The WCS Highlands team recently visited a new project site in Mauberema, located in Sinesine Yongumugl District, Chimbu Province. The team arrived to a warm welcome from the executives and members of the Mauberema Ecotourism & Conservation Project (MENCERTC) community-based organization (CBO). MENCERTC was established in 2017 and has been working to conserve Mauberema’s wildlife and support Mauberema community’s development aspirations. WCS has been impressed with this CBO’s hard work and commitment to conservation of a critical biodiversity habitat. Therefore, after previous community meetings and discussions, WCS is now supporting the CBO and the community through funding from the USAID Lukautim Graun Project (LGP), which translates to ‘Protect the Environment’.
During the visit, WCS provided awareness on COVID-19 safety measures and then discussed the MENCERTC’s current projects to identify ways to strengthen their on-going work and support new activities as part of the USAID LGP. MENCERTC is currently providing awareness to their community on conservation, maintaining a community native tree nursery and working to establish a community conservation area. These are key activities which WCS has expertise in and will help strengthen over the coming five years under the LGP. The proposed community conservation area will protect at least 2,500 hectares of amazing montane forest area which contains a number of attractions such as waterfalls, a deep sapphire lake and limestone caves. The area, not far from the Okuk Highway, boasts many of the wildlife species for which the Highlands region is famed. This includes species at risk of extinction such as the New Guinea Harpy-Eagle, Dwarf Cassowary and New Guinea Pademelon. During the trip, WCS worked with a local wildlife expert to develop a list of birds and mammals in the area which will be updated following future wildlife monitoring by MENCERTC and WCS. MENCERTC also expressed their wish to undertake proper GIS mapping and land use planning with WCS assistance.
Women’s group representatives received their own special meetings to discuss the roles that women can plan in USAID LGP work. One aspect of this was the proper preservation of traditional costumes which are a main reason for the collection of feathers, fur and other materials from threatened or endangered species. Proper storage and conservation of traditional costumes extends their life and reduces pressure on these species.
The WCS team also discussed opportunities for ecotourism linked conservation activities, and particularly conservation-linked micro-enterprise development for women. The WCS team hopes to increase economic opportunities and women’s empowerment with the support of CARE International and the Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE), which are partners under LGP through funding from the US White House Women’s Global Development and Prosperity Initiative.
MENCERTC is jointly supported by WCS through USAID LGP, Partners with Melanesians, the National Agricultural Research Institute, the University of Goroka and the New Guinea Binatang Research Centre. We look forward to collaborating with them to support the community’s conservation goals and to contribute to the broader landscape conservation goals in the Bismarck Forest Corridor.