The proposed Managalas Conservation Area Project (MCAP) is PWM’s key focus area. Much of the staff and partner efforts have been put to use here with a very generous financial backing from our main donor, the Rainforest Foundation Norway (RFN) since 1997.
The project came into existence in 1984 as a literacy project which was initiated by the students and lecturers from the University of Papua New Guinea (UPNG). In 1996 the idea of Conservation and Community Development came into the picture because of the huge rain forest and its collection of rare species of fauna and flora.
Eventually in 2001 it was decided through community consensus that a legitimatised Conservation Area should be established to give more ammunition to the protection of the unique biodiversity of the Managalas Plateau. This could only happen through an official referendum gazetted through the Conservation Areas Act of 1978.
The Managalas Plateau is an area where humans coexist with the wildlife in the same habitat. Furthermore, at 360,000 hectares, MCAP stands to be the biggest Conservation Area once declared. These pose major challenges in Managalas’ bid to have it declared as a conservation area.
Partners with Melanesians has been working alongside community based organisations in Managalas by providing technical support and advise to the local community members. This has helped people embark on sustainable eco-enterprises like coffee production, Okari nut projects, large scale production and sales of agricultural produce and women’s sewing projects among others.
All these projects are aimed at improving the local population's livelihoods through capacity building and community empowerment. Seeing such benefits in their lives, it is hoped to encourage people to claim ownership of the bigger Managalas Conservartion Area Project.
Situated 460 - 2856 meters above seas level and located south west from the township of Popondetta, the Managalas Plateau has
a very diverse vegetation. Starting from low-land floodplains to savannah and mid-mountain forests, rich in volcanic soil, it sits between the Owen Stanley and the Sibium Ranges.
Apart from traditional foot-tracks, a single dirt road suitable for 4WD vehicle stretches from the coast in Oro Bay all the way up to the western end of the plateau in Itokama. Along with 2 main airstrips – Sakarina and Itokama, these are the only link to the outside world for more than 18,000 people (150 clan groups).
This fact alone is a major impediment to regular trade, and denies the largely subsistence population access to basic government services.
Managalas is one of the few remaining areas of the Northern Province (Oro) that is still untouched by logging and oil palm activities, two of the major contributors to the quickly diminishing natural habitat of the very rare Queen Alexandra's Birdwing Butterfly (Ornithoptera alexandrea) – the biggest butterfly in the world.
In addition to the Queen Alexandra's Birdwing Butterfly, the plateau and its immediate vicinity is also home to several species of frogs and tree kangaroos which have been identified in several biodiversity surveys conducted by Partners with Melanesians.
Formerly known as Managalas Development Foundation, the Managalas Conservation Forum (MCF) is a secretariat organisation to the ten community based organisations in the Managalas Plateau.
Working in collaboration with PWM, MCF coordinates with the 10 community based organisations to see through the conservation area project.