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Sharing the Future - Young Papua New Guineans

by Bismark Ramu Group
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Sharing the Future - Young Papua New Guineans
Sharing the Future - Young Papua New Guineans
Sharing the Future - Young Papua New Guineans
Sharing the Future - Young Papua New Guineans
Sharing the Future - Young Papua New Guineans
Sharing the Future - Young Papua New Guineans
Sharing the Future - Young Papua New Guineans
Sharing the Future - Young Papua New Guineans
Sharing the Future - Young Papua New Guineans
Sharing the Future - Young Papua New Guineans
Sharing the Future - Young Papua New Guineans
Sharing the Future - Young Papua New Guineans
Sharing the Future - Young Papua New Guineans
The Wairon's  Sorong to Samarai Canoe Voyage
The Wairon's Sorong to Samarai Canoe Voyage

Today, in many small villages in Papua New Guinea (PNG), people aim to transition from a traditional way of life to a modern lifestyle. But this is not the case in all PNG communities. For Kavailo village on Karkar Island, off the north coast of PNG, after much hard work thinking deeply about what kinds of development would truly benefit their people, especially the youth, they embarked on the opposite kind of process – they decided to go back to tradition in order to rebuild cultural pride.

This process revolved around the Kavailo community members coming together to build a traditional canoe, called a Balangut in the local language. For thousands of years, canoe making was central to the life of coastal villages like Kavailo. But over the last few generations, since contact with Europeans and then rapid social change associated with globalization, traditional canoe making went into decline and then stopped – a Balangut had not been built for almost three generations and the traditional knowledge about how to build such a canoe was soon to die out. Recognising the urgency of the situation, a local village Elder and pastor of the local Mugaer Lutheran church was able to get the villages of Kavailo and the surrounding areas to work together to revive this important cultural practice.

In Kavailo today, indigenous culture and Christianity are both important parts of life – these aspects of society now exist side by side and contribute to shaping the modern-day holistic context of the community. Given this context, the revival of the Balangut was celebrated in the local culture, hand-in-hand with the Christian faith. The Balangut cultural revival became a participatory process of getting local Elders to revalue and appreciate their culture and heritage and then moving forward in rediscovering their canoe-making culture.

While the people of Kavailo, Karkar Island, PNG embarked on their cultural revival journey, communities in West Papua were doing the same – also rebuilding a large traditional canoe, called Wairon in West Papua. The plan was for the Wairon of West Papua to sail along the north coast of New Guinea from the West across the border and eastward to Karkar Island – where the two communities would meet and celebrate their joint achievements.

Children and young adults became the focus of this unforgettable cultural revival and exchange between West Papuans and Karkar Islanders. Local Elders now believe that they are the keepers of the future and that they will pass on this responsibility to the next generation. What a sight it was to see Kavailo youths performing traditional dances on the Balangut and in the center of the village to welcome the Wairon canoe from West Papua. It was a beautiful and emotional welcome. The Wairon West Papuans then participated in a weeklong cultural event in Kavailo, where culture was revived and shared while also being recognized within the Christian faith. It was a special time of healing, peace, and unity. A huge feast was also held to celebrate this cultural achievement.

In addition to cultural restoration, the Balangut and Wairon cultural exchange event made possible the revival of traditional canoe voyaging – a critically important traditional life skill. It was a truly historical event, which reaffirms cultural ties across an unwelcome modern-day border, thus reuniting our land with the beat of our traditional drums – the kundu in PNG and the tifa in West Papua. There is now a strong feeling that such brave community initiatives will give hope and courage to other indigenous communities in PNG, West Papua, and beyond to discover their path to self-realization based on Melanesian values.

If you would like to support young people in local indigenous societies to rediscover and revive their culture for future generations please donate to Sharing the Future-Young Papua New Guineans project on GlobalGiving.  

Wairon crew presented with gifts
Wairon crew presented with gifts
Young girls, Kavailo village in traditional attire
Young girls, Kavailo village in traditional attire
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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.
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UOG NGI students with BAN seabed mining stickers
UOG NGI students with BAN seabed mining stickers

University Walkabout is an initiative set up by Bismarck Ramu Group (BRG) in late 2017 to engage university students on issues of development in their home provinces. With this new initiative, BRG saw an opportunity to engage students of both East and West Sepik provinces on the campaign against the development of the Frieda River Mine, which threatens to devastate the Sepik River and the livelihoods of 300,000 indigenous people who live along and depend on this river for their survival.

Large resource extraction projects led by foreign companies are now appearing in every pocket of land in Papua New Guinea (PNG). It is an obvious race for profit, requiring exploitation of the local people and their natural resources, and beginning with devious processes for accessing and alienating the indigenous communities’ customary land, waterways, and seas. Given this, it is vital that BRG helps young people in PNG to critically analyze and understand the issue of ‘development’ in the country. Young people need to start asking themselves ‘development’ for what and for whom? Who is this so-called ‘development’ benefitting? It quickly becomes clear that the way ‘development’ is happening in PNG right now, it is benefitting only outside companies and elites, and not the indigenous communities.

And so the University Walkabout initiative aims to inform young and future generations about the importance of their identity, their land-based livelihoods, and their resources, and to support young Sepiks to take pride in their culture and their way of life, and thus become the voice of reason to SAVE THE SEPIK RIVER and BAN FRIEDA MINE. In this way, BRG believes that young people and others from East and West Sepik provinces will take active roles in critical discussions and conscious decision-making about development activities in their villages and provinces.

In October 2017, the BRG team visited three PNG universities – Divine Word University in Madang, University of Papua New Guinea (UPNG) in Port Moresby, and University of Goroka (UOG) in the Highlands region – to talk to the respective Sepik Students Associations about the issue of the Frieda Mine. At UOG, there were about 150 people present. Many students downloaded the slideshow presentation and committed to carry out awareness in their home communities during the holidays. Those present were thankful and requested that BRG try to find ways to continue such programs going forward. At UOG, the BRG team was also able to talk to New Guinea Islands students about the issue of experimental seabed mining.

At UPNG, the audience was equally eager. The leader of the UPNG Avisat (Sepik River) student club gave his assurance that Avisat would develop a plan to talk with communities along the Sepik River about the dangers of the Frieda Mine. To this end, the Avisat club is now planning a fundraising drive to be held in mid-May to raise funds for a major awareness campaign about the Frieda Mine during the end-of-year holidays when many students go to their home provinces and villages. Another outcome was the launching of the annual Tingting Toktok (“Thinking Talking”) Forum by the students of East Sepik province, providing an opportunity for students to gather to discuss development issues pertaining to their home province.

The University Walkabout Campaign has inspired many young Papua New Guineans to be optimistic about defending their future. This is a huge step in the campaign against the Frieda Mine. If you would like to help support these university students and others in their struggle to stop the Frieda Mine and prevent environmental and social devastation of the Sepik River, please donate to the Sharing our Future project.   

UPNG Avisat (Sepik River) club fundraising flyer
UPNG Avisat (Sepik River) club fundraising flyer
Annual Thinking Talking Forum poster
Annual Thinking Talking Forum poster
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Valiant girls with Land is Life stickers
Valiant girls with Land is Life stickers

Advocating on land is simple as taking a bus ride to watch Jumanji at the cinema in Waigani, Port Moresby.

Being regulars at the cinema and with consent from parents whilst on their way to the cinema to watch Jumanji they have been distributing Land is Life stickers to crews of public transports. Going to the cinema to watch Jumanji may be a child’s favorite and it can turned out to be an opportunity for these little sweet hearts both 11 years old, becoming our unsung heroes to advocate on land issues.

We owe it to these little brave hearts that have taken a step in the line to educate and foster knowledge on land grabbing amongst citizens of this country in the capital of Port Moresby.

Their advocacy came up in a time when it is feared that customary landowners will completely loose their land when the government is trying to make all customary land bankable. Land grabbing is taking a new phase each time when land advocacy is empowering communities to resist government development plans that are mostly foreign driven.

We owe our love and courage to these brave hearts to stand with us to defend and protect our Land that is Our Life!

Land Advocacy does not require professional advice but can be a hobby or just another publicizing activity for the little ones. It may sound a bit strange for children to be involved in the whole dilemma of land in a country like Papua New Guinea. But we owe it to the little brave hearts that have taken the step ahead in the line to educate and foster knowledge amongst citizens of this country in the capital of Port Moresby.

Their advocacy came up in a time when it is feared that customary landowners will completely loose their land. Land grabbing is taking new phase every time when land advocacy is taking strength in empowering communities and the society to withstand foreign investment and government driven development plans.

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Settlers properties destroyed during eviction 2011
Settlers properties destroyed during eviction 2011

The Mabanob and the Masuba Clan have proclaimed victory in their fight to reclaim their land from the contentious extractive PMIZ industrial project. The Milinat Plantation in Kananam was a contentious issue among various tribal groups as the land was illegal acquired by one local corrupts individual and equally corrupt, power-hungry politicians. Local people in that area have been facing a difficult time trying to get their stolen land back. The land had illegally been transferred to one particular person – and his company Savalon Security that provides security for outstanding involved in the land theft in the area.

The National Court in Madang granted favor to the landowners within the disputed project area. The Court through the resident Judge Cannings ordered the Lands and Physical Planning and Registrar of titles to ensure that landowners of Milinch of Krangket Fourmill in Madang get their land titles returned.

The court’s decision issued on Friday October 13th 2017, ruled that land portions 1216, 1217, 1057, 1059, 1060, and 1061 on the Milinch of Krangket will be forfeited to the state and given back to the genuine landowners. Also the court ordered the Lands and Physical Planning and the Registrar of titles to take all necessary steps to make sure that the earlier order is effective for the transfer all titles back to the state to be made available to the rightful landowners.

The court also sternly declared that the local thug and his company Savalon Security Limited compensate all fourteen (14) plaintiffs K3000 – a total of K42,000 - for total damage caused to properties and lives. He has been given two (2) months to complete the payments.

People residing or thinking they have bought land and settled in these portions of land must vacate the land as per the court decision.

  

Displaced settlers
Displaced settlers
The controversial PMIZ in Madang Papua New Guinea
The controversial PMIZ in Madang Papua New Guinea
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Organization Information

Bismark Ramu Group

Location: Madang - Papua New Guinea
Website:
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Bismark Ramu Group
Julianne Sapi
Project Leader:
Julianne Sapi
Madang, Madang Papua New Guinea

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Combined with other sources of funding, this project raised enough money to fund the outlined activities and is no longer accepting donations.
   

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