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I WAS proud to see Paul Kastas at Waikele Market at Gerehu Stage 5 in Port Moresby before city residents took to the streets to celebrate 44 years of independence.
I knew him because he sold Enga Nius for us on the streets of Wabag many years ago.
And we lived in the same location at Aipus in Wabag town.
Now, he was selling something very important in Enga society. Paul was selling yakait or tokak seedlings at the market for K10 each.
I was lost for words when they went like hot cakes. The customers were mainly Engans of course.
Nearly 1,000 people responded to a recent post by Junior Kopex Kandaki in the Enga In Pictures blog of a mature yakait ita (photo reproduced here)
That’s how significant it is in Enga society.
Where did Paul get the plants?
“Oh I brought the seeds down from Wabag when I went home last time,” Paul said
He has been nursing the plants in his back yard and selling them when they were ready.
The tree has many uses. Its leaves are used to cook food in a mumu and also used as undercover before kunai or pitpit is applied to cover the roof in new buildings.
The leaves were also used as umbrellas for protect ion from the rain.
Dried leaves are hung by a very thin string tied to a long stick. It is then placed in the gardens to scare away rats by the noise it made when the wind blew.
The round fruit was also eaten raw.
Nowadays, children use the fruits as tyres on toy trucks.
And the bark or skin of young yakait trees are striped to make strings to weave or make bilums.
The strings are also used to make ropes to tie pigs.
Like the coconut tree on the coast, the Yakait tree in Enga has multiple uses.
It used to be planted around homes, gardens and allowed to grow wild in the bush.
When you see yakait trees growing in Port Moresby within the next couple of years from now – remember that it was Paul Kastas of Enga who brought the seeds down from Wabag .
What an innovative way to make a living in the city.

  • Daniel Kumbon is a freelance writer.


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