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Nov 28, 2018

Cultural Revival aimed at banning Experimental Sea

The Balangut in its initial stages
The Balangut in its initial stages

Reviving culture, indigenous knowledge, and traditional management of resources, while promoting community self-reliance, are key aspects of community empowerment. The Karkar Island Solwara Warriors, in their tireless efforts to save their sea-based livelihoods and put people over profits, provide an inspirational example of this kind of community empowerment. The work that the Karkar Solwara Warriors do to inform and organize local communities on Karkar Island in order to build opposition to Experimental Seabed Mining (ESM) is bringing about positive social change.

In PNG, the need to seek the indigenous people’s views about industrial development projects – dictated by the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) – is often ignored or dealt with in only token ways. Most often, there is an overwhelming lack of Free Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC), with no proper process for gaining the informed consent of communities before resource extraction projects are initiated. For this reason, the Kavailo community on Karkar Island, together with the Karkar Solwara Warriors, are aiming to revitalize their indigenous knowledge and traditional governance systems as they attempt to take back control of issues affecting their land/sea-based livelihoods.

Taking their work to the next level, the Karkar Solwara Warriors decided to try something new – they decided to spearhead an approach focused on the revival of culture aimed at the complete banning of seabed mining in PNG and the Pacific – and they focused this cultural revival on their ocean canoe voyaging tradition.

For over three generations, the Kavailo people of Karkar had not built a large Balangut sailing canoe (balangut is the local name for these large canoes). It takes courage and determination to build a Balangut – a traditional canoe known to Kavailo ancestors for thousands of years. As such, restoring the Balangut canoe-making tradition became a symbol of hope, while also re-valuing and strengthening the indigenous culture. As the community began the process of cutting down the canoe tree and then going through all the others steps required to make a large ocean voyaging canoe, those involved realized that they had a great longing to reconnect with their ancestral past, bringing about a huge sense of fulfillment and happiness when the Balangut was finally completed and launched at sea.

The Balangut became a kind of symbol of customary solidarity, and a voice for the people of Karkar to call on the responsible customary authorities and the national PNG government to BAN seabed mining in the Bismarck Sea, the country, and the Pacific region. As such, the Balangan revival has become a homegrown peoples’ movement, reconnecting and uniting the diverse tribal groups to fight back against destructive foreign resource-extraction projects that destroy the indigenous peoples’ land/sea-based living and well-being.

This community-based movement has helped people to see that their land/sea-based livelihoods, well-being, and culture are essentially the real values of humanity. The land, oceans, and forests provide basic needs and comfort for humanity; while culture is the ancestral spirit that empowers tribal people to revive and honor their true worth – to value nature, value humanity, and keep indigenous culture alive for those who have gone, those who are present, and those yet to be born.

If you want to support the Karkar Solwara Warriors and other local indigenous environmental groups like this, please donate to Land is Life - Land Justice for Papua New Guinea.

      

Young children express concern for the land & sea
Young children express concern for the land & sea
The Balangut, getting ready for the sea protest
The Balangut, getting ready for the sea protest
Oct 5, 2018

Marine and Forest Conservation in Gildipasi.

Clan leaders renewing the Conservation Deed
Clan leaders renewing the Conservation Deed

Marine and Forest Conservation in Gildipasi, Madang, Papua New Guinea – Spearheading Customary Approaches to Conservation

In the 1980s, industrial logging was widespread along the north coast of Madang, including the Gildipasi area (including Simbukanam, Tokain and Kimadi villages). Eventually, the local people united in opposition against the loggers and kicked them out of the area.

In 2000, the Gildipasi community decided to initiate a process of formal forest conservation by working with the various clans to set aside an area of protected forest. This process took time. Finally, in 2003, three clans came together to sign the first Conservation Deed at Simbukanam, which was a five-year agreement. On July 26, 2008, exactly five years later, the Simbukanam Conservation Deed was renewed – with the number of clans increasing from three to eight, and over 2000 hectares of forest lands protected.

Five years later, on July 26, 2013, the same eight clans came back together to renew the forest conservation deed. But this time, the community decided to not just sign a paper deed, but to endorse and celebrate the agreement through customary rituals. What is more, three days later, on July 29, 2013, four coastal clans came together to agree to protect their customary seas as well. As with the forest conservation agreement, this agreement by the coastal clans was also sealed through custom ceremonies. This shift – to not just sign paper deeds, but to seal them with customary rituals – had huge symbolic significance, marking a reconnection with the ancestral, nature spirits who are the genuine guardians of the land and sea.      

At the next renewal event, in July 2018, the community added another customary element to the ceremony by renewing the agreement through the word of mouth, using a special customary language that had been revived over the past couple of years with the help of a linguist. In this way, the Gildipasi community was speaking the words of the Spirits of the ancestors, seeking their guidance with the protection of their customary land and sea, for the future of their children and those that are yet to be born. As in 2013, in 2018 there were two renewal ceremonies – one in Simbukanam village for inland forest communities and the other at Kimadi for coastal marine communities.

In PNG at present, mainstream industrial development – especially logging and mining – is destroying the environment – destroying the forests, the rivers, the reefs, and more. This kind of destructive development does not consider the indigenous cultural and environmental values-based systems of traditional resource management or the land/sea-based livelihoods which depend on a healthy environment. This industrial development only destroys. The Gildipasi community recognized this in the 1980s and between then and now has shown fantastic conservation leadership by throwing out the loggers and now spearheading community forest and marine conservation based on cultural beliefs and approaches. The Gildipasi conservation deed approach respects the local tribal authority where custom law is being emphasized for sustainable use of community land and resources.

Aiming to share the Gildipasi experience with other communities in PNG, tribal leaders came to Gildipasi in July 2018 from other parts of Madang and the New Guinea Islands to witness and participate in the Conservation Deed renewal ceremonies. It is hoped that some of these visitors will return home and initiate their own locally managed conservation areas – environmental conservation that is based on indigenous culture and is owned and managed by the people themselves. Instead of destructive industrial development, this kind of community-led conservation is truly sustainable development – the kind of development that is needed in PNG today.

Please help support forest and marine conservation in Papua New Guinea by donating to BRG’s Sharing the Future project.

Local chief from New Ireland Province
Local chief from New Ireland Province
Traditional dancers from Gildipasi.
Traditional dancers from Gildipasi.
Aug 9, 2018

Coral Gardening and Marine Protection

Young people setting up coral nursery beds
Young people setting up coral nursery beds

Karkar Island is located in the Bismarck Sea. It is about 65 km north of Madang town, off the north coast of the Papua New Guinea (PNG) mainland. Karkar is a volcanic island with a black sandy coastline, many coconut plantations, and well known for its copra production. The population of the island is 80,000, with most people providing for themselves through traditional fishing and food gardening.

Karkar Islanders have been protesting against the idea of seabed mining ever since the first Mining Warden’s Hearing ten years ago. Due to the strength of the opposition put forward by Karkar and other Madang coastal people, the seabed mining company, Nautilus, abandoned plans for mining off the Madang coast and instead shifted its focus to the Bismarck Sea offshore of West New Ireland. Karkar is situated in the Western Pacific Tuna Catchment Area and the Coral Triangle, and despite much talk by people at high levels of government and business about potential benefits from various ‘development’ projects, nothing has eventuated. Instead, the people of Karkar still see industrial fishing fleets sweeping the sea of its tuna stocks and polluting at the same time, and worry about the potential impacts on the tuna and the marine environment in general. And so the Karkar people have come to see that they need to take control of their future, and not wait or depend on anyone else, continuing to provide for themselves with their own resources from their customary land and sea. This realization led to the birth of the Karkar Solwara Warriors (Karkar Ocean Warriors) – a group of Karkar people committed to fight to protect the Bismarck Sea.

Kavailo Village is located in Kulobob Bay on Karkar Island. It is a Lutheran area where church is considered of great importance, together with local culture and traditions. Through church, school, and community networks, the Karkar Solwara Warriors have been doing awareness on the need to protect the ocean environment that they depend on. As a result, the Solwara Warriors of Kavailo decided to put their environmental awareness into action by initiating coral gardening. The Warriors are restoring corals at Kulobob Bay and Kavailo Lagoon which have been dead for several years, by creating coral nurseries for coral replanting. And now, the coral gardening initiative has led to establishment of the Kulobob Bay Marine Life Restoration Program, a homegrown idea to restore, protect and preserve marine life for future generations. The Karkar Solwara Warriors took advantage of World Environment Day and World Oceans Day to highlight their community initiatives aimed at providing local solutions to the challenges posed by destructive large-scale resource extraction like industrial fishing and seabed mining. These events brought people together and facilitated awareness and exchange of ideas – uniting people to create positive change.

If you would like to support the Karkar Solwara Warriors and other indigenous environmental groups like this, please donate to Land is Life project.

Placing corals on the nursery bed
Placing corals on the nursery bed
Kavailo Lagoon
Kavailo Lagoon
Kulobob Bay
Kulobob Bay
 
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