Villagers in Central Manus celebrated the opening of four community projects and the signing of new conservation agreements with WCS recently in order to preserve their forests and ensure lasting benefits from their land.
With support from the Australian Government and PNKA and Pobuma Local Level Governments the communities and WCS partnered together to construct a community hall, primary school, foot bridge and a water supply system at the villages of Tulu 1, Tulu 2 and Lahapau on the north coast and Djackal on the south coast of Manus.
At the opening ceremony ward councillors from nine communities, from the south and north coasts of Central Manus, signed new conservation agreements with the Manus Provincial Authority representatives and the WCS.
WCS Director, Dr Richard Cuthbert said that the events celebrate WCS’s ongoing successful partnership between the communities of Central Manus and the local level government.
“We believe that the forests of Central Manus can be sustainably managed by the communities that own these resources: this will provide long-term conservation benefits to the communities, provide them with their widest range of options for adapting to climate change and allow sustainable development to proceed with conservation,” said Dr. Cuthbert.
The Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s (DFAT) funding through the coordination of the Manus Support Community Development (MSCD) initiative will provide support for a further nine community projects that include refurbishing or constructing of primary school classrooms and community halls, and the installation of toilets and water supply systems.
Under the agreement, each community has selected its own priority project as part of their Ward Planning Process and will contribute majority of the labour costs and timber for the projects. In return the communities have agreed to not allow industrial logging or large-scale forest clearance for agricultural projects on their land.
The Australian DFAT funding through the MSCD is provided as part of a wider package of assistance to the people of Manus in acknowledgment of their hosting of the Regional Processing Centre.
“The Manus Support Community Development initiative appreciates the progress achieved by WCS and the communities in the PNKA and Pobuma LLGs, and is happy with this partnership to achieve the expected outcomes and services delivered to these rainforest areas,” said Greg Hosea project manager for the MSCD initiative.
Hosea adds that the support will provide community development projects and assist climate change adaptation, food security and livelihoods in the nine wards who signed the conservation agreements.
Casper Soon, Ward Councillor for Tulu 2 where a new footbridge was constructed, said “I am happy with this footbridge as our clan chiefs have made a decision for the conservation of our forests with WCS. They have supported us along with funding from other partners, the LLG, Manus Government and the Australian Government.”
Central Manus contains the largest remaining area of unlogged forest in the Bismarck Islands. These forests are home to many unique species, contain regionally significant stocks of carbon the retention of which is vital for PNG’s contribution in the fight against climate change, and provide local communities with most of their subsistence and livelihood needs.
Conservation agreements, covering more than 43,500 of forest in Central Manus, were signed on 19th November with five communities on the north coast within the PNKA LLG and four new agreements were signed with communities on the south coast within Pobuma LLG on November 20.