David, proudly showed us through the forest reserve.
One day it will belong to him to manage.
Photo: Chris Johnson
June 18, 2001
Saying 'No' to Logging
The dense, lush forests of Papua New Guinea contain many unique species, including birds, insects, mammals and plants. As the rest of the world continues to decimate what little remains of their magnificent 'old growth' forests, the relatively pristine forests of Papua New Guinea have become a target, with landowners feeling the pressure from foreign logging companies.
Traditional land tenure means that landowners here can be approached directly by logging companies, who offer them rich rewards in exchange for their forests. The temptation for poor villagers, is sadly often too hard to resist. They sell off their natural birthright, with little or no skills in the ways of negotiation and commerce. These people are easily exploited having little knowledge of the true value of their timber on the international market.
Intensifying this tragedy is the inability of the landowners to comprehend the consequences for the environment. Most have never witnessed wide spread, clear felling, or experienced its long-term impact. The problem is further complicated by the limited ability of Papua New Guinea authorities to monitor logging activities.
However, there does seem to be a developing awareness here, of the need to conserve forests. Awareness that these rich habitats supporting a unique biodiversity, yield greater rewards when protected, than when areas are cleared for short-term profits.
Yesterday, we had the opportunity to visit the home of a group of traditional landowners near Madang called the Dipida Clan. Thirty-five years ago, when logging in Papua New Guinea, first emerged, the leader of this clan, Kiatik Batet, had the foresight to protect their precious forests from international loggers. Again in 1992, the Dipida Clan refused to yield to the advances of the Japanese, even against mounting pressure form their own government to give in to the demands of these corporate interests.
The Didipa Clan stood firm and set aside 300 hectares of their 'old growth' forest as a wildlife conservation area. As a result, their land is one of the last significant undisturbed remnants of forest remaining near Madang. This area harbors species of insects previously considered extinct, and a handful of rare paradise bird wing butterflies. The clan also extract a multitude of herbal remedies from trees and plants, ranging from snake bite cures to contraception.
The clan is now constructing a natural history museum to help retain and preserve traditional knowledge and a hostel to accommodate tourists and researchers alike, generating an ongoing and sustainable income.
The wisdom and foresight of Kiatik Batet will continue to pay off well into the future. Unlike the landowners who have sold their timber and have nothing to pass on, his land is preserved in its natural state and will be passed down through the generations. It was his grandson, David, who proudly showed us through the forest reserve yesterday. One day it will belong to him to manage.
The Didipa clan has shown that there are better alternatives to land management than succumbing to foreign interests who pressure them to log their land. We can only hope their methods will be adopted by others.
This is Genevieve Johnson speaking to you from the Odyssey in Madang.
Log by Genevieve Johnson