Papua New Guinea
Community forest protection
About the Implementing organization
Name: Pohowa, Tulu and Mondropolon Tribal Groups
Country: Papua New Guinea
Year of establishment: 1950
Type of organization: Indigenous group or organization
Conservation agreements are short-term, non-binding agreements that are signed upon mutual understanding and agreement. These agreements can be renewed or cancelled after the period of agreement has lapsed. Through these agreements, the communities have agreed to not allow industrial logging or large-scale forest clearance for agricultural projects on their land. The conservation agreements have helped save more than 28,000 ha of lowland primary forests to date. As of 2012, about 18,000 ha of forest area was slated for a large-scale rubber development which would have enabled clear-felling without normal forestry practices being implemented. As a direct consequence of the conservation agreements, the rubber development did not eventuate and a prominent logging company (Maxland) left Manus Island as a result. Further forest loss for the Great Central Forest was imminent via road line timber authorities (i.e. permits that are given to clear any vegetation 20 meters on either side when constructing a new road). The initial road plans demonstrated that the road was designed to target high-quality timber and that no attempt had been made for the road to pass through villages. Community pressure resulted in the establishment of a road which serviced the main village, and therefore indirectly minimised the loss of primary forest.
Forests / Coasts / Rivers / Wildlife
Type of Action
Protection / Restoration / Sustainable use / Access and benefit sharing / Awareness and education / Advocacy for land
Sustainable Development Element
Jobs and livelihoods / Food security / Water security / Disaster risk reduction / Climate action
Central Manus contains the largest remaining area of unlogged forest in the Bismarck Islands. These forests are home to many unique species, contain regionally significant stocks of carbon the retention of which is vital for PNG’s contribution in the fight against climate change, and provide local communities with most of their subsistence and livelihood needs. The Great Central Forest of Manus is notable as being repeatedly identified as a biodiversity hotspot for Papua New Guinea. The forest is home to endemic species such as the Superb Pitta (Endangered), Manus Melomys (Endangered), Admiralty Cuscus (Near Threatened), and Manus Green Tree Snail (Near Threatened), as well as large specimens of high-value timber species including Callophylum, Kwila and Taun. The conservation agreements have prevented loss of about 28,000 ha of primary lowland rainforests on central Manus Island.
Sustainable Development Impacts
Manus has already had among the highest rates of deforestation in Papua New Guinea. Landowners complain that all there is to show for the riches promised by logging companies in the past are washed out roads, silted reefs and broken promises. By avoiding large-scale clearance of their forest these conservation agreements provide long-term conservation benefits to the communities, provide them with their widest range of options for adapting to climate change and allow sustainable development to proceed with conservation
In addition, in signing the conservation agreements, total 50 clans were empowered through enhanced consultations and information exchange, education and paralegal training on their rights to decision-making. Landowners are now in a better position to make informed decisions regarding their resource use or any development activities in their forest land.
The conservation agreements can be scaled at the provincial and national level through the mechanisms of the National Protected Areas Policy and Bill which will be tabled before the Papua New Guinea Government later this year.
The island of New Guinea possesses the third largest tropical rainforest on the planet. Due to the presence of high-quality timber species logging interests are exerting pressure on the communities to sign logging agreements. In recent years, the country has surpassed Malaysia to become the world’s top exporter of tropical wood. Some estimates predict that, at current rates of logging, 83% of the commercially accessible forests in PNG will be depleted by 2021.
Papua New Guinea is culturally diverse and expectations may differ from one province or region to another, however, this approach or model in Manus can be replicated elsewhere in the country. This could provide an alternative to large-scale logging while promoting local sustainable development. Again, existing national legislations and policies will provide general guidance in this process.
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