Forest Programme PNG (FoNG)

Geographical location:

Asia/Pacific > Pacific Ocean > Papua New Guinea


This local resource initiatives (LRI) project will be carried out as an integral part of WWF’s programme in Papua New Guinea (PNG), which is linked in turn to national and regional strategies for conservation and development. The project will, therefore, make a specific contribution to an overall programme and will also benefit from related activities in other parts of PNG or neighbouring countries.

The project will link with a number of integrated conservation and development projects (ICDP) that have been the main strategy for conservation in PNG through the 1990s. ICDP’s are large-scale, high input efforts to support a mixture of conservation measures and economic development schemes across an extensive area.


In Papua New Guinea, legislation and government policies concerning natural resource management place traditional resource owners and local communities in a central role. However, methods for planning and implementing local initiatives in natural resource management or conservation are poorly developed. For the past decade, very little support has been given to local groups wanting to pursue some form of sustainable development or introduce locally important environment or biodiversity protection measures.

The country’s intended system of protected areas or conservation areas is not working, largely because there is inadequate response to community interest. Many opportunities to protect sites and species of high conservation importance are therefore lost.

The biodiversity of Papua New Guinea makes up at least 5% of the world total, making it one of the most significant countries in the Asia-Pacific region for conservation action. It has extensive, high quality natural habitats and ecosystems, ranging from alpine grasslands to lowland rainforest and coral reefs. Over 70% of the country is under relatively unmodified forest cover and its inshore marine systems are unparalleled in their quality and diversity.

While PNG's environment remains relatively intact, it is under increasing threats from a range of sources. Industrial logging has trebled since 1993; current concession allocations total 3 times sustainable cutting levels. A growth in mining operations has left many rivers polluted and social patterns dramatically changed. Unsustainable fishing is undermining subsistence fisheries. Plantation agriculture, particularly oil-palm, is increasing pressure to clear community-owned forest lands. In most cases, community control over development is minimal and benefits almost non-existent. Communities are looking for ways to retain control over their natural resources, to protect the subsistence base on which their survival depends and to find methods for raising cash without destroying their environmental capital. Many local communities are interested in using appropriate measures - site-specific, species or habitat-based - to safeguard the natural productivity and diversity of their lands (and coastal sea areas) for sustainability.

In the 1970s, some national parks were gazetted, from which local communities were generally excluded. Management neglect and community resentment has resulted in degradation of park areas. This model is now seen as unviable in all but a small number of cases. More acceptable to landholders and useful for conservation and sustainable development are Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs) and Conservation Areas (CAs). These 2 types of conservation area allow communities to develop regulations and management structures for protection and sustainable use of their own lands, with support from outside agencies. The government of PNG has a target of placing 20% of the country under some form of conservation management. 24 WMAs have been declared covering 9,869 sq km (2% of the country). By 1992, the DEC had filed more than 100 unprocessed requests from local groups wanting to establish WMAs or similar schemes; a number that is considerably higher today.

A comprehensive PNG Protected Areas Review concluded: "At the bottom of many communities’ interest in conservation and protected areas is a basic land rights/ownership issue. Most WMAs arise from the desire of a community to consolidate their ownership over a particular parcel of land and regulate the use of that land by outsiders". The review resulted in a proposal to re-establish 10 existing CAs as pilot and demonstration sites; promote conservation and CAs through extension materials and training; improve DEC procedures to support and process local protected area proposals received from communities, councils, landholders, and local NGOs; improve CA management resources through a pilot Community Ranger scheme, training staff in participatory management; and local institutional support.

From the DEC-WWF Protected Areas Review and consultation with government officers and NGO personnel, an initial series of 20 potential sites for project support will be selected. Criteria will include: an existing or planned community-based conservation initiative with reasonable likelihood of long-term success; high quality of biological or geographical features; the degree and imminence of threat; and the need for support.

An assessment will be made by the project team of the status of each site and of any plans for conservation or management, the level of existing support for the initiative, and the quality of current management. Interest in receiving support will be confirmed with site/community representatives. An outline programme of support will be jointly planned between the community and the project, and a clear agreement will be made between the 2.


The LRI project aims to strengthen the capacity of land groups and local communities to manage their natural resources for conservation and sustainable development.

1. Build capacity for conservation management at community level.

2. Strengthen the ability of government agencies and indigenous NGOs to support local conservation initiatives.

3. Establish a number of model sites which demonstrate suitable methods and arrangements for local conservation to be implemented and maintained.


The project will be conducted over a 5 year period. It will involve a small field team providing support in the form of joint planning, skills development, training and education, institutional support grants, or specialist studies or advice - directly to a series of local landowner groups who are engaged in an existing conservation scheme or are planning such a scheme. The project team will work closely with the DEC and with PNG NGOs and local community groups who are interested in providing support to local conservation initiatives.

There will be a progress review and evaluation at the end of year 2. WWF will form an advisory group, of informed individuals from government and NGOs, to provide guidance to the project team. An important component of project management will be evaluation of the activities carried out and ensuring adequate documentation and dissemination of model findings and lessons learned.

Support will be provided as planned and agreed to each selected initiative or site; these will include both existing WMAs and proposed new initiatives. The type of support given will include basic education and training, joint planning, administration support, specialist advice on conservation measures and on options for sustainable use of resources. Additional possible support could enable a local community to initiate local management measures, such as boundary surveying, habitat restoration, site monitoring, or infrastructure development.

A capacity building programme will be designed with DEC and interested support agencies, and delivered through the project. It is proposed to include an intensive in-service training course for 10-15 DEC and NGO staff in aspects of community based conservation management. Topics will include: introduction to ecology and conservation issues; conservation legislation and practice; indigenous conservation approaches; participatory planning methods; extension and support for local communities; committee management; community ranger functions.

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