Papua New Guinea visits the Nature Recovery Network
Nature Recovery Network members were inspired by the remarkable example of Papuan village clans working collectively to protect and restore their rainforest.
Emily Terry writes:
On 7th July, a delegation of Papuans on a visit to Oxford, heard of the community restoration efforts of our Nature Recovery Network (NRN) and spontaneously decided to visit Long Mead, where they found a team busy preparing for this year's meadow restorations.
L to R, Standing: Dr Francesca Dem, Deputy Director, Binatang Research Center, PNG; Dr. Becky Morris, Associate Professor, University of Southampton & Senior Research Associate, University of Oxford; Prof Kevan Martin, NRN; Jo Middleton, Research Fellow, Brighton and Sussex Medical School; Prof Alan Stewart U Sussex; Shen Sui, Masters student, Binatang Research Center, PNG; Dr Moses Laman, Deputy Director, PNG Institute of Medical Research and Head of Vector Borne Diseases Unit; Ruma Umari, Para-ecologist, Binatang Research Center, PNG; Nicky Chambers, NRN; Dr Mike Wilson, Head of Entomology, National Museums Wales. Kneeling: Emily Terry, NRN; Tamsin Wood, U Cambridge; Catriona Bass, NRN.
Whilst standing next to a donor restoration area of Long Mead's ancient wildflower meadow, full of yellow rattle, great burnet, meadowsweet, and much more, we heard about their long battle to prevent their rainforest in Papua New Guinea falling to the chainsaws, and how 9 clans, who together own over 10,000 hectares of rainforest known as Wanang Conservation Area, are working collaboratively to protect this important habitat and improve the well-being of their community by building a clinic, an elementary school and a research station. Read more here.
The rainforest on the island of New Guinea supports 5% of global biodiversity and Papua New Guinea is the 4th most biodiverse country in the world. However, deforestation in Papua New Guinea is following the unsustainable trends seen in other tropical forests with a decline of 24% over 30 years. Likewise, wildflower meadow habitats in the UK have declined 97% over the last 100 years. The destruction of both our critically important habitats has led to the rapid decline of the respective biodiverse habitats they support. Although over 8,500 miles apart, our communities share a common cause to reverse these declines and restore and improve the resilience of these habitats. Of course, the immensity of the Papuan’s project dwarfs the NRN’s, but we recognized in them kindred spirits, with their bottom-up, community-led, and highly successful endeavor to protect and restore their natural environment.
The Papuan’s visit in the UK was sponsored by the Darwin Initiative, a UK government scheme helping developing countries to protect biodiversity, their natural environment and the local communities that live there. The visiting group was hosted by Professor Alan Stewart of the University of Sussex, who is leading the Darwin Initiative project to integrate conservation and health care in Papua New Guinea’s vulnerable rainforests.
The community-led conservation project is aiming to achieve sustainable development, protecting life on land, and supporting good health. The efforts to achieve these have seen the clans of the Wanang Conservation Area resist pressure from logging companies to log their forest, while their neighbours took the Kina, but lost their forests. By contrast, the Wanang community opted to build integrated health services in their tropical forest conservation project. This makes Wanang probably the only community in Papua New Guinea which draws the majority of its income from supporting biological research and other research on its own land.
It was a truly inspirational visit!