"It had been a long road to his dream of growing and milling his own rice, but this strong-minded Gulf will do anything - even to the extent of breaking the law - to get what he wanted"
By ABBIE COLLACO
FARMING RICE in the Gulf Province is a rarity. The best and big PNG rice stories are from Mekeo in Central Province and Morobe's Markham Valley.
So growing rice in Ihu district of Gulf Province was started with a young man's determination to trial something new and succeed at it. That man's determination has no paid dividends many times over.
Max Evare started rice farming in 2003. He started off simply with a ice block cup full of rice seedlings that was given to him by his cousin on a visit to Uaripi village near the great Tairuma river, one of the many rivers in the Gulf Province. The rice seedlings were distributed to them by a non-government organization. His cousin gave some seeds to plant at his Karokaro village.
Max took the seed home to Karokaro wrapped in plastic bag, as he recalls. That evening he sat with his family under a lantern light and showed the seeds to his wife.
He explained what the seedlings were all about to his wife and children and that they would plant the rice and see if can grow.
He recalls, "Though I didn't have any knowledge of how to plant rice my family and I decided to give it a go."
That night before going to bed they sat and prayed over the rice seeds. The next day the family killed a live chicken to give thanks to God and for work to commence on the clearing of land and planting of seedlings.
After a day of clearing and burning the next whole day was spent on planting. Without any know how of rice planting, the family went ahead planting rice like corn in the gardens and watered it daily.
Strangely, according to Mr Evare, after three days young shoots from the ice grains sprouted out. The shoots confused Max and through curiosity he had to prove the shoots to see if they were real rice shoots or just another weed.
He dipped his finger into the soil digging out a shoot. Clearing the soil that covered the roots, and to his his surpprise he saw a rice seedling attached to the shoot. That was a joyous moment of his life; he went home and led his family to see what he had discovered.
A youth from the village saw the joy in Max and volunteered to assist him and the three worked on the project. Unfortunately, the young man the late Kueva Hava died in 2008.
After three months from the very first harvest they bagged 100kg (2x 50kg). The family, as usual gave thanks for the harvest. The first taste of their home grown rice brought joy to the family. Villagers came wanting to buy from him.
There was no need to advertise as Max's old father Max Evare Orila, who was indeed very proud of his son and family's achievement, went out on a campaign. People came from all corners and even those from the other side of the rive paddled across the great Vailala River to buy rice at the cost of K3 a kilo.
Milling became a burden as he did not how to pound rice but a Filipino working with at Rimbunan Hijau logging camp invited him to see how he (Roger was his name) did his rice.
Max's eagerness pushed him further, and through trial and error he now pounds his rice perfectly.
The Evare family then proceeded to clearing additional plots of land to plant more rice. Youths and children out of interest gave a hand killing grasshoppers and any other insects that would harm the rice plants.
He knocked on doors of government offices in Kerema but hardly any assistance was given. Then in 2006 Kikori Open Member Mark Maipakai was on an electoral visit to Karokaro village.
Max cooked a pot of his home grown rice, decorated it with rice seedlings and presented it to Mr Maipakai. Nothing could stop the Honourble Member from having to eat the rice without any protein or additions. He ate pure rice. It tasted good and through the satisfaction of eating his electorates' home grown rice and from a young man his family who have had not a single knowledge of farming rice, Mr Maipakai promised Max a rice milling machine and a starting capital of K5000.
Max received the rice grinding machine but the promised K5000. 00 is yet to be given.
The rice grinding machine, however, became the subject of a dispute between the Member's Dsitrict Coordinator and some other person. The machine was taken off him and was locked away and he never used it.
He said, "The dispute wasn't between me and him but because someone in my family did it this affected me also and the project came to halt in 2007.
"Every time I walk past the item I exchanged for a pot of rice, the thought still saddens me as because the machine is rusting away under the house."
Max came to Port Moresby in 2007 and spent nearly a year struggling to get the promised K5000 from Mr Maipakai. His efforts were not successful; his family was left in the village and he was also stranded in the city.
He met up with a Fillipino who was willing to assist him not financially but with his technical expertise in the field of rice farming. He told Max to take him home to Karokaro for him to do soil tests make a feasibility study.
This gave Max a leverage but funding became a problem for him still . Nobody wanted to help.
He put his head down to work; he knew very well the risk he was taking. He could be imprisoned for up to three months if he was caught but who and what else can help?
He worked through October 2008 raising about K600 just through selling of home brewed alcohol. He had a purpose and he achieved another of his objectives. He raised enough to take Larry (Filipino) home to Karokaro and back to Port Moresby.
On the 28 October the feasibility study was completed. Max came into Port Moresby with Larry, a good number of proposals were posted to different organisations for funding but were all unsuccessful.
Max never gave up. He kept on pursuing his need to get himself a rice grinding machine and four months ago the Gulf Investment Trust Fund purchased a rice grinding machine. Even though he got what he wanted he still needed money for land and sea freight. Gulf Economic Development Authority assisted him with K3000 on the 23 November 2009.
Max wasted no time. On November 24, he had a meeting and feast. On November 25 land was cleared at Karokaro, November 26 at Lui, November 27 r at Horna and November 28 at Poiva. The land marked out was about 20- 24 hectres.
As usual there was hardly any assistance form field officers in Kerema town.
Max was fortunate again three weeks ago to receive another donation - a water pump for his group Vailala Intergrated Developent Association from one Papuavape Association, one of the oldest in the Ihu District and the whole of the Gulf province.
The Papuavape Association will assist his group again with 100kg of TCS-10B rice seedlings.
Max is now planning for the launch of the project this year back in Ihu in May 2010. He will be inviting the Deputy Prime Minister, Governor of the Province and the two Open Members with the chiefs of the villages and certain diplomats in the country to the launch.
Max is man with a big heart. People cannot eat dinghies and 40 horse power outboard motors. Man cannot drink oil or gas; rice they can and do. Well done, Max!