Posted on 23 March 2005
An ancient aromatic timber is bringing much needed income to rural-based landowners in Papua New Guinea, and inspiring the conservation of some of the richest tropical rainforests on the planet.
Find out more about WWF's work with eaglewood management in the Pacific.
Eaglewood — also called agarwood, gaharu or aloeswood — is known around the world for its highly valuable perfume and incense, and Papua New Guinea (PNG) is one of the last remaining frontiers for natural areas of these trees.
Increasing demand for the tree’s oil, however, has led to local landowners overharvesting its timber, hence reducing the chances of natural regeneration and causing commercial extinction in some areas. Villagers are then paid only a fraction of the real value of the wood.
WWF is collaborating with local authorities and other non-government organizations (NGOs) to provide education and training to local communities about the importance of eaglewood as a resource, and encouraging sustainable management of the industry. These training workshops come under a project funded by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization.
As part of a pilot project, eaglewood management teams have been set up in selected locations around PNG to work directly with rural eaglewood farmers in practicing and promoting sustainable harvest and trade of eaglewood industry.
Sites already selected include: the Hunstein Range and Karawari River in East Sepik Province, Vailala in Gulf Province and Cape Rodney in the Central Province and Maramuni in Enga Province.
“Managing Eaglewood in a sustainable manner will greatly benefit rural communities across the island of New Guinea, by improving the quality of life in villages,” said WWF-PNG’s Sustainable Resource Use Trainer, Leo Sunari.
“There is a lot to learn about the species and much information to be exchanged in order to design the best management procedures for commercial harvesting and trade.”
A major goal of the project is to develop a number of demonstration Eaglewood Management Areas. These are areas of forest set aside by landowners for the sustainable harvest of eaglewood. Within these areas, communities will be assisted to prevent extinction of their eaglewood trees, maximize harvest of resin while minimizing damage; promote regeneration; and improve income and benefit sharing.
Teams have so far completed field patrols to Cape Rodney (Central Province) and the Hunstein Range (East Sepik Province), and field patrols are also planned for Vailala in the Gulf Province.
To date, the team has: assisted with Clan boundary descriptions; drafted marketing and conservation laws and penalties; drafted simple Eaglewood Management Plans; helped local communities form Eaglewood Management Committees; and provided some training on seed/nursery project.
The eaglewood management areas will also protect large areas of some of the richest rainforest areas in the world while also provide a living to some of the world’s poorest communities.
By providing training and extension support to local communities and resource owners through its conservation work in eaglewood management, WWF hopes that those involved in the eaglewood industry will continue to better manage and harvest this very valuable forest resource, which will in the long term be a major source of revenue for rural communities towards sustaining and improving their livelihoods.* By Mary Piafu, Leo Sunari and Michael Avosa, WWF PNG Programme Office
Eaglewood management areas are set up by communities using a 14-step method:
1. Community Interest
: Community sends a letter to government and NGOs agreeing to develop and harvest eaglewood resources sustainably under a management plan.
2. Clan Group Meeting
: Meeting of clans in the community to discuss their interest and steps in developing an eaglewood management plan.
3. Community Survey
: Use hands-on workshops to map clans, ownership, areas of eaglewood, disputes, harvest history, and rules (for eaglewood and similar species).
4. Scientific Survey
: An eaglewood inventory is conducted by the community with technical support from NGOs and government (looking at eaglewood distribution, species and other biodiversity values).
5. Survey Review
: Review the results of the two surveys and discuss options for best eaglewood management.
6. Boundary Mapping
: Formally map the boundaries for eaglewood harvest and other land uses.
7. Rules & Guidelines
: Develop rules for the sustainable harvest for eaglewood including penalties and methods of enforcement.
: Identify registered buyers, fair prices and the best ways to sell eaglewood.
9. Eaglewood Management Group
: The community or clan decides on a group to ensure that the rules are followed.
10. Eaglewood Management Plan:
Compile the results of the steps above into an eaglewood management plan.
11. Declare a eaglewood Harvest Area
: Declare the area under a wildlife management area, community eaglewood management agreement and/ or custom law.
12. Eaglewood Harvest
: Harvest eaglewood based on the harvest rules above.
: Reforest and enrich old harvest sites. Establish eaglewood nurseries in the forest.
: Inspection/assessment of the eaglewood cut-over to determine impact and quality of harvest.