What legacy are we leaving for the grand kids?

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Mother and child fishing on the Lake Kutubu in the Foe and Fasu Tribal Land. Kutubu, Southern Highlands Province, PNG

In our haste to pimp our short lives on this earth, we have altered the value system and the balance that has preserved nature for millions of years. What kind of future do we envisage for the grand kids, when we race to build jungles of concrete, steel and glass? How are we helping the future when we create artificial food, color it and store them in cans? What indeed is the life we want for our descendants when our actions show that nature conservation is dirty and primitive and concrete jungles are modern and fashionable?

The human at home in his natural environment depended on nature and was sustained by  the resources in nature. From hardware needs, to medicine and food and spirituality – all from nature.

The economy of nature was based on sharing  surplus. The demarcation of roles and responsibilities and the specialization of clans and tribes nurtured the barter system. Man bartered for things he did not have with things he had in surplus.

The ability of human beings to control decay rates at whim testifies of advanced brain development. This power to stave off wrinkles, disease and death and create life in test tube has infused men with a sense of arrogance and reckless power. The ability to cement, brick, glass and plastic inventions into eternity makes him forget that life is a cycle and that we all start dying at birth.

The base instinct of man is dictated by the selfish gene.  The selfish gene is an atheist, it has no empathy nor morals.  The selfish gene, drunk in his own powers is concerned with perpetuating itself at all cost. Self, family, clan and tribe – that is his circle of trust. The controls put in place by society and culture to ensure co’operation, exists only within his circle of trust. Anything outside is enemy.

In his greed, man has also hastened decay rate of nature.  Man is razing thousands of years of old forest in a blink of an eye and slaughtering octogenarian elephants and rhino to make earrings and bangles. Digging and drilling to pimp his short life – to dress it up – to make life as useful as a chimpanzee all decked out: alas, we forget that  only 1% genetic material separates humans from chimpanzees. We are but glorified chimps so who are we trying to impress?

Environment conservation and environment annihilation are on the extreme ends of the continuum of human survival. In the course of living, we tread the fine line between overuse and sustainable sustainable use. Greed has blurred the line in favor of hoarding for one over preserving for all.

Human beings need to put life and living into perspective,  to acknowledge that death is inevitable, that we are sojourners.  We came from dust, to dust we will return to become worm food. What then is our legacy to our future? What kind of philosophy are we passing on.

It is indeed a paradox: the selfish gene is short-sighted – hoarding now by destroying the incubator that will grow more for tomorrow. While we hoard, have we considered, what the guarantee there is that the future will embrace the values and the treasures we hold dear today?

The best gift for the future is pass on a respect for life. We cannot control the future,  the best we can do is give them a planet that is living. Give them elephants and zebra and birds of paradise. Give them forests and lakes and coral reefs.  But, plant a seed of respect for nature in their minds then give them a benefit of  a doubt that the seed will grow and become a tree.

Indeed, conservation conversations are philosophical in nature. It is about the careful examination of the interdependence of man and nature. It requires that man identify and own his role in space and time.conservation efforts require a sincere commitment to life and living where the only ego is the one that is happy to see life flourish..

 

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Prioritizing Emergency Relief

Adaptive capacity (AC) is a latent property of communities which is activated by crises.  AC imparts resilience to communities so that they can withstand a disaster or negotiate a favorable change. The higher the AC, the higher the resilience of the community.

In 2016, we started brainstorming a scorecard for early communication from disaster areas by identifying dimensions of AC that makes communities resilient to natural hazards.

Our product was after the work of McLanahan & Cinner (2011) on fisher communities in West Africa. The model is built in anticipation of adverse environmental impact. The resulting scorecard was used to plan intervention.

AC is defined as the flexibility with which communities can cope with changes.  The dimensions of AC that is measured in  communities (i) flexibility to switch between livelihood strategies (ii) Social organization (iii) Learning – recognizing change and taking advantage of the change or adapting  (iv) Assets – the resources to draw on in times of change.

Data would also be collected on the ecological system. The environment is a big factor in the AC of developing communities because this is where local communities harvest resources to use and maintain a livelihood. Since humans live in the environment, there is a need for coupled actions that simultaneously govern resource use and build capacity in ways that do not degrade resources.

The final product with be a graph as shown. The graph plots environmental health against the human capacity to adapt to change.

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Figure 1 plotting environmental health (EH) against human adaptive capacity (AC) (source: https://global.oup.com/academic/product/adapting-to-a-changing-environment-9780199754489?cc=us&lang=en&#

A – When both environmental health (EH) and adaptive capacity (AC) is low, the environment and the human beings need relief (also assistance). The environment needs to be recovered and then there is a need to build human adaptive capacity

B- When EH is high but AC is low, build AC of the people but comply with the protection of environment

C – When both EH and AC are high – preserve and enforce the environment protection and manage the AC

D – When EH is low but AC is high, then it is time to protect and recover the environment but there is room to experiment and increase adaptive capacity

Social adaptation occurs on different scales (a) individuals or social groups (b) governments. Intervention will require nested efforts. At the very top of the nested effort is the international community, followed by the government, then the sub-national government and at the core is the local scale where the project is happening.

This scorecard is for local leaders at the local government level. This will allow them to send information that is objective to the relevant relief planning centers. The planning center will then be responsible for interpreting the information and mobilizing subsequent disaster response.

Reference

https://global.oup.com/academic/product/adapting-to-a-changing-environment-9780199754489?cc=us&lang=en&#


Who are we?

The Menggeyao Morobe Consultancy (MMC) is a local consultancy that specializes in information management as a pathway for building communities to last. We collate, translate information and make the knowledge accessible for development.
Building community initiatives on robust information and knowledge is same as building a house on a solid foundation.

And it is called Spiritual Ecology

From Ladakh to Bhutan, Buddhist nuns and monks from 60 centers in the Himalayan region work on environmental protection. From cleaning up rivers, to installing solar panels, the nuns and monks approach the environment with a sense of compassion, recognizing the interdependence and inter-connectivity of all things.

http://www.filmsforaction.org/watch/compassion-is-action/

#Bougainville #PNG News: Environmental disaster is waiting to happen in Bougainville port

“The person, group or authority responsible for bringing in these supply and storage vessels must immediately get these vessels out of the old government wharf, out of Kieta and out of Bougainville waters.

There is an imminent risk and danger from all the signs and indications and from information from the security staff and some of the crew on the vessels that one or both vessels are developing leaks. The worst that will happen is for the vessels, especially the fuel supply vessel, Pacific Trainer, already under stress and in a state of disrepair, to sink where it is berthed. Both vessels are aged, rusting away and under stress and duress.”

Simon Pentanu Resident of Pok Pok Island

Bougainville News

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“The person, group or authority responsible for bringing in these supply and storage vessels must immediately get these vessels out of the old government wharf, out of Kieta and out of Bougainville waters.

There is an imminent risk and danger from all the signs and indications and from information from the security staff and some of the crew on the vessels that one or both vessels are developing leaks. The worst that will happen is for the vessels, especially the fuel supply vessel, Pacific Trainer, already under stress and in a state of disrepair, to sink where it is berthed. Both vessels are aged, rusting away and under stress and duress.”

Simon Pentanu Resident of Pok Pok Island

The environmental contamination and pollution from the leakages is already evident. It will destroy one of the most beautiful harbours in the world. It will affect the Kieta harbour shoreline, the shores…

View original post 469 more words

Marry Conservation To Tourism To Increase Conservation Research

This essay is in response to an article titled: Conservation Research Is Not Happening Where It Is Needed Most.  The conclusion in the article published in PLOS Biology, an open-access, peer-reviewed journal  was reached after an analysis of 7,593 peer-reviewed papers.

Papua New Guinea was at the bottom when compared with 5 other high biodiversity countries. PNG contributed only 0.2% (n=7,593) in publication to the world knowledge on biodiversity. None of the publication was by an in-country institution.  In contrast, Costa Rica, another high biodiversity country contributed 0.5% to world biodiversity knowledge, 14 papers from Costa Rica was led by in-country institution. Furthermore, Costa Rica has 4 experts at the Intergovernmental Panel on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) while PNG has zero representation.

The authors cite many reasons for the lack and offers solutions.  All the solutions are relevant to PNG and when implemented may make a difference.

The paper, however dedicates only one sentence to the role of governments in conservation research. Governments, however are the biggest stakeholder influencing conservation research. And for PNG, the lack of political will by governmants to prioritize conservation can easily be one of the main reasons for the dismal results.

PNG is a developing country and is struggling to attain development. Money needed for development is locked in her natural resources. Currently, priority is in harvesting the natural resources to raise revenue for development.

Conservation is seen as anti-development. Conservation uses money but does not make money consequently conservation is not a priority. These sentiments are not expressed but is reflected in a lot of decisions taken by the government.

A classic example is preservation of Kokoda Track versus dumping of toxic waste into the Basamuk Bay.  Efforts have gone into protecting the Kokoda water catchment. While at the Basamuk Bay, despite community protests, the government allowed the Chinese Nickle-Cobalt Miner to dump toxic waste into the bay. What makes Kokoda special for preservation over Basamuk?

The common denominator in both project is money. Both are paying – the Australians are paying to protect while the miners are paying to dump their mining waste.

Another example in which money comes before conservation is when mining and logging rights are granted to the extractive industry in the areas designated for conservation.

Because it is not a priority, no serious money is budgeted for conservation in PNG.  Conservation groups raise their own funds but have to balance their conservation agenda with the socio-economic and developmental needs of the people they work with.

Because it is not a priority, there is an absence of developmental pathways for human resources for conservation either at the university or in government institutions.  All the skills needed to function as a conservationist is left to individuals to pick up while on the job.  There is also a lack of incentive to utilise local conservation practitioners who have attained advanced degrees.

The Conservation and Environment Protection Authority (CEPA) is the designated authority to implement conservation in PNG. But it also has a contradicting role – the office collects fees and grants permit to developers to discharge waste into the environment.  As seen in the Kokoda versus Basamuk case, money making projects will win all the time.

Making money is a priority in PNG while conservation as it is today is a black hole that consumes money and gives nothing back.

The only way to make conservation a winner in this environment is to frame it as a money making venture for development.

How can we do that? Divorce conservation from CEPA and marry it to tourism to form Conservation and Tourism.

Already there is an incentive to make money with the proposed merger. People now have an incentive to look after their resources. It will be easy to make people understand the need for sustainable management because their income in the long run will depend on it.

This new merger will increase conservation manpower because research information will become a selling point for tourism.  This may improve training for local conservation research and the inevitable outcome will be more publications.

What is good for conservation is good for tourism is good for people. To protect this new development venture, the government will build infrastructure where it is needed. Steps will also be taken to strengthen environment protection policies and laws.

Conservation and tourism spreads money to local people and promotes development. Tourism does not only involve international tourists only. locals can become tourists as well. Local tourism is a viable industry in PNG and needs to be promoted aggressively and researched further.

Tourism and Conservation may be the trigger that will set off a  domino effect of positive changes in conservation and sustainable development. An inevitable end product will be an increase in  conservation research on biodiversity in this country.

Local Volunteers as Development Partners

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These feet are made for walking

He walks the entire coastline, along the picturesque beaches when the tide is out. And when the tide is in, he takes  the long detour through thorny swamps, over cliffs and over sharp gravel beds.  From one coastline to another. From one side of the bay to the other – one step at the time.

Sometimes the road takes him up the river, over high mountains, down steep valleys and though wind swept grasslands into cold dark forests.

Meet him – middle-aged, average height,  tough, wiry and bronze from being chiseled by sun, rain, wind and salt;  limbs – lean and tough, disciplined to walk from sunup to sundown. Not a trace of body fat – a body that has accepted that humans eat to live not live to indulge the stomach.  Soles of the feel toughened up in layers that can withstand sharp gravel and even coals of fire.

Who is he? He is a man on a mission – a crusader. His message: nutrition. Sago grubs, green frog, wild yam and other lost food of the ancestors.

His mission: rekindling confidence in the ways of the fathers that had sustained generations prior to colonisation. Putting confidence into mothers, showing them the difference between eating sago grubs versus a can of tinned fish from Taiwan that costs money, which she may not have.

Why does he do what he do? I asked and he replied that he believes that what he is doing is his calling. If he does not document the secrets of the fathers, who else will? If he does not teach his people to survive, who else will?

No, he is not a shaman. He has a diploma in catering. He has had the taste of the high life, working for city hotels to well stocked mining camps. At the pinnacle of his career, he was even a head chef.

But then he started noticing the trend. Taro yield has decreased both in size and quality.  There seem to be a positive correlation between taro yield and the stature of young people. Even the energy levels and creativity and leadership capacity seems to be at an all-time low.

The river valley was being turned to rice fields, killing all seed bank consequently turning it into a river highway when it flooded. The river was getting killed – no more prawns and no more fish but algae greening the warm waters of the river during dry seasons.

Despite that, the people where still too far away from opportunities to earn money to buy food. His people were destined to suffer malnutrition.

Something had to be done. So he retired from cooking for money and put his life into service for his people – teaching mothers about nutrition using local food sources.

His  total budget is zero. All his expenses paid for with information that he carries in his head. For his pay, he appreciates a smile, a cup of hot sweet tea, food for his stomach and a place to lay his head for the night.

There are so many just like him. Walking bare feet, with a well-worn jacket and raincoat that also keeps cold away at night. A trusty torch, a bag full of buai and a heart that beats for the people.  Reaching one person at the time. Walking all the steps.

He may not win the men of valour award but he is the champion. He is a hero. Even with the taste of the high life of town still mellowing in his memory, he chose to return to the village and is destined to die in the village. Another statistic in the government books. Despite that, the likes of him are conduits of hope for building self-esteem and confidence among the rural masses.

Volunteers such as him are the unsung heroes who are working without recognition. There are so many of them, all in the ministry of dispensing hope. Pastors, health workers, nutritionists, conservationists, elementary school teachers, peace officers and the list will go on.

These people are the hope for educating rural PNG. People like him bring direction to the confusion of a people caught between the past and the present – a people lost in transition between cultures.

These volunteers are not looking for recognition. These volunteers approach what they do as a calling, a purpose for being born into this country for this day and time. They are the real patriots, a shining beacon of example to many who expect pay to do the minimum required to serve this great country.

In the hand of a wise government, local volunteers represent a workforce that can accomplish a lot of government plans in the rural and remote places in PNG. At the moment, these group of people act on their own, with their own resources and at their own time.

They struggle, but they continue because they believe it is their calling. Blessed are the feet of those, who bring good news and hope.

El Nino is here, now what?

It has been 18 long years since the last major El Nino event in PNG. In months, 216 months has come and gone. In weeks, that is close to 900 weeks. Three different governments have come and gone, we are under the fourth. One gold mine has closed but the Liquefied Natural gas Project (LNG) has come about.

Between then and now, PNG has seen several flooding events, cyclones, volcanoes eruption, and a major landslide event.  Given such a long time, and the benefit of varied experiences, how have we prepared for this current threat?

The current El Niño event was predicted by numerous sources as early as 1997.

In 2015, the days started getting considerably cooler during the Pacific Games in July, predictably because this is also the beginning of a dry and cool season. Then in the early August 2015, the hot days and cooler nights saw consecutive days of frost in some high attitude areas.

Social media has been full of reports and images of rotting vegetation from the highland provinces and hinterlands of some coastal provinces. On the other hand, images  from other parts of the country show dry, hard baked soil and reduced water level.

It has been close to 28 days and yet but there seems to be a lack of coordination of relief activities by designated government authorities in addressing the current natural disaster.

Why is that so? Definitely this is not because of lack of a system.

There is a permanent National Disaster and Emergency Service (NDES) housed in the Department of Provincial and Local Government Affairs (DPLGA). The NDES is responsible for coordinating the emergency responses to disaster affected areas.

Above the NDES is the National Disaster Committee (NDC). The secretary of the DPLGA is the chair of a NDC which is made up of secretaries of select departments. The NDC then reports to the National Executive Council (NEC) which is headed by the Prime Minister.  All these is governed by an Act of the Parliament.

To be fair, the system only makes decision given information it receives from technical groups which includes the Weather Office, the National Disaster Office, and the office of climate Change.  However, information from relevant authorities on this issue has been very scarce.

Even information in the mainstream media is very rudimentary.

This lack of information may be a contributing factor to the lack of an action plan.   The only reports that give any lead to the type of action to be taken comes from Australian Academics who point out the importance of securing food for the unpredictable days ahead.

The slow response may also be because of lack of funds. But this is not a good excuse given the long time we had for preparation.

If it not a lack of money then, it is either lack of trust for the designated authorities to implement government plans. It was in the media that the office of the PM is taking a special interest and sending delegates from his office to inspect situations for relief.  If work cannot be delegated to the designated office, then why set them up in the first place?

Or most probably, the designated offices are incompetent and cannot serve their office.

The University of PNG has taken steps to educate practitioners in a Diploma Program called the Climate Hazard Assessment and Risk Management (CHARM).  Despite this effort to increase competence of workforce in this field, the fruits of this effort will have a lag time of 3-4 years.

Another cause of failure can be due to lack of follow through – so many ministers of the government give lip service to citizen programs but never follow through. An example from 2012 can be seen here. Such  leadership can only be corrected through the ballot in 2017.

While we bite our nails, and share images on social media, people will suffer and livelihoods disrupted.

But eventually people will rebuild because they are resilient. Papua New Guineans are already used to making do with very little available resources as many are so far from the government services. But that should not be the excuse for the government not to support people in times of trouble.

Instead of a very heavy top-down approach to helping citizens that is too cumbersome to implement, the government must put in place the infrastructure and disseminate information needed to facilitate an easier livelihood. Papua new Guineans are not lazy people, they will use available infrastructure and information to help themselves – in good times and bad times.

So, what now?  Don’t wait for the government.Look after your family and your extended family as we have always done. Look after your health and your water and pray the El Nino will be over soon.

Mangrove Planting for Climate Change

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Mangrove as a tool in addressing climate change gained prominence after the East Asia Tsunami in 2004. The tsunami generated in the Indian Ocean, ravaged coastal communities facing the Indian Ocean taking many lives and damaging infrastructure worth a lot of money.

Anecdotal evidence show that villages situated behind mangroves stands, sustain less damage when compared to those communities without mangrove barriers.

In the absence of technological intervention, Climate Change Experts identify mangroves as the first protection for coastal villages facing coastal flooding and extreme high tide.  Mangrove projects can be easily implemented by communities. Mangrove planting and rehabilitation costs less than other technological interventions and has been shown to be effective in saving lives and property.

What makes mangroves special?

Like any other tree species, the mangroves take 10-15 years to mature before they can provide the desired effect. Mature stands of mangrove act like a porous fence that slows down wave energy by reducing the velocity of the waves into and out of communities resulting in less damage infrastructure and livelihood.

 

Mangrove planting or mangrove forest rehabilitation must be approached as a long term strategy with the goal of ensuing planted and or rehabilitated mangrove stands become mature stands in the future.

Current practice involves planting of plant mangrove seedling in areas already under threat from the rising sea level. Numerous mangrove replanting exercise have never attained the envisaged success – this is despite the common  knowledge that young mangroves at waterfront are vulnerable to wave action and are easily uprooted and killed by the sun and the salt.

Ideally a mangrove replanting exercise should duplicate a vegetation succession as happens in nature.

Vegetation succession at a beach normally starts from the forest edge and gradually grows seaward.

Firstly, pioneer species like vines and grasses grow first to help build a soil environment suited for succession to take place. Then the trees, starting with the terrestrial species at the forest edge. Once this has established then the back mangrove species is the next to germinate, followed by the middle mangrove species then finally, the front line mangrove species facing the foreshore.

Re-vegetation through succession enables the plants to gradually adapt to a salty growing substrate and increases their chances of survival.

The process of natural succession takes years, the same will apply to a successful mangrove planting project.

The communities that survived the East Asia Tsunami in 2004, did not plant their mangrove stands the year prior to the tsunami. The mangrove stands have existed and protected, probably not intentionally, but importantly , the mangrove stands provided the needed protection.

While waiting for the mangrove forest to grow , the most cost effective climate change activity is educating people about the impending crises and the options available for adapting to the change.  Local people do have solutions for their challenges. They must be involved in the quest for a solution.

For the donors who fund mangrove projects, they  must realize that the impact of mangrove planting can only be realized in the future. Therefore they must  look for other targets to measure how their funds in the short term  is successfully addressing the climate change challenge.

Call of the Mama Graun to West Papua

****** Anthropological work shows that indigenous people in Melanesia relate to the bush and the resources within to be their source of personhood, society and sustenance. There is no distinction between the physical soil, the tribal land boundaries and nature contained on it – all these are generally referred to as land also Mama Graun or the great provider. The land is considered a gift from some mystical ancestor and therefore, there is strong emotional attachment to the land.

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Mama Graun.

Soft earth, hard rocks, round river pebbles, sharp karanas.

Yellow, black, white, red coloured earth.

Blue distant mountains, white sandy beach, and fiery sunsets.

Birds of Paradise, Kwila, dugong, tuna and gold.

My land, my identity, my soul, my being.

Mama Graun drank my life blood, spilled when I was born.

My umbilical cord buried in her

A promise in blood to remain close to her.

An oath only to be broken by death.

Mama Graun thriving on fat from my forefathers.

Warriors, hunters, gardeners, dancers, lovers

All born, breathed, died and offered back to nourish Mama Graun.

Their stories, my inspiration.

Their exploits, my pride.

Their secrets, my power.

Mama Graun, the custodian of my life force.

The tubuna songs we sang,

Shoulder–to-shoulder we stood

United by blood and history.

Pride rising in our voices,

Chasing the kundu beats above the highest canopies,

A rhythm that put fear into many hearts.

Together with my brothers, in my heartland

 I was invincible.

But how can I sing my song,

In a strange land, without my brothers

My ancestors bid me avenge my brother’s blood.

For his blood call to me,

From the swamplands, rivers, mountains, ditches

Where he lay, slain.

An altar of sacrifice – sacrifice of blood for freedom.

What song can I sing?

For I cannot even honour my brother with a decent burial.

While I weep, Mama Graun persists.

I must return to honour my pact;

To mama Graun, to my ancestors,

To my descendants yet to be born.

Together with my brothers, we will face the morning star,

To defend my Mama Graun,

For a free West Papua.

fee west papua selma

Life Giving Water

Water quality is a good predictor of human health. When the water is good, life is good and when the water is bad, you get sick people and sick environment.

Intact forests  play an important role to ensure that ensures there is fresh, clean water for both wildlife and human beings. But deforestation disrupts the water cycle.

The removal of trees results in the groundwater tables getting depleted because the trees lose their function of helping the soil absorb flowing water. The land then becomes unproductive as soil properties responsible for supplying soil nutrients are leached from rain falling freely on the soil. The large quantity of sediments washed away from deforested areas end up in streams and river cause high turbidity and siltation, causing negative  impacts on fisheries further downstream as far as the reefs.

The surest way to ensure a good water supply is to keep forests intact.

water necklace

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