(A study conducted by Adventure Kokoda and provided to the Australian Government at no cost to the taxpayer)
Our study was limited to the collective experience of eight trek leaders with more than 130 treks across the Kokoda Trail over an 18 year period, between them. Two of these trek leaders have lived in PNG for extended periods and are fluent in Tok Pisin.
Limitations of Study
We did not engage highly paid consultants unfamiliar with Melanesian culture, the military aspects of the Kokoda campaign, or the Kokoda Trail itself.
The report is a compilation of views from trek leaders in constant contact with Koiari and Orokaiva villagers along the Kokoda Trail – it therefore a jargon and acronym free zone.
The report itself is the first of a series of complimentary reports provided by Kokoda Trek Operators to the Australian Government.
We would ask that the A$50,000 we have saved the Australian taxpayer be donated towards the cost of engaging an agricultural scientist experienced in Malanesian culture in general, and Koiari and Orokaiva customs in particular, and who is fluent in both Tok Pisin and Motu, for a period of six months beginning on 1 July 2009.
The purpose of this study is to explore ways of assisting villagers who live along the Kokoda Trail to derive additional benefits from groups who trek between Owers Corner.
Academics refer to this type of activity as ‘capacity building’. Others refer to it as ‘value-adding’. Villagers call it ‘helpem mek moni’.
Immediate Short Term Opportunities
At the moment trek operators pay K20 per night for each trekker and K5 for each guide and carrier.
Some simple suggestions to double Kokoda Trail campsite income include:
• Organise a group of young people from the village to meet the trek group when they arrive in the village and offer to wash and dry their clothes for them overnight for K10 per trekker (washing involves rinsing the sweat out of clothes, jocks and socks – no soap – and hanging them in their hut overnight to dry).
• Prepare afternoon tea for the trek group when they arrive at the village. Charge K10 for a cup of freshly brewed PNG coffee and two scones – baked in a drum oven – with jam.
• Offer a plate of fresh fruit with a couple of slices of cucumber and salt for K5 per trekker.
This basic service will effectively double their income and generate more than K1 million per year for villagers based on 2008 trekking numbers. It is not rocket science!
2. Village Rest Areas
Fresh fruit stalls can be established in each village. ‘Trekker plates’ containing fresh fruit salad and is prepared before the trekkers arrive and are offered for K5 each – or K7.50 with condensed milk. If only half the trekker purchased one bowl of fruit per day (a very conservative estimate) the annual income for villages would increase by K150,000.
3. Fresh Bread/Toast
Simple drum ovens can be used to bake bread for sandwiches or toast. Spread with long-life butter and have peanut butter, vegemite, cheese, etc available and trekkers will pay at least K10 per day – another half-a-million kina earned.
4. Other opportunities for additional income include:
• payments for traditional village dance groups and ‘sing-sings’;
• visits to village museums;
• photo’s with traditional dance groups;
• sale of carved ‘trekking poles’
• sale of billum bags containing the village name
Long Term OpportuniesEstablish a ‘Village Co-operative’ in each village. This co-op would own and operate a trade store that will provide food and supplies to campsites which are located nearby in discreet areas.
Accredited campsite owners could then be engaged to provide two meals per day for trekkers staying overnight.
This will require the introduction of English potatoes on the southern side of the Owen Stanley Ranges and storage facilities for canned food, cereals, spreads, etc.
A ‘Village Co-operative Trade Store’ is a bulk supply store for nearby campsites. This will require training in ordering, accounting, stock control, storage and distribution. The trade store and all nearby campsites to be equipped with radios/digicell mobile phones with a rear link to Port Moresby suppliers and airlines.
Campsite owners would be advised by the KTA of the trek itinerary of all trekkers on the Trail. The KTA will only issue trek permits to accredited trek operators who would agree to stick to their assigned itinerary and stay at the campsites that are pre-booked when they pay their trek fee and submit their preferred trek itinerary.
Campsite owners who do not provide the meals that are ordered by trek operators risk losing their accreditation. A reserve stock of dehydrated rations would be maintained at the village trade store for contingencies.
Experience warns us that tt is not unusual to arrive in a village and find that people are missing despite having an agreement to meet with them. They might be at a funeral in a neighbouring village off the track (a common occurrence) or ‘away in the gaden’!
To make this happen the Australian Government needs to declare each village a ‘consultant free zone’ and engage an agricultural scientist experienced in Malanesian culture in general , and Koiari and Orokaiva customs in particular, and who is fluent in both Tok Pisin and Motu, for a period of 12 months beginning in January 2010.
The A$100,000 saved in this longer term report should be directed towards training Village Co-operative Trade Store’ manager and staff training and development in all aspects of stock ordering, control, accounting and distribution. It should also provide for the training of campsite managers and cooks.