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Customary land – pathway to a sustainable future for all of us

Land is LifeACT NOW!

PORT MORESBY – One of Papua New Guinea’s leading activist groups has launched a new multi-media campaign, 'Celebrating and Defending Customary Land'.

Customary land is the most valuable asset available to most Papua New Guineans but its role and importance is often misunderstood or misrepresented, particularly by outsiders.

Too few people realise customary land supports an economy estimated to be worth K40 billion a year, provides jobs and incomes for three million farmers and provides housing and a sense of community for more than seven million people.

Many outsiders and local elites like to describe customary land as 'idle', 'undeveloped' and 'a barrier to development', but the opposite is true.

Customary land is the only resource on which PNG can build a sustainable future that benefits the majority of the population rather than just a tiny minority.

But if we are to realise this opportunity people must be empowered to defend their customary land and must not to fall victim to the false promises of those who want to take it away from them.

This is particularly important as we struggle to cope with our population explosion, which will see numbers almost double by 2050, and food security becomes even more of a pressing global issue.

Already some countries are looking to acquire customary land in PNG to feed their own people while the threats from the foreign owned logging and oil palm industries are ever present.

Adding to these threats are the international banks who want to use customary land as security for loans and a government which continues to push its dangerous land registration agenda and encourage incorporated land groups.

ILGs give control over communal assets to a few individuals and open the door to corruption and, ultimately, alienation. 

It is to help address the urgent need for better information at all levels of society about customary land, its values and the threats, that Act Now! is launching its new campaign.

The campaign includes a captivating television advertisement that will be broadcast on EMTV and a range of publications including reports, brochures, factsheets, infographics, videos and posters. 

These resources will be used by Act Now! in its lobbying, advocacy and awareness work.

They are also being made available to everyone with an internet connection through websites and social media, and will be shared with communities by groups who support sustainable development and promote rural livelihoods.

Campaign resources….


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Philip Fitzpatrick

Lots of food for thought - everyone should read the literature on offer.

I was an enthusiast of land registration when it was first legislated but then got involved in a couple of attempts to do that to facilitate landowner negotiations with mining exploration companies.

It was then that I realised the complexities of the process and the opportunities to corrupt the process.

I'm now thinking its best to devise systems that don't alter traditional land tenure. Rather, systems should be devised that can incorporate traditional land systems left untouched.

The ILG process is really a fairly arrogant system imposed from outside by people who feel superior and think they know better.

Sadly, this approach seems to be at the root of many of PNG's current problems.

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