Nine traditional communities have decided to protect their forests

Nine traditional communities have decided to protect their forests


To protect their cultural heritage and ensure that their children, and children’s children continue to benefit from the sustainable use of forest resources nine traditional communities signed conservation agreements with local government and the Wildlife Conservation Society. These agreements prohibit industrial scale logging and plantation agriculture on 28,000 ha of the communities’ forested lands, and preventing their cultural and sustainable use values from being lost.


Manus Island lies 300km east of the mainland of Papua New Guinea. The Great Central Forest in Manus Island, one of the largest remaining areas of unlogged forest in the Bismarck Archipelago, and is a globally recognized biodiversity hotspot. The forest’s immense carbon stocks are a vital part PNG’s commitment to mitigating climate change, and itsprovides local communities with most of their subsistence and livelihood needs. All lands are recognized in the PNG constitution as being owned by traditional communities, who value them not only for the natural resources that are the foundation of their local economy, but also for the cultural meaning their forest heritage conveys. Lack of capital to invest in sustainable economic development has left some traditional communities no option but to sell their land to international timber companies and agri-businesses. Today parts of Manus Island have some of the highest rates of deforestation and forest degradation in the country. With support from the Australian Government, and in partnership with the local and provincial governments, WCS worked with 50 clans from 9 traditional communities to prepare sustainable developmentplans. Created through a highly participatory process that included men and women from each clan and representatives of the Provincial Administration and the Local Level Government, these plans were a prerequisite for communities to receive support for priority sustainable development projects. As one component of their development plan, each community decided to create formal conservation agreements setting aside areas of forest where industrial scale logging and agriculture would be prohibited, which would be reviewed every two years. Today conservation agreements protect 28,000 ha of forest. These agreements cover 2/3 of the Great Central Forest and provide a mechanism that could be scale up to dozens even hundreds of communities, saving highly biodiverse forests and the cultural heritage of traditional Papua New Guineans.


Effective Governance IconGOVERNANCE: Participatory preparation of sustainable development plans is an important step for traditional community members to come to agreement on how to use their lands and natural resource to benefit their families over the long term and to retain their cultural heritage. Creating formal conservation agreements with local and provincial government agencies was considered an important barrier to unethical companies attempting to make “under the table” deals with individual community members that conflict with the interests of the community as a whole.

Rights IconRIGHTS: Traditional communities land and resource rights are already formally recognized by the constitution of Papua New Guinea. WCS work with communities helps them to secure and enforce these constitutional rights through formally acknowledged development plans that included explicit conservation agreements with WCS, local and provincial government.

Gender IconGENDER: During the numerous discussions conducted by communities to prepare their sustainable development plans the interests and concerns of men and women of different ages were purposefully solicited and incorporated in deliberations and decisions about the use and conservation of community lands. WCS staff are continuing to work with each community to encourage and enable the ongoing active engagement of women in the governance of community natural resources.

Wellbeing IconWELL-BEING: Securing overseas development assistance grants to invest in sustainable development projects identified as priorities by communities removes the incentive for poor communities to liquidate their forest assets to finance enterprise develop and social service provision. With WCS assistance nine communities have been able to conserve their forest heritage and set themselves on a pathway for a sustainable and secure economic future.


Coastal scene, Manus/Ambroise Brenier ©WCS

Manus coastal community/Ambroise Brenier ©WCS

Selling fish, New Ireland/Ambroise Brenier ©WCS

Selling fish, New Ireland/Sven Frijlink ©WCS

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