Films promote traditional resource management practices

August 13, 2019

‘Gwala’ in Milne Bay and ‘Vala’ in New Ireland, is a traditional practice that involves a stick placed on the area in question as a symbol of restriction to stop any activity from occurring in that particular area.

Port Moresby, 12 August 2019Two films emphasizing traditional resource management in Milne Bay and New Ireland Provinces premiered last week in Port Moresby.

‘Gwala is life’and Vala North’ tell the stories of two communities, one in Milne Bay and the other in New Ireland Province, highlighting traditional ways of supporting conservation.

While these communities differ in language, geography and culture, they share practices that govern how communities can more sustainably manage the environment around them.. This includes limiting access to areas restricted from human activity such as gardening, hunting and fishing.

The practice, known as gwala in Milne Bay and vala in New Ireland, involves a stick placed on the area in question as a symbol of restriction to stop any activity from occurring in that particular area.

For generations, this practice has assisted the recovery of conservation areas supporting Papua New Guinea’s biodiversity.

John Abraham, Chair of the Gwala Committee, captured in Gwala is Life and John Aini, Founder of Ailan Awareness in Vala North, both featuring in the films, share the similar sentiments of their communities to this collective approach to protecting the environment.

Mr. Abraham, highlighted the importance of traditional resource management saying: “Our fore fathers definition of gwala is simply respect where the community agrees not to go hunting or fishing within the restricted zone.We are to become caretakers of that restricted area preventing it from being exploited.”

Chief Aini of the Malangan Society in New Ireland and Founder of Ailan Awareness said, “Vala is our traditional way to manage and protect our resources. The vala is trying to bring back the experiences, the bountifulness and the beauty from the past.”

Gwala is Life and Vala North is a partnership initiative between the GEF Small Grants Programme, a national not for profit organisation Eco-Custodian Advocates and Open Boat Films which uses the power of short film to showcase traditional methods of indigenous practices in natural resource and environmental management. 

Tamalis Akus, SGP National Coordinator said: “We are privileged today to celebrate the premiere of two films showing community interventions in societies where respect for authority is critical in ensuring these practices are sustained. These practices have broadly improved environmental management and influenced action towards the more sustainable use of natural resources, reduced poverty and built resilient communities.”

The films are being launched at the University of Papua New Guinea which coincides with the International Day of Indigenous Peoples on August 9, 2019. 

The Global Environment Facility Small Grants Programme is present in 125 countries and operational in Papua New Guinea for over 15 years.

Note to Media:

The documentaries will be published on UNDP’s youtube chanel.

Media Contacts:
Kim Allen, UNDP Communications Assistant, +710 26272,

Elama Peter (middle), Council President of Bwanabwana LLG in Milne Bay and John Aini (second from left), Founder of Ailan Awarenes share their experiences and challenges on traditional management among panelists representing Small Grants Programme, environment and conservation and Language expert from UPNG.