A diary entry

The chilly afternoon breeze hung still in the air, but the bamboo plants continued to swing and sway on, as if enchanted by the rhythmic thumping of the Kundu drums that seeped down the slopes of Dea village – muffled. This seemed to add a special, yet fitting blend to the homely cacophony, typical of most Papua New Guinean villages at dusk as they prepare to roost for the night.

It had been a full day’s walk from Afore station, that its romantic charm was lost on me as I reached down for the last vestige of my strength to heave myself and my rucksack up the last 300 metres of a muddy, cratered road to reach my destination in a state of almost utter wreck.

I silently swore never to touch another Big Rooster ‘Lunch-box’ as I lay gasping in a reckless heap, catching my breath in grateful gulps and slowly relishing the cool air brought about by this respite.

That was Sunday June 5 of this year – the official World Environment Day, as I arrived at Dea Primary School, rounding off my World Environment Day visit to schools on the Managalas Plateau; high up in the volcanic rich south-eastern highlands of Oro Province.

As a community oriented environmental organisation, the commemoration of World Environment Day is a major event on the activity calendar of Partners with Melanesians (PWM).This patrol was an activity that was planned, not only to engage the children and the community in environmental awareness, but to gauge their understanding of the key issues that we continuously try to broach in our education-awareness and consensus building activities.

Students from the remote Gora Primary School were the only ones who showed up in full uniform and had this banner hand printed. Impressive, uh!

Beginning six days earlier on the lower flood plains near the coast, I made my first port of call at Emo Primary School which is about 2 hours drive off the main highway at Oro Bay. There I met some very generous people who put me up for the night.

The next day was spent going through their program and mingling with children and the locals before I hit the road again in the afternoon to find St Dunstan Primary School on the banks of the Pongani River a day later. We had a similar session at Pongani.

With these two schools located far outside of PWM’s project site, I wanted to use this opportunity to see how well these communities knew about sound environmental practises and their grasp on the idea of the conservation of natural resources. It was quite confronting to note that such information was greatly lacking, not only in the schools but in the surrounding communities. This was a challenge that I made sure to note down for my future education and awareness endeavours.

To make matters worse, both these schools like most low-lying areas of Oro, had felt the full brunt of Cyclone Guba not more than four years ago. With the service delivery mechanism of that province in a constant state of limbo, the infrastructure of these schools, among other basic services still had not seen even a hint of the much-hyped restoration funds.

Teacher shortage was another major issue they had to contend with. This problem, I discovered to my dismay in my conversations with the teachers, was more widespread throughout Oro Province.

After Pongani the plan was to make a quick sidetrack into Bareji High School. However, the weather thought otherwise as the rush of a flooded Pongani River put an end to that part of my plan. I was sadly left with the only option of forgoing that school altogether and instead head straight for Afore. Here I was fortunate enough to hitch a ride with a coffee-buyer, saving me another day of walking. Phew…

Friday was business as usual as I paid a visit to Afore Primary School who had scheduled their WED celebrations on the 3rd of June along with their feeder elementary schools.

The entire population of students, like the two previous schools I had visited, were buzzing with excitement to make their mark on World Environment Day. One could not miss the enthusiasm in the eyes of the children as they went through the day presenting their songs, dances, poems and essays, as well as exhibitions of samples of flora and fauna found in their area.

All activities culminated with a MR & Miss Environment pageant where the entrants came dressed in their traditional gear. After all was said and done everyone gathered for a combined lunch, topping off a very satisfying day.

A day later I again took to the road for Dea. That was where the biggest party was happening. Three primary schools – Dea, Koruwo and Gora along with all their feeder elementary schools had all scheduled for a combined event the next day on the 6th day of June 2011.

After the turnout from schools and their local community in previous days, I had no doubt Dea would come out even bigger and better, being a combined event. Slated for that day were even more singsings, tree-planting, debates, theatre plays and singing followed by the complementary pig-killing ceremony afterwards.

I was still catching my breath from the climb when my attention was suddenly arrested by the shrill voice of the young female dancers, as the tapa cloth clad dance troupe entered the clearing, their voices riding high over the synchronised beats of the lizard-skin drums. The men, with their arching bodies and feathered headdresses, in an almost regal poise, nodded in tandem to the beat as they lay their baritone timbre to their songs.

The singsong chants reverberated into the surrounding hills of Dea, summoning the late afternoon mist to slowly descend into the village. With it came the chattered chorus of cicadas as if in reprisal to the dancers’ songs, signalling the end to another day.

That was magic enough for a city slicker as all the weariness and pain were allowed to dissipate into the cool of an Oro night as previews of the morrow quickly faded in my mind as I wound down for the day.

Ese!!

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Posted by rait man of ACT NOW!
The article below, by Kenn Mondiai, Chair of the PNG Eco-Forestry Forum, is about the dangers of suppressing freedom of speech and the need to protect whistleblowers. It is a response to the news the Board of NASFUND has offered a K50,000 reward for information ‘leading to the identification, arrest and prosecution’ of the authors and publishers of ‘factually incorrect, malicious and defamatory’ statements on PNG Blogs.
Kenn Mondiai

In Papua New Guinea we are fortunate to have freedom of speech and the media is free to write and the commentaries also have that great flexibility to say what they think is not right and offer options and alternatives.

We at PNG Eco-forestry Forum have our own website (www.ecoforestry.org.pg) and we have been speaking out about illegal logging, unsustainable forest management, poor governance, abuse of human rights and other issues.

No-one including the government tried to stop us or suppress us directly, although we have recently heard about government plans to regulate NGO work in PNG; since we are genuine in what we do and say it’s unlikely an action will occur now, but in the future maybe if NGOs become unreasonable and driven by people with ulterior motives.

So far we have fully used the media well to do our work for the common good of our nation, our people and our natural resources and PNGEFF as a Papua New Guinean national umbrella NGO are proud of this media freedom.

We were challenged once in the Courts along with the Post Courier by  logging interests, that is Rimbunan Hijau, but the TRUTH remained and we still stand today doing our job to educate the people of PNG about what is RIGHT and what is WRONG by exposing WRONGS in an HONEST and TRUTHFULL way and then also providing alternatives as possible solutions.

So, whoever that brought out the message on NASFUND’s decision in whichever media that gave the message out is only trying to educate the public about what is NOT RIGHT and why it is WRONG, (I have not seen that messages), but is also true that no false information should be added and it should not in anyway be defamatory on persons related to that decision.

So don’t panic, just see how best your organisation (NASFUND in this case) can improve on it’s failures and address the concerns raised.

NASFUND recently, according to the newspapers, made some bad decisions about members money, we thought these issues were sorted out when the Govt ammended the Super Funds Acts, but it seems NOT, so they must fix it. I am not a member of NASFUND, but if I was, I will not hide my name under a Blog but will honestly speak my mind in the media or I can talk directly to Ian Tarutia and Rod Mitchell directly as I know both very well.

With this reward of K50,000 put up by NASFUND I think it is in a way or rather a step closer to Suppressing the Freedom of Speech, not by government but by the private sector, by the imposition of a monetary reward on peolple trying to express their rights on issues.

For the public and NGOs, whilst we have that freedom of speech, again we must take caution in what one says in the media, say the truth and provide options for a good outcome and don’t add salt or sugar to your stories.

Don’t be like the politicians trying to suppress media and freedom of speech in this country when their bad decisions and weaknesses are exposed and in reaction for their guilt they go to the media issuing all kinds of threats about controlling and regulating NGOs and the media.

Yupela yet skelim na tingim em tru o giaman !!!

The Alarming Social and Environmental Impacts of Special Agricultural and Business Leases (SABLs) in Papua New Guinea

In March 2011, a large group of environmental and social scientists, natural-resource managers and nongovernmental-organization staff from Papua New Guinea and other nations met at James Cook University in Cairns, Queensland, Australia to discuss the future management and conservation of Papua New Guinea’s native forests. We reached a strong consensus on the need to halt the granting of Special Agricultural and Business Leases (SABLs).

Papua New Guinea (PNG) is among the most biologically and culturally diverse nations on Earth. PNG’s remarkable diversity of cultural groups rely intimately on their traditional lands and forests in order to meet their needs for farming plots, forest goods, wild game, traditional and religious sites, and many other goods and services. Nearly all of PNG’s land area is presently occupied or claimed by one or more of its traditional indigenous communities.

Papua New Guinea traditionally has had strong indigenous land ownership, which is enshrined in its national constitution. Over the past two decades, the country has experienced a dramatic increase in industrial logging, mining, natural-gas projects and other large-scale developments, and the formal permission of a majority of traditional local land-owners is required for such projects to proceed.

Unfortunately, abuses of trust with local communities have occurred far too often, especially with respect to the SABLs. SABLs greatly diminish the rights of traditional owners for long periods of time while promoting industrial-scale logging, deforestation for oil palm plantations, or other extractive uses. Most of these industrial uses are dominated by foreign or multinational corporations.

In 2010 alone, 2.6 million hectares of SABLs were granted, all for protracted 99-year terms, bringing the area of land alienated from customary owners in PNG to over 5 million hectares. These Leases frequently appear to have been made without the prior knowledge and informed consent of the majority of customary owners, alienating for several generations the lands on which they depend and have long relied.

It is our understanding that government authorizations to clear native forests, known as Forest Clearing Authorities, have been issued for approximately 2 million hectares of forest in existing SABLs, much of which is of outstanding biological and cultural significance. We believe that these Authorities will promote the exploitation of native forest resources by foreign interests without requiring them to comply with existing forestry regulations in PNG. In this sense, SABLs are a clear effort to circumvent prevailing efforts to reform the forestry industry in PNG, which has long been plagued by allegations of mismanagement and corruption. They also are clearly designed to promote industrial developments on an unprecedented scale within PNG while diminishing the rights of traditional land-owners.

For these reasons, we urge the Government of Papua New Guinea to (1) declare and enforce an immediate moratorium on the creation of new SABLS, (2) halt the issuing of new Forest Clearing Authorities, and (3) declare a temporary moratorium on the implementation of existing Forest Clearing Authorities. These steps should commence immediately while a thorough, transparent and independent review of the legality and constitutionality of these Leases and Authorities is undertaken.

Raising the living standards of the people of Papua New Guinea is an urgent goal that will require the sustainable exploitation of the country’s natural resources and the development of viable domestic industries. However, development needs to be undertaken in sympathy with the customary landownership embodied in the PNG Constitution. It must also operate in concert with ongoing efforts to limit rampant and often predatory industrial exploitation of the country’s forests, lands and other natural resources, which far too often fail to yield fair or equitable benefits for the majority of PNG citizens. This is the interest not only of the majority of PNG nationals, but also of those businesspeople who are presently operating responsibly in PNG.

We agree with the need for sustainable economic development, and to achieve this a comprehensive land-use plan, based on participatory land-use agreements, is clearly needed. Only then can the sustainable economic, social and environmental benefits of Papua New Guinea’s enormous natural wealth be secured for its people.

 

Respectfully endorsed by:

Damien Ase
Executive Director, Centre for Environmental Law and Community Rights (CELCOR),
Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea

William F. Laurance, Ph.D.
Distinguished Research Professor & Australian Laureate
Prince Bernhard Chair in International Nature Conservation
James Cook University, Cairns, Australia

Yati A. Bun
Executive Director, Foundation for People and Community Development in Papua New Guinea,
Boroko, Papua New Guinea

Kenn Mondiai
Executive Director, Partners with Melanesians,
Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea

Vojtech Novotny, Ph.D.
Director, New Guinea Binatang Research Centre,
Madang, Papua New Guinea

Colin Filer, Ph.D.
Associate Professor, Australian National University,
Canberra, Australia

Rod Keenan, Ph.D.
Professor of Forestry, University of Melbourne,
Melbourne, Australia

Michael Bird, Ph.D., FRSE
Distinguished Professor and Federation Fellow, James Cook University,
Cairns, Australia

Thomas Paka
Executive Director, PNG Ecoforestry Forum,
Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea

Nigel Stork, Ph.D.
Professor and Head of School, University of Melbourne,
Melbourne, Australia

David Mitchell
Milne Bay, Papua New Guinea

Zachary Wells
Tree Kangaroo Conservation Programme,
Lae, Papua New Guinea

Colin Hunt, Ph.D.
School of Economics, University of Queensland,
Brisbane, Australia

Francis Hurahura
The Nature Conservancy: PNG,
Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea

Michael Wood, Ph.D.
Senior Lecturer, James Cook University,
Cairns, Australia

Paul Winn
Greenpeace Australia Pacific,
Sydney, Australia

Peter Hitchcock, Ph.D.
Founding Director (Emeritus), Wet Tropics Management Authority,
Cairns, Australia

Andrew Krockenberger, Ph.D.
Associate Professor, James Cook University,
Cairns, Australia

Quentin Reilly, M.D., DPH, MBBS
Specialist Health Consultant, Former District Health Officer,
Manus Province, Papua New Guinea

Susan Laurance, Ph.D.
Tropical Leader and Senior Lecturer, James Cook University,
Cairns, Australia

Damien Settle
Faculty of Science and Engineering, James Cook University,
Cairns, Australia

Mark Baumgarten
Conservation International: Asia-Pacific,
Cairns, Australia

Mark Ziembicki, Ph.D.
Postdoctoral Researcher, James Cook University,
Cairns, Australia

Ross Sinclair, Ph.D.
Director, Wildlife Conservation Society PNG Programme,
Goroka, Papua New Guinea

Lance Hill, Ph.D.
Professor, James Cook University,
Cairns, Australia

Michelle Venter, M.Sc.
Doctoral Candidate, James Cook University,
Cairns, Australia

Press Release: Released at 10 AM, Thur 20/01/11, BTA Office, Waigani, NCD

NATIONAL Environment and community development NGO, Partners with Melanesians affirmed their support for Bulolo MP Sam Basil who took the court injunction against Morobe Mining Joint Venture for environmental pollution of the Watut River.

They follow in support of Basil’s call for people with personal and ulterior motives to cease from obstructing him in his constitutional right to speak up for the people that he has been mandated to represent. If more than 100 sensible and thinking leaders support Mr Basil’s move then those selfish and greedy leaders who are obstructing Mr Basil should be ashamed and refrain from obstructing Mr Basil and his lawyers.

What’s happening along the Watut River is a clear indication of the beginning of many big things to come. We do not have to look far to see evidence of such impacts on the natural environmental and its people. The most notable ones include Tolukuma, Ok Tedi and the Jaba River in Panguna, Bougainville.

After 27 years experience of working with the rural village communities of Papua New Guinea, PWM knows full well the impacts of such extractive industries on their livelihood, especially mining.

The more than 18000 people living in the Managalas Plateau within the Afore Sub-district of the Oro Province have strongly objected to logging, forestry, mining and oil palm extension. MRA and the Department of Mining and Petroleum have issued three (3) exploration licenses to an Australian mining company, Gold Minex for a mining lease covering the entire Managalas Plateau which was done without a proper consultation process. However the 152 clan groups of the Managalas Plateau stand firm objecting mining exploration on their land.

It is important that the land owners of PNG need to know about the negative impacts of such destructive activities, which among others include, soil and water pollution, loss of land and biodiversity, skin disease and other health related issues, as well as the deterioration of the social and cultural fabric of those societies living within the vicinity of mine sites throughout PNG.

Successive governments over the years have failed to not only educate these landowners but have denied them the right to a safer and healthier future through sustainable management and use of their natural resources.

Mr. Kenn Mondiai
Executive Director – Partners with Melanesians, Inc.

[ Partners with Melanesians is a member of The Papua New Guinea Eco-Forestry Forum www.ecoforestry.org.pg ]

If this is not pollution then what is, Mr Allen*?

photo courtesy of Hon Sam Basil 2010

 *Mr Benny Allen is the Minister for Environment & Conservation (at the time of this post).

Look at the gleeful grin on her face. Yes that woman with that wide smile is Federica Bieatta, and she is supposed to be PNG’s representative as co-chair on special REDD Partnership Negotiations? It is obvious she doesn’t even have any idea at all what the Golden Chainsaw Award is all about or else she wouldn’t be smiling that openly. Or does she have other reasons behind that wide grin?

So i ask, what does an Italian woman who has never set foot in Papua New Guinea, much less know where in PNG places like Aitape, Kamulo Doso or even Collingwood Bay is located, know about the interests of this sovereign nation? Something is seriously out of order in this picture, wouldn’t you agree?

Now, read on the post by Sam Moko of Greenpeace who is pictured below handing the award over to PNG’s latest sensation since Kevin Conrad stole the show in Bali . Yeah keep that smile on, madam!

Papua New Guinea Awarded Golden Chainsaw Award! | Greenpeace International.

Blogpost by Sam Moko – October 25, 2010 at 10:16 AM 1 comment

Sam Moko (right) presents Federica Bietta, Papua New Guinea's representative to forests and climate negotiations with Greenpeace's "Golden Chainsaw" award in Nagoya, Japan this morning

Today I gave Greenpeace’s Golden Chainsaw award to the representative of the Government of PNG at talks on REDD (Reduced Emissions from Deforestaion and Degradation) taking place here in Nagoya. The government representative’s name is Federica Bietta and she is also representing PNG as co-chair on special REDD Partnership negotiations with stakeholders, including NGOs like Greenpeace.

Myself and the team, including a photographer from Tokyo, got up early to make sure we wouldn’t miss Ms Bietta for the 8am stakeholders meeting at the hotel. We all had to study pictures of Bietta, so we could recognise her, since none of us had seen her before and we needed to spot her right away. I’ve been working on forestry in PNG for 9 years and I’ve yet to meet her. Today was a good opportunity to meet her face to face – after all, she is the face of PNG for these important talks on climate and forests.

She seemed very happy to meet me and receive the award- but really it’s sad and unfortunate for the government of PNG to win Greenpeace’s Golden Chainsaw award – which is normally reserved for illegal and destructive logging companies.

Throughout the past 6 months the Govt of PNG, led by Ms Bietta has continually tried to stop NGO participation in REDD talks.

Greenpeace released today a report entitled: Papua New Guinea: Not ready for REDD. It details how PNG is failing the REDD progress and the steps the government must take to improve. You can read the full report here.

Essentially it says that PNG is not ready to receive funding for REDD because corruption and illegal logging continue to be major problems in PNG and indigenous peoples’ rights are being abused.

I was invited last week to give a presentation at Ministerial talks on REDD happening tomorrow but today found out that I would not be able to speak. I can’t help but think that this is PNG’s doing. Last night we met with officials from another country who told us: “There are 60 countries party to the REDD talks and 59 of them are welcoming of NGO participation” It was clear who she meant.

~.~
Sam Moko is an avid forest campaigner working with Greenpeace PNG Office.

It has been well over a year now for me at this job and I have found it to be nothing short of an eye opener for me, working in the conservation NGO circle. One interesting aspect of this job is the occasional travel to our project sites. Seeing new places and just getting away from the hectic 8-5 raucous affair that is life in the city.  Breaking this monotony is refreshing and enriching.

It’s then that every so often I get to meet some genuine people out there who are keeping it real, putting in the hard yards to help out their communities. Be it either in education or in administering health care to the sick and needy, at often times sacrificing their own comfort for others, impassive to the pressing demands of fast money, televangelists,  bubblegum music and the pursuit of opulence evident in urban centres. To them the bare essentials are what really matters.

Chris and the syllabus chart he had drawn up himself which is comprised of 19 characters out of the 26 letters of the English alphabet.

One such person I recently bumped into is Christopher Asiurina of Ogana village near Afore in the Managalas Plateau of Oro Province. Chris happens to be a Sunday school teacher, a community youth leader, a community basic constable (CBC), a peer educator and an adult literacy teacher – all volunteer work.

Going as far as Grade 8, he happens to be the only person from his clan and village to reach such a level of education. In his incessant quest to help out his community and church activities he went out of his way to buy 2 guitars for his village church congregation out of what little money he could find.

His drive was given a boost when he was taken up by Anglicare StopAIDS to undergo literacy training to translate HIV/AIDS information material into his local dialect. Using this knowledge he was able to draw up a syllabus chart for his dialect which he uses to conduct adult literacy classes in Ogana and Afore village where he’s already had a classroom built. He has 19 students, all of whom are within the 30 to 40 years age group and his initiative has enabled them to go on to read their local language bible.

His adult literacy program has had such a profound impact on the villagers, he said “Fest taim ol ridim tok ples blo ol yet na ol karai” (they cried when they were able to read in their own language for the first time).

More people from surrounding communities have since expressed their interest for him to conduct similar classes in their villages but he is hampered by need for stationary supplies and training for his 4 volunteer assistants.

This I believe is my cue. I have been looking for such opportunities to tap into to reach directly to the locals on our project site with our message of conservation and environmental awareness.  I have been fortunate enough to meet this young men and I am looking to collaborate with him in getting these vital information to a level where our village people can understand at their level.

The following is an interview given by the Executive Director of Partners with Melanesians on the importance of adopting sound PGIS practices in Papua New Guinea. It was conducted at the Mapping for Change Conference held in Nairobi, Kenya in September 2005.

PGIS or Participatory GIS is a term used to describe the participatory creation of maps through the use of local knowledge to promote indigenous communities’ understanding about their own area beyond mere geographic formations. In so doing, it helps in actually protecting the local knowledge from being exploited by outside influences. It promotes a more open dialogue in addressing any differences and conflicts in terms of boundary issues and local understanding of spatial data by engaging the participants in this process, thereby providing an open ‘forum’ to come to a consensus. 

It can also be seen as a handy tool in practicing sustainable resource management by both the locals and organizations alike, be they NGO or company or even the government in seeing development. 

This concept was instrumental in PWM’s work on the Managalas Plateau as its main project site when it initiated the creation of a 3D model of that area, covering the entire 360 000 Ha of the Plateau. 

A more in-depth look into PGIS can be found here

Locals from all over the Managalas Plateau convene to do up a 3D Model

 

A portion of the completed 3D Model

 

… End

by GENO NAU-BUGA of Sunday Chronicles
TAKING a drive from Goroka town in Eastern Highlands province north up along the normally busy Okuk Highway, ascending the cool winding curves of Daulo Pass to its summit, descending to Watabung and continuing on to Kenangi, one cannot miss an area on a rugged slope cultivated with exotic pine trees.

At first glance, visitors to this section of the road may wonder if they have stumbled into a sanctuary. Enveloped by a crisp blue sky, steep V-shaped gulley, with Koningi River flowing serenely nearby, the cultivated forest area looks adorning beautiful as it is bathed by sunlight.

This forest vegetation has already created a positive stir and has set a bench mark amongst the two main tribes who inhabit the surrounding areas.

Previously, this particular place used to be a barren savannah grass-land as a result of continued traditional practice of slash and burn over the years. However, after trees were planted some three years ago the vegetation began attracting wild birds, insects and bandicoots. Even wild plants and mushrooms are sprouting under its canopy.

A 2008 photo showing the young trees looking up the hillside across the Kenangi River from the Okuk Highway

“Our children are picking edible mushrooms from under the forest canopy,” explains an excited Martha Sangi, a women representative in the Ona Keto People’s Foundation (OKPF), a local non-government organization responsible for this remarkable transformation.

“The wild birds resting on the branches of the trees are making those unique chirping calls which some of our old people thought had departed the locality forever. It is indeed fascinating,” she said beaming with a smile.

Just a stone throw away from this reforested area one will notice a green-house with shade cloth and a recently built structure. The building will accommodate an office space, a conference room, a computer room and library for the Ona Keto People’s Foundation, the local NGO established in the area with assistance of the Partners With Melanesians, a national NGO based in Port Moresby.

The Ona Keto project site situated at Kenangi about 35 kilometers from Goroka in the Watabung local level government (LLG) council area of Daulo district is a biodiversity and conservation project which was possible through a grant from IUCN Netherlands Ecosystem Grant Program. Following the approval of the grant in July 2009, Partners with Melanesians and Ona Keto People’s Foundation Inc. began implementing various activities.

The project was initially started by Partners with Melanesians executive director, Kenn Mondiai with his Ona Kipiyufa clan in 2003. The aim of the project was to replant trees because people in the community have realized that most of the mountain slopes were becoming savannah grassland and the mountains were also becoming threats during heavy rains and landslides were imminent.

As time passed nearby clans realized that they were facing similar problem as Ona Kipuyufa clans so they mobilized themselves and joined the project and to date the Keto tribe has joined the project and both tribes have established themselves as the Ona Keto People’s Foundation Incorporated.

The funding from IUCN Netherlands Ecosystem Grant Program was to accomplished component activities namely, catchment reserve area establishment, reforestation, capacity building/sustainable livelihood.

This writer had a precious opportunity to travel to that refreshingly cool part of the country to interview and gauze views of the local people about the project.  It was interesting to note the various responses from a number of local people including the board members of the Ona Keto People’s Foundation (OKPF).

“This project is unique because it has hold the Ona and Keto tribes together to challenge environment abuses, the common in the area being  traditional practice of slash and burn of bushes to make gardens,” says Bobby Moisa, a tribesman from Keto.
Barbara Jeffrey, a women representative in OKPF, explains that since the work on reforestation commenced in the area as well as other trainings, people’s mindset has changed. Many are now very keen on reforestation.

“Many people are talking about the complex global issue of climate change. I believe we can no longer sit on our hands and wait for someone else to do something about climate change. In our area, the only way to ensure our children have a sustainable future is to take action now and that is planting more trees in our barren kunai grassland. Our children in future will harvest mature trees to build houses and use timber for other purposes to sustain their livelihood,” Barbara said.

Samuel Kepandi, who oversees the village nursery at Ronu village in the Keto tribal area explained that people’s interest in tree planting is high resulting in many of them visiting the nursery to collect seedlings to plant.

Kingsley Roimo from Fatau mountain village in the Ona tribal area says that people in his area are very keen on planting young trees, however, he claims work in planting has not progressed because seedlings from the nursery were not given to his people on time.

“My people are very eager to plant more trees, but the OKPF is giving out seedlings according to their own timing,” he said.

I spent almost a week interviewing the locals from both Ona and Keto tribes about how they perceive such a conservation project would benefit them.

On the third day in the area, I walked from Kenangi to Mangiro covering a distance of about seven kilometers along the Okuk Highlands to conduct random interviews with locals about the project. Accompanying me on the walk was Richard Wapo, the village coordinator for Keto tribe and Patrick Jack, an employee of OKPF.

Braving the scorching sunlight and vaporizing heat wave rising from the bitumen we pushed on.  In fact, I found the leisurely walk refreshing and for someone coming from Port Moresby it was indeed a good change of atmosphere as well as perfect getaway from the hustle and bustle of the big city.

Richard, whom I found to be pleasant and unassuming told me a rather interesting story during about how this reforestation and biodiversity project has managed to unite the Ona and Keto tribes, which customarily exchanged brides and grooms in marriages and in ancestral past were bitter enemies and had clashed in fierce battles with bows and arrows.

“The establishment of this reforestation and biodiversity project in the area had somehow united the tribes, changed the people’s mindset and everyone is working together in peace and harmony for the betterment of the environment,” he said.

Wapo also mentioned to me his role as coordinator to identify site plantings, especially in villages and hamlets in the Keto tribe  as well and liaise with the people regarding work. The Keto tribe comprise Foidomo, Nonduku, Lungiku, Iroba na Wapogu.
He explained that  the Wapogu village had received and planted over 7,000 trees, Iroba 5000, Nonduku, 450 and Lungiku 500 seedlings.

We bumped into two primary school pupils, 9-year old Peki Ben and his 10-year friend Wase Mangi, who were returning from the forest with mushrooms and taro seeds. The mere sight of these kids pushing an improvised wheel barrow to ferry their mushroom and taro seeds home was fascinating.

Paul Poiye was the first local man from Mangiro we met as he was returning from his garden carrying firewood, ripe coffee cherries and two red ripe pandanus, which the locally referred to as ‘marita’.

After talking with Poiye, and talking pictures of the rows of young trees and those that were destroyed by fire recently we decided to head back to the Mangiro junction along the Okuk Highway. On the way we could hear someone calling aloud from up the road. We looked up to and noticed a group of young men, some without shirts and a number of them yielding bush-knives, a common sight in rural PNG waving and walking toward us.

Noel Kevin, VCR chairman from Mangiro village was among the group. He immediately introduced the group and began explaining the work these young men are doing to protect their environment as well as planting new trees.

“As you can see, these young men are very keen to plant and nurture new trees planted on their land. Most of them have already cleared a portion of their land and are only awaiting seedling distribution from OKPF. All of them are excited,” Kevin said.

Admittedly, I was a little cold with fright when the group of men first approached. A number of them I noticed had gloomy red eyes supposedly from abusing grass (marijuana) because a foul odor was filled the air as we were conversing.

Another youth, David Kande explain that most of the villages and hamlets in Keto are located in rugged terrains and often no tangible economic developments take shape in their area, therefore, such project is a good investment for the future generation.

Gideon Bob also shared the similar view, but was emotional, stressing that bush fires have been the main cause of destruction to newly planted trees at Mangiro, therefore, stricter community laws must be put in place to penalize those who start fires unnecessarily. “I strongly reckon that severe penalties must be imposed to penalize those who carelessly make fires when making new food gardens,” he pointed out.

After the meeting with the group from Mangiro we started back to Ronu where I met David Kimoi, who is the VRC chairman there. He explained that when the project initially started a lot of people in the Keto community were quite doubtful. “Many people posed as ‘Doubting Thomas’ when the project started, but over time after work began to progress, they expressed interest and eventually join in,” Kimoi said.

According to the OKPF program manager, Rufus Mahuru, so far since its establishment there were a number of achievements. These include, the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) (between PwM and OKPF in August 2009 followed by  project launching,  establishment of (ten) 10 village reforestation committees (VRC) in September 2009 and the establishment of a main tree-seedlings nursery with green shade cloth in 2009.

Mr Mahuru explained that so far thirty (30) men, women and youths undertook a successful educational awareness exposure visit to another province that is also into reforestation. He added that a Community Based Adaptative Management Plan for the project and the Ona Keto tribes was conducted in October 2009.

“Fifteen (15) school-leavers were being trained to demarcate the external boundaries of Ona and Keto tribes followed by the actual mapping in May this year. Thirty (30) men, women and youths were also trained in agro-forestry inter-cropping training a month earlier in April,” he further stated.

He explained that there are a few activities remaining including nursery and planting training which needs and knowledge of nursing the seeds, collecting native indigenous species and planting them close to the existing forests.

Mr Mahuru explained that Partners with Melanesians and OKPF plan to have the final training on three viable and sustainable livelihood or eco-enterprise activities so that communities are prepared to sustain their livelihood when they are engaged in tree planting or even the project activities, “It is also anticipated that the three elementary and primary schools in the area are also engaged in reforestation program,” Mr Mahuru further explained.

Consequently, Partners With Melanesians Inc. and its local NGO Ona Keto People’s Foundation Inc. had achieved a milestone when “Ona Keto Community Reforestation Project” was notified by International Energy Globe Jury that the project was awarded the ‘National Energy Globe Award’ for the country Papua New Guinea in 2009.

Partners with Melanesians executive director, Mr Mondiai was invited to receive the Energy Globe Country Certificate at the Energy Globe National ceremony on 3rd of June, 2010 in Kigali, Rwanda which was a lead up activity to World Environment Day celebrations, however, could not make it due to another environmental commitment in Germany. Notably the award presentation was to have been done by high-ranking representatives of UNEP and the Government of Rwanda.

Obviously, OKPF project is somewhat contributing to protecting the world’s remaining forest, which is a key part of the solution to tacking the world’s climate crisis.

It was stated that the ‘’lungs of the earth” are giant carbon stores. When they are destroyed through logging or burning, the carbon released contributes to 20% of global green-house gas emissions.

I’ve noticed that there is already a community consensus that reforestation and biodiversity is the way to go for this rural people.

Whichever, way you look at it there is something flourishing and exciting happening amongst the Ona and Keto tribes of Watabung.

Ends………./

* Geno Nau-Buga is a reporter with the Sunday Chronicles, a Sunday paper that aims to cover positive community-based and development stories which affect the lives of ordinary people.

Here is a condensed version on my report covering the actual expedition phase of the book-delivering awareness exercise I undertook under the banner of Hope Trek Leaving on the 19th of May 2010, it took me and 9 youths from NCD one month through five (5) provinces to conclude this awareness run in the Western Highlands Province.

Hope Trek is in essence a demonstrative awareness exercise that first seeks to highlight the need for books and reading as a fundamental cornerstone of education and literacy.  Through the delivery of donated books to remote schools in PNG it is hoped to contribute in elevating PNG’s low literacy standards by promoting books as an additional source of knowledge.

In addition to this main agenda, it further seeks to enlighten as many people as possible about the importance of the environment and what we as Papua New Guineans and citizens of this world stand to gain or lose, in either the practise or non-practise of conservation in our day to day living. Other related points were also raised in this month long run making it a multi-pronged awareness exercise. These points collectively were used to enlighten and help broaden the horizon of people by demonstrating how we as ordinary citizens can contribute in our own little way in seeing change and progress within our community and the country at large. In so doing, it further reemphasised the idea of being self-reliant through responsible living by thinking and acting proactively in seeing change.

The key points addressed in this exercise include:

  1. Books and the importance of reading
  2. Environment and conservation awareness
  3. Climate Change
  4. Looking into sustainable income generating ventures
  5. Being responsible and self-reliant
  6. Basic Hygiene & Cholera Awareness – the cholera outbreak was a hot issue (and still is) at the time of our departure, so we made it as a last minute inclusion into our awareness points upon request by James Enage, the Chairman of Kokoda Track Authority who helped facilitate our trekking by providing us with trekking passes free of charge.

Modus Operandi Dissected

Leaving from Ower’s Corner in Central Province, we took on the arduous Kokoda Trail and conducted awareness and distributed posters every step of the way to Oro Province and onwards to Morobe, Eastern and Western Highlands Provinces where the donated books were eventually handed over to the schools.

As a starting point in our outreach, familiar grounds like traditional practises in farming, hunting and land use plans as well as the Bible story of creation were used to drive home the message of conservation and being environmental friendly. The idea was to start with the most mundane of actions like minding our litter, reforestation using local species of trees, maintaining traditional hunting practises and the prevention of unnecessary bush fires. Information on cholera with was also shared with them as well, advising them that the only defence available was in taking preventative measures like practising basic hygiene.

With these fundamental ideas, we appealed to our audience at the end of our talk that it was within our control to make a difference in looking after our natural ecosystem and in being more mindful about our actions in relation to the bigger picture as to how our actions will impact our natural environment and our lives. We further appealed to them to pass on these messages to their wantoks, relatives, friends and neighbours.

The dissemination of information materials in the manner of posters also enabled them to better understand the concepts and the mechanics of what we were trying to get across to them as well as to remind them constantly about these issues even after we were long gone.

Our outreaches were structured to engage our audience in discussions through a Question & Answer segment after every talk session. This helped them to further understand the points of discussion and also helped us to gauge our audience’s comprehension of the points that were broached. Hope Trek youths familiar with Motu further facilitated the discussions in Motu – especially along the Track route – and further helped to pave the way for the locals to step forward with queries and questions.

Being a public awareness venture, it was void of any form of discrimination. In fact, whenever we came into contact with any people, whether individuals or groups, we kept on with our outreach. And it did not stop there. We carried on in buses, on boats, on trucks, in schools, in villages, in urban settlements, in market places, at bus stops, on local radio stations and even around the age-old fireplace. In short, we were simply on fire and everybody else around could feel the heat and they were all burning and lapping up every single word (Whow!).

Given the varied background of our audience we made it as palatable as possible in their comprehension of key issues like Global Warming and Climate Change – among others; by laying it down in the most laymen of terms as possible, using local examples as illustrations whenever necessary.

As a demonstrative awareness exercise, we embarked with the motto of “walking the talk”. Hence a total of six (6) plastic shopping bags of litter of all shapes, colour and form were collected, starting from Ower’s Corner all the way to Kokoda Station. This meant we also had to mind our rubbish. The same was practised the entire length of our travel up the Okuk Highway to WHP and back.

In topping off this run (and coinciding with the World Environment Day), the books were delivered to thowe went and delivered the donated library books to schools in Western Highlands Province and sent two boxes to remote Lembena in the border area of Enga Province, Madang and East Sepik Province.

This gesture was hoped to drive home to children and adults alike the importance of books, as the most sure-fire way to help enlighten them and broaden their horizon. This in time will help in addressing the challenges we face in educating our people and the future generation about the importance of our natural environment because I believe that a literate society will be better equipped to address not only these conservation issues but the entire development process of our country.

Digress into the Employer Angle

From the stand point of an employee of a national conservation NGO like Partners with Melanesians, this exercise can be seen as an innovative approach into the idea of education and awareness on environment and conservation to include people and places outside of PWM’s project sites. Without placing any additional stress on PWM’s working budget and schedule, it was included into my initial work plan within my programme component to coincide with both my annual leave and the World Environment Day 2010. With this in mind, funds were independently raised through the sale of T-shirts in Hope Trek’s Shirt-for-Books campaign, thus eliminating any extra financial burden on PWM’s working budget.

I am of the strong belief that this exercise has raised the profile of this organisation and has helped shed more light on PWM’s activities and on environment issues and the idea of conservation, notwithstanding PWM’s commitment to the people of Managalas in our joint bid to attain Conservation Area status for the Managalas Plateau. As further illustrations of positive steps being taken by existing conservation organisations, the work of the Eco-Forestry Forum and PWM’s partner organisations all over the country were also highlighted during our awareness.

Call to Action

It was apparent that most, if not all of the information presented was lacking in the communities we entered and passed through. According to most people including village leaders, church leaders, women and youths, such vital information was lacking in their community and was an eye-opener for them. It is without doubt that more such information is required at the community level and in some instances, there is the need to connect these locals with technical specialists to look into pursuing such ideas like eco-friendly income generating ventures as a means to promote self-reliance as well as a support mechanism to drive forward the concept of conservation and environmentalism.

It is of my strong belief that the idea of environmental awareness and conservation needs to be shared with everybody in our country, from urban centres to rural and isolated communities alike. It is imperative that this idea needs to be reiterated and ingrained into the psyche of all members of our communities to reach ideology status so that it can be eventually transpired into ACTION at the individual level up to the bigger community level.

Take for example the hot topic of Climate Change. We talk about trying to combat and reverse this global crisis but the fact remains that we cannot make even a dent in the outcome (of total CO2 emissions) if this message is confined to only our project sites. Furthermore, being an environmentalist only on World Environment Day will make zilch difference to our fight to reduce human impact on our environment. The message of environment and conservation has to reach out into all corners of this country and its practise has to be maintained on a day to day basis to become part of our lifestyle if we want to truly drive home this message and get results.

In saying that, many a times those of us within the conservation circle or even those of us environmentalist at heart at oft times only preach about these issues and that is about as far as we go. Our actions often veer away from the path of our words. It is high time we reanalyse our actions starting with the very mundane ones like littering. This starts with that simple match stick, cigarette stub and bubble gum wrappers – buai spittle notwithstanding. It starts with us switching off the air conditioning unit to only when required. Switch off those lights and electrical appliances when they are not being used. In short, we have to practise what we preach. Walking the talk should be our code of conduct to demonstrate to others, giving the less enlightened a more realistic starting point to work on in being more proactive in becoming environmentally friendly in our actions. Only by doing that can the masses out there take us seriously.

::end::

More pictures of the Kokoda Trail segment of our awareness travels can be found  HERE

NB: Images from subsequent segments of this venture were not as yet uploaded at the time of this post. It should be made available in the next few days.

I don’t know if had mentioned this earlier but I was working on something crazy. Well not the diabolical kind but outrageous nonetheless. Well, now its here at long last in all its naked glory!

Hope Trek gives you the opportunity to participate in a worthy cause through the Shirts-for-Books campaign. This is a fundraiser exercise in which printed T-shirts are sold to raise funds in helping to freight library books to children in remote schools.

It is basically an awareness trekking initiative with its primary focus in providing library books to remote schools within PNG to help in the education and early development of children. As a demonstrative exercise, members of Hope Trek will take on the Kokoda Track on May 23rd 2010 to raise awareness – NOT funds – in promoting the reading of books as a fundamental cornerstone in education and literacy.

In its pilot run, the initial books numbering to more than 2000 have been donated with the kind help of Hope Worldwide (PNG). Still more books are on their way from the Rotary Club of the rural township of Emerald in Queensland, Australia.

The initial target schools are Bukapena Top-Up in the Mul District of Western Highlands Province and Saluk Community School of remote Lembena, located in the border area of Enga Province (Kompiam District) and East Sepik Province (Angoram District). Bukapena, in a first of its kind, has erected a school library through local initiative and is in need of books to fill up its shelves, while Saluk, given its remoteness has only grades 1 – 4 and is in dire need of learning resources and books.

Further to its main purpose, this venture will also serve as a platform for raising awareness to certain key issues facing this country and its people. As such this initiative can be seen as a multipronged exercise aimed at bringing to light the following issues.

  1. Environment and Conservation awareness – people need to be reminded of the importance of the natural environment. Scheduled to coincide with the World Environment Day (5 June 2010), this point will be highlighted in line with this year’s WED theme of ‘Protecting our Biodiversity’. Highlighted also will be The Managalas (Ijivitari district, Oro) people’s bid to get their area to attain Conservation Area status in August of 2010.
  2. Climate Change awareness – related to the first point, this is a hot topic that is facing the wider global community including PNG who is already in the forefront of this agenda, with it having the first “refugees of climate change” in the world (Carteret Islands) . It is therefore imperative that our people are armed with this knowledge as this agenda requires affirmative action from one and all.
  3. Eco-friendly Income Generating Ventures – there is commercial viability in the sustainable management and use of our rich natural resources and forests without the need to delve into more destructive land use practises. Trekking is one of the many eco-friendly tourist attractions that we all should look into for income generation. This will no doubt encourage the protection and preservation of our rich cultural and traditional heritage.
  4. Responsibility and Self-reliance – as a demonstrative exercise, it is envisaged that this initiative will challenge people to be more proactive in their wish to see development within their area. That we as individual members of the community can participate meaningfully in the development process of our province and the nation as a whole instead of wasting our time and resources either waiting for services that never eventuate, or go chasing after claims and free hand-outs from the government, politicians and leaders. It is high time we eradicate the Cargo-Cult mentality from our mindset and set out to be more self-reliant and innovative in our thinking to see true progress.
  5. Youth Mobilization – the participation of youths from Morata and Waigani in this exercise will no doubt be an eye-opening experience for them. By participating in a worthwhile cause, it will enable them to see themselves as more responsible citizens instead of just bums squandering their lives away in the city.
  6. Books and Literacy – the primary focus of this initiative as outlined will be to challenge young children (and adults alike) to take up a book to read, thus helping to broaden their horizon, not only in the subjects taught in school but about the wider universe at large so that they can grow up to be better, more responsible citizens.

I therefore appeal to you and your organisation for your support in this worthy cause through the purchase of a few T-shirts. Proceeds from the sale of these T-shirts will be used to airlift these books to their intended destinations as well as to meet other necessary logistical expenses.

The T-shirt designs are attached herewith for your perusal. A detailed definition of this trekking venture can be made available upon request.

Nickson I. Piakal
Hope Trek Founder

For further information please contact me on the following.
B: 7695 1446    D: 7168 1837     E: niicaux@gmail.com     E(work): npiakal@pwmpng.org.pg

T-Shirt Designs

FRONT view: white t-shirt

FRONT view: black t-shirt

BACK view: standard white t-shirt

BACK view: standard black t-shirt

Back view: customised white t-shirt

Black print with orange and white texts: “05-06,`10”, “KOKODA to YUAT”, and “Powered by…” followed by YOUR company’s/ organisation’s LOGO.
Condition: Minimum purchase of 10 units.

Back view: customised black t-shirt

White print with orange and black texts: “05-06,`10”, “KOKODA to YUAT”, and “Powered by…” followed by YOUR company’s/ organisation’s LOGO.
Condition: Minimum purchase of 10 units.