Papua New Guinean young guns (part 1)


Lisa Smyth meets four young Papua New Guineans who are working to transform their communities with their dynamic business ideas. In part one of this story, meet the man behind apparel brand Barata and the woman who’s building solar-powered walk-in fridges.

Christopher Lam

AGE: 23

Fashion that gives back to the community

Originally from Manus Province, Christopher Lam was still a teenager when he had his first great business idea while working as a volunteer photographer for the Pacific Games News Service in 2015.’

‘The inspiration for Barata [his clothing brand] came from seeing Papua New Guineans showing up to support their country fully decked out in team merchandise. This gave me the idea to start producing snapback caps, which proved popular, and so we continued adding new products to our line.’

Barata, meaning ‘brother’ or ‘friend’ in tok pisin, now includes bucket hats, fitted caps, shirts, board shorts and T-shirts. ‘When we started out we sold under tables and in shopping centre carparks, but now we have strategic partnerships with retailers in Port Moresby and Lae that stock our full range of apparel, making it accessible to more people. We also created an online shop.’

‘We want to continue sharing stories of our culture through our products.’

Lam and his team weren’t content with just making a profit – they wanted to give back to their communities. In 2017, Barata launched the Sumatin schools program in Lae that facilitates debates, spelling bees and public speaking opportunities for students.

‘In the future, we plan to improve the program to reach more students in other provincial centres, and to expand our range to include women’s clothing and accessories. We want to continue sharing stories of our culture through our products.’

Story continues after advertisment...

The dreamer helping the fishing industry grow

AGE: 32

Ruth Sapidoro Bihoro was a business management student at UPNG in 2008 when she participated in a program with The Voice Inc (TVI), a youth development organisation based in PNG.

‘I signed up because my older sister was one of the first members of TVI, but the program helped me to understand myself and to recognise how to positively move forward in life.’

In 2015, Bihoro returned home to the Huon Peninsula in Morobe Province and quickly figured out where her studies and her positivity could do some good – in helping the coastal communities of Morobe find better solutions to buy and sell their fish. ‘I am inspired by challenges and risks. I love to invest my time, talents and passion to achieve what others see as impossible, and the chiller project was just that.’

Morobe communities had an abundance of fish, but no cool place to store their catch, which discouraged catching large amounts and stopped the potential to increase incomes. Bihoro and her best friend, Piwen Kanawi, launched their business, Fortitude, in 2015. They built two custom-made, solar-powered, walk-in fridges that service 3000 people from three main peninsula communities. As a result of the chillers the selling price of fish has increased per kilo and the local market has expanded.

‘I want my generation to be living in eco-friendly sustainable communities.’

‘I am currently working on the second phase of the chiller project and an eco-tourism project that is in line with my passion for cultural and environmental preservation. I am a dreamer, and I want my generation to be living in eco-friendly sustainable communities, where more goods and services can be created at the expense of fewer resources, and we can reduce waste and create less pollution.’

The story ‘Young Guns’ was first published in the first edition of Paradise, the in-flight magazine of Air Niugini. Republished with permission.


  1. wow! bless ,take ownership…..keep up ….. encourage info….

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