Background – Papua New Guinea contains part of what is considered the third largest tract of tropical rainforests in the world with a remaining forested area of some 25 million hectares in and around which live about 85% of rural Papua New Guineans. These forest-dependent people have limited opportunities for sustainable development yet hold tenure over vast expanse of rainforests containing several billion tonnes of carbon.
The emerging “Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation” (REDD+, the “+” referring to sustainable forest management, enhancement of carbon stocks, and conservation) mechanism presents a significant new opportunity to address the dichotomy of a rural poor with a wealth of forest resources. REDD+ can potentially bring sustainable development to rural people while mitigating climate change, improving food security and conserving biodiversity. For more than 25 years, both conservation and development projects on forested lands have largely failed in PNG.
Among the causes of these failures have been the formation of artificial ‘decision-making’ groups while ignoring more complex traditional social groups and a poor understanding of how social groups define themselves, their membership, and the tenure and boundaries of their land. Consequently, local elites have and continue to capture the lion’s share of benefits and projects remain continuously mired in disputes. Initiatives – To address these failings and fill data gaps in on-the-ground learning to inform policy discussions for REDD+ in PNG, WCS PNG is implementing a Village-REDD+ demonstration activity on Manus Island in the largest remaining area of forest in the Admiralty Islands.
Village-REDD+ is an approach to forest management that seeks to minimize disputes and maximize the equitable distribution of benefits by operating at appropriate social scales and bundling multiple forest blocks into administratively and economically viable units. Village-REDD+ follows a ten-step Village Process whereby social groups organize themselves and plan their participation in REDD+ and livelihood activities. In implementing this demonstration activity, WCS is using its many years of experience in PNG, and local and international expertise in REDD+ and forest conservation while utilizing its extensive network of local partners in PNG including strong links with local communities and government agencies.