A unique feature of Papua New Guinea is the land tenure system ‒ almost all the land is under customary ownership. In this situation landowners (comprising households, extended families, and clans) directly manages the land ‒ not the government or private individuals. As a result of this community engagement is at the centre of everything WCS PNG does.
All conservation projects being undertaken are spear-headed by the WCS PNG community engagement team, who work on the ground to ensure that conservation initiatives are developed and implemented and with the support of local people. At the forefront of this work is Free Prior Informed Consent (FPIC). FPIC is an ongoing consultation process by which indigenous communities determine whether or not to engage with outsiders like WCS. Beyond this the community engagement team works with our partner communities to:
- Strengthen community self-governance by assisting them form their own community based organisations.
- Build the skill base of the community based organisations to run local projects
- Empower the local communities with knowledge regarding their rights and legal processes.
- Train local based Community Facilitators to act as a liaison between WCS PNG and local communities. WCS PNG takes this approach to avoid miscommunication and ensure that communities understand what our organisation and conservation represents, while at the same time WCS PNG understands the expectations and world view of the communities we work with.
- Understand the traditional natural resource management practices of partner communities and the knowledge which underpins them.
- Understand the concerns and priorities of our partner communities.