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Eco-forestry alternative for PNG rural communities

SAM MOKO | Forest Campaigner | Greenpeace Australia Pacific

Peter Kikele, Tavolo clan leaderTHE PEOPLE of Papua New Guinea are still awaiting the release of the 2011 Commission of Inquiry into Special Agriculture and Business Leases (SABLs).

These are controversial leases that have allowed 5.1m hectares of customary land to be stolen for up to 99 years - logging companies are pushing their bulldozers day and night beyond the boundaries to fast track harvesting of logs.

Customary landowners feel powerless to protect their homes and their precious forests.

The PNG government is allowing foreign owned logging companies to harvest our forest resources without providing any opportunity for landowners and local people to participate and benefit directly from their forests. 

However, there is another way.  Many landowner groups have approached NGOs to find out about alternatives to large scale destructive logging. The NGOs can provide the technical support so customary landowners can manage their forest resources.

The PNG government should be developing policies that support local people rather than giving away harvesting rights to foreign owned logging companies who are only after profits.

Papua New Guineans are capable of managing their forest through eco forestry.  Local communities have organised themselves and have been doing eco forestry for more than 20 years now.  Communities have benefited directly through the income generated from small scale portable sawmilling that is part of eco forestry.

At the same time, communities have proved that doing eco forestry saves their forest by allowing only harvesting of a minimum number of trees, conserving high conservation values, and using very low impact techniques that protect the ecosystem.

With 26.2 million hectares of primary forests remaining and approximately 60 per cent of the country’s forest under threat from logging and agricultural expansion, PNG still has a lot of forests to protect. Eco forestry can be a solution for the communities living and relying on forests as their means of survival.

More than 30 years of industrial logging in PNG has not provided any tangible and sustainable development for the people. Logging companies rip off profits from the people’s resources and venture into other business activities leaving the resources owners destitute and struggling with years of legal challenges.

PNG is at a crossroad. A proper National Land Use Process is what is required for the remaining forests of PNG. Coupled with eco forestry, a land use plan can be the main solution to problems in the logging industry and to SABLs for palm oil.

The people of PNG have the will and the knowledge to do it.  They deserve their government’s support to adopt a national land use plan, to do eco forestry and   to save their forests for future generations.

Photo: Peter Kikele, Chairman of Tavolo Ecotimber, Uvol LLG, Pomio District, East New Britain


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Michael Dom

The government does not care about this issue.

Francis Sina Nii

The outcome of the investigation into the SABLS could set some lights to an economically amicable and equitable solution to the whole logging issue. However, NEC described the interim report submitted as incompetent and is still waiting for the final report. The forthcoming of the final report is doubtful as the funds allocated was reported to have had been depleted. In light of this, there should be moratorium on all logging operations under SABLS until the report is determined.

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