, at Pongani River, so this whisper to TSSP.

Stirringly memorable senses, of forests and crops and settlements, may become more the attraction for tourism opportunities, so many places and prominences than that Trail known for Kokoda connection.

Start with walks out from Awala, Waseta, Wairope (Ajeka). The ground of the Governor (growing "deep joy for working the land") is a stroll and a wading beyond.

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