By Pauline Karalus
Bougainville is well known for its cash crops, unique fruits and nuts cultivated on the fertile soils of the island. Cash crops such as cocoa and coconut remain the main source of income for both subsistence and working class people.
Across the region, fruit farming is being undertaken more than ever before. Village mothers have now had the taste of income generation through marketing of garden produce at the local markets. Some are able to earn K500 per day from marketing, a great deal compared to waiting for fortnightly pay from their working husbands.
Driving along the trunk road, from Buka to Arawa and then on to Buin, the sights of fresh produce along the road gets the drivers’ attention, and so several stops are made at these road-side stalls to purchase fruits to beat off the thirst or hunger for these delicious, mouth-watering produce.
Arawa market is one of the richest markets you will ever find on your journey within Bougainville and is stunning with the many varieties of healthy garden produce on display on the benches.
Large bundles of peanuts, either cooked or raw, go for K1 each. Juicy watermelons, sphere-shaped or oval shaped of various sizes get sold at reasonable prices.
Both cooked and raw food is sold in the market as well. Fresh greens from places like Panguna add color to the market look and raw kaukau packed in baskets woven from coconut leaves go for K10 each.
The K5 pack of banana chips and fried fish are my personal favorite. When travelling along the Buka to Buin road, that one rest stop at Arawa is just something I appreciate so much.
During each specific fruit’s season, the market gets filled by that particular fruit thus competition in sales forces the price to reduce, making sure they sell most of their produce before the market gets locked up.
From May the market was filled with the varieties of Mandarin of varying sizes and prices with large heaps or bundles going for K2 each.
These mothers arrive with baskets of juicy Mandarin fruits from nearby villages within Central Bougainville. These include the Wakunais from Central Bougainville and the Wisais from Buin as well.
Though they sell them in groups they still do make money from the sales because back at the village these fruit trees are in abundance. Those intended for market sales are left untouched by the family members. Those that are marked for eating remain to be continuously harvested for the family to have.
The mandarin season continues until the Christmas holidays and for those Bougainvilleans living away from the province, seeing pictures of the large juicy fruits on Facebook will make you homesick.