Our Adventure Kokoda Trust was established to enable trekkers to leave a footprint in Papua New Guinea. Over the past decade we have placed more than 4000 books in the Port Moresby Grammar School library; sponsored student scholarships; provided educational supplies to all village schools along the Kokoda Trail as well as medical supplies to local hospitals and health centres.

In 2009 we established Network Kokoda as a not-for-profit organisation, to provide money, property and benefits to the people of Papua New Guinea through supporting education, health and leadership development initiatives – providing partnership opportunities between Australia and Papua New Guinea.

As we reflect over the past year our proudest achievement has been the establishment of an agricultural learning project at the Sogeri National High School – about half-way between Port Moresby and the start of the Kokoda Trail at Owers Corner. During the war the the Sogeri Plateau was the food bowl for Port Moresby however since then much of it has reverted to subsistence farming. Around 500 students’ board at the school and their diet is based on rice, tinned fish and not much else.

The school is also the focus point for the Sogeri community which is fragmented amongst various ‘wan-tok’ groups. Encouraging them to work together for their own community benefit is our primary challenge.

We met with the headmaster, Mr Benny Rayappan, who agreed to provide us with a couple of hectares of land for a market garden. We then engaged Mr Sandy Lawson, an agricultural scientist who has worked in Papua New Guinea and Vanuatu for most of his life. Sandy is fluent in Motu, Tok-Pisin and a number of other languages. He is well respected by local elders who he has worked with over many years. He is their mentor and teacher.

Air Niugini came to our assistance and funded a 70th Anniversary Tribute Dinner at Parliament House in Port Moresby with John Williamson as the guest artist.  Our guest of honour for the evening was PNG Prime Minister Peter O’Neill with two veterans as our special guests – Jim Stillman from the 39th Battalion and Ben Moide from the Papuan Infantry Battalion. After a moving tribute to the veterans the Prime Minister generously donated $100,000 to our Network Kokoda PNG foundation. You can check the function out by clicking here.

We have since engaged Oggie Erehe, a graduate in Tropical Agriculture from the PNG University of Natural Resource and Environment. We also engaged two of our trek leaders, Joe Uwea and Abel Koveve to provide the muscle to assist Sandy and Oggie. You can check our progress athttp://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10151199727054761&set=a.10151199726999761.468693.21901519760&type=1&theater  Oggie’s salary supports his mother who is studying for a Bachelor of Education at UPNG and his two younger sisters at school.

The success of the garden has introduced a couple of unexpected challenges for us.

The first is security. Rather than build a fence or hire security guards we have let the community know that if they want some vegetable all they have to do is come and ask Oggie. He will not only provide them with a basket but will also offer them some seedlings and advice on how to grow their own crops. It’s working!

The second is food preparation and cooking. Rice and tinned fish is easy for the two cooks employed to feed the students. We plan to arrange some additional training for them and will pay them a supplement to provide their students with more choice.

The third is motivating the students to study agriculture. With the current mining boom in PNG they all want to be doctors, lawyers or accountants. They relate agriculture to village subsistence farming. Supermarkets and foodstores in Port Moresby are importing hundreds of tonnes of fresh produce each week to meet the demand from the boom. Our aim is to get them to appreciate that if we can convert the Sogeri Plateau back into a food bowl for Port Moresby they will be able to employ doctors, lawyers and accountants to support their agri-businesses. It wil take awhile!

Early in the New Year we hope to establish partnerships with nearby villages that want to participate in our program. We will provide the technical expertise and a seed nursery for each one. Local villages will provide the land and the labour.

Once they experience the benefits of improved nutrition and begin to earn an income from their markets the program will replicate itself further afield.

We have established a sister Network Kokoda in PNG to assist. The Board comprises Brigadier Ken Noga DMS CBE, former Commander of the PNG Defence Force and High Commissioner to Australia; Dame Carol Kidu, the former Minister for Community Development in the PNG National Government; Marianna Ellingson, Director-General of the Office of Tourism, Arts and Culture; and Charlie Lynn.

Our major fundraiser in Sydney this year was a 70th Anniversary Tribute Dinner at the Cantebury-Hurlstone Park RSL thanks to Zoe Blanusa of Jam Jar events and our gorgeous MC, former Miss World Australia; Adventure Kokoda trekker and Network Kokoda Board Member, Caroline Pemberton. You can check out our Facebook pics at http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10151190134529761&set=a.10151190134504761.466863.21901519760&type=1&theater

We wish all of our trekkers and our PNG trek guides a Happy and Prosperous New Year and we look forward to continuing our relationship with them all in 2013.

Charlie Lynn
Director and Trek Leader
Adventure Kokoda