THE ever increasing cost of living is a challenge for many families both in the rural sector and urban centres.
And there are people who continue to struggle each day to sustain the welfare of themselves and their families.
Times have changed and many of our rural people are struggling more than ever to do things in order to earn an income.
On Thursday I was on a brief trip to Malasova, South West Vella, Western Province with a delegation from United Nation Development Program (UNDP) and Save the Children.
The visit was to see a completed water tank project at Malasova Primary School.
It was completed and formally handed over the school more than a week ago. The visit was for the UNDP officers to see the project.
And it was an exciting moment for the staff, students, parents, guardians and the community to host a visiting delegation.
Two of the members came all the way from Suva, Fiji and there was a brief welcome ceremony by the students and teachers.
A good number of parents, guardians and community members turned up to witness the occasion.
Everyone enjoyed themselves during the event.
Before the guests left, the school administration was able to offer some betel nut fruits to some of the local guests who love to chew betel.
That’s when I caught up with Ronald Kamaka, in his late 50s who is a very active village elder who willingly offered his betel nut bunch to the guests.
And the school was able to pay for the betel nuts as part of supporting the local growers.
Speaking to the paper during a short interview before we returned to Gizo from Malasova, Mr Kamaka said, he had a big betel nut plantation.
He said, he had been a betel nut grower from many years.
When he was asked for some betel nut, he just walked to his plantation was able to get few bunches.
He told the paper, that from the sales of his betel nut, he was able to earn money to support his family.
He had a total of seven children who have all grown up and was able to support them over the years through the sales of betel nut.
“Through my betel nut plantation, I was able to support my children in their education and other family needs,” he said.
Mr Kamaka added, there are no other means to earn his income except through the sales of betel nut.
He is a frequent visitor to Gizo where he would sell his bags of betel to interested vendors.
Sometimes his wife or children would travel to Gizo to sell the betel nuts.
Sometimes, these betel nuts are packed in bags or at times the betel nuts are brough in bunches to sell.
And he said at Gizo, the betel nuts would not be spared due to big demand.
“The demand for betel nut in Gizo, Noro and other centres is very big,” he said.
He said that Malasova is one of the major producers of betel nuts in Vella.
At Malasova, most of the betel nuts can be seen standing along the roadside and beside homes.
He kept growing new ones as well.
Mr Kamaka described betel nut as ‘green gold’ because its one of the important commodities for the villagers.
“Betel nut trees are being well-kept and always being looked because once ready and harvested, villagers can earn good money from it so its like a green gold for us,” he said.
A ten-kilogram bag can fetch up to $200 to $400 per bag depending on the supply and demand for this commodity, he said.
Malasova used to host a logging operation, but when the operation ceases, the villagers are back to supporting themselves through sales of garden produce but most all betel nuts.
Others who still have logs are able to sell timbers to earn an income.
Mr Kamaka said, many of his relatives and other family members depend on betel nut sales to earn some money.
“From the money, we are able to pay for our children’s education, church obligations, health, clothing, food and other important family needs,” he said.
He said, he would travel to Gizo more than once to Gizo in a month to sell his betel nut fruits.
“Because the demand for betel remains high, even if were are still in the outboard motor market vendors would jump in to try can grab the bags or the bunch,” he said.
The vendors would then resell them at a much higher price, he said.
He said, he welcomes order from people who are interested to buy betel nuts in bulk from him.
During our visit last week, he said, his betel nut plantation is ready and will visit Gizo soon to sell the commodity.
“As long as I’m strong, I will continue to maintain my plantation and support my families through this plantation,” he said.
By MOFFAT MAMU