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.
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.
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]
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.
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.
“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.
* 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.
REMOTE SEPIK VILLAGES PREPARE FOR ANNUAL SEPIK CROCODILE FESTIVAL, AUGUST 11-12, AMBUNTI, EAST SEPIK PROVINCE
The central role of the crocodile in the lives of the people of the Sepik will be celebrated at the third Sepik Crocodile Festival, in remote Ambunti, from August 11-12.
Dancers and traditional performers from communities across the region will meet in Ambunti for two days of celebrations. The festival aims to protect the crocodiles and their habitat.
Communities are also spreading the message that they must start working now to keep the Sepik pristine and safeguard it for the future.
The Sepik Crocodile Festival, to be held on August 11-12 in Ambunti, is an opportunity to link culture with conservation.
This year’s event theme “Kirapim wok bilong turis wantaim bus, wara na pasin tumbuna bilong Sepik,” is a call to recognize and promote ecotourism through conserving natural habitats and encouraging sustainable use of the river.
The mighty Sepik River is still one of the most pristine rivers in Asia Pacific, but it is faces threats from development and climate change.
Through a partnership programme with community-based organizations such as the Sepik Wetland Management Initiative and Help Resources – the Worldwide Fund for Nature, the PNG Department of Environment and Conservation and local-level governments are working with local clans and villages to build a secure future for the Sepik.
The unique cultures of the Sepik are world-renowned. The river is essential for these local communities; it defines their spiritual and physical world. The river is the basis of myths and legends as well as providing food, shelter, building and carving materials, and medicines.
As part of its support for the festival, WWF will highlight the importance of freshwater biodiversity. It is important to protect and restore freshwater and forest ecosystems to meet future challenges from climate change and to ensure people have access to safe water and food sources.
WWF’s work in the Sepik basin includes helping communities build and strengthen ecotourism as a source of alternative income.
WWF has been working in PNG since 1995. It focuses on linking community action, science and effective policy to ensure the protection and sustainable use of forests, freshwater and marine resources across the island of New Guinea.