Community forestry in New Guinea forests

For communities that stand their ground

Many of New Guinea’s communities are undermined by poverty and lack of access to markets and development opportunities. When the going gets tough, the temptation may be strong for these groups to write-off their forests or other natural resources for quick cash.
To avoid such scenarios, WWF is bringing communities solutions that open new opportunities for responsible forest management.

Communities often don’t realize that these opportunities exist, or may lack the means to see them through. For WWF, the imperative is to share possible solutions, recommend those that are the most realistic in a given context and help implement them.

Putting the land on paper…

One of the first steps in establishing community-based forest management is clarifying land ownership. Mapping is critical, as it reduces the risks of conflict amongst land users, or between communities and outsiders.

…in Orya

A good example of mapping in practice is in the Orya customary areas in Papua province, Indonesia. There, the local tribe has agreed with WWF to support responsible forest management. What does this mean in practice?
 / ©: WWF - Paul Chatterton
Mapping customary land in Sepik, Papua New Guinea.
© WWF - Paul Chatterton

The company has taken timber from part of my land […]. I stopped them from taking that part because they did not pay me enough. I use that forest to find greens to eat, or other things like birds, […] flying fox which we can cook with taro and eat.

Wezip Aloloum
Jobto Village, Madang District

WWF sat down with the tribe and mapped out the names of villages, tribal leaders and Orya customary areas. Based on this baseline information, we assessed existing Orya community forest enterprises to identify potential sites for responsible forest management activities.

…in the TransFly

A similar mapping exercise was carried out in the Indonesian part of the TransFly ecoregion. WWF carried out an inventory of important non-timber forest products within the community forest of Kampung Kweel. Gambir trees, sago plants, hunting area, water resources, and sacred sites were identified and mapped. The map is now used to plan for restoration activities of gambir forests.

WWF is staying on in the area to:
  • Discuss with the community which sites should be used to restore gambir plants
  • Provide gambir seedlings; and
  • Facilitate dialogue between the community and the Forest Office of Merauke Districts, which has allocated funding to support these efforts.  

Promoting traditional management practices

Communities are often victims of unscrupulous outsiders who seek to rob them of their resources. To deal with this risk, we carried out a study to understand the community’s values on natural resources and their management approaches in Papua province’s Kebar District.

Based on that information, and following extensive consultations, we put together a village regulation with community leaders regarding natural resources management. This is a key document that not only clarifies how resources should be managed internally, but is also meant to protect resources from irresponsible use by people from outside the kampongs (villages).

Community Financial Management 101

Communities require some basic financial skills to manage their timber and non-timber forest products. WWF has provided training for these skills in places such as Kampung Rawa Biru and Yanggandur in Indonesian Papua.

Gambir trees, cosmetics victims

Gambir is a native tree occurring in the monsoon forest areas. In the last few years, a sudden demand by the cosmetic industry for its bark sparked a widespread and destructive scramble to harvest as much possible.

One local man in Kweel says that in 2003 the villagers could fell 10 trees a day, now they are lucky if they can find 2 because they have to go further into the forests to find the tree. A single tree can produce up to 200kg of dried bark for which the locals get about US$5.

Object of too much desire?

Agarwood, also known as gaharu and eaglewood. (c) WWF - Paul Chatterton
Traders are combing the forests of New Guinea in the search for the much-in-demand agarwood, a precious heartwood. What is WWF doing to make sure that this trade is sustainable?

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