Conservation starts with Community: Establishing Potential Community Conservation Areas in Enga Province

In late November 2022, the UNDP, Strengthening Integrated Sustainable Land Management Project, began community consultations in Wapenamanda District, Enga Province, on the establishment of new community conservation areas (CCAs).

December 1, 2022

Ted from FINNOC measuring DBH in 20m x 5m Transect (Rapid Biodiversity Assessment) at Kumul Proposed CCA area.

The project will establish two new conservation areas as a part of its efforts to protect biodiversity while also enhancing small-holder agricultural livelihoods in a sustainable manner. This undertaking is a new phenomenon in Enga province, where despite community desires to protect biodiversity, there are currently no protected areas.

The critical first stage of this process involved consulting with the community about their relationships to the land and their awareness of key issues such as climate change, biodiversity and sustainable forest and land management. In Enga province, land is often the property of a group of individuals within a household or tribe and land boundaries are one source of disputes among groups. This makes community agreement and ownership of CCA’s vital to their success.

This first round of community consultations, in Minamb valley and the surrounding Kumul area, involved meeting with local government representatives and households to understand their land use practices and challenges, as well as their awareness of changes occurring in the landscape and ecosystem as a result of climate change and population growth. Despite low levels of formal education, community members were able to contribute unique local knowledge of bird species and flora to the survey results.

Tribal conflicts in the village of 25-year-old Chris Willie meant that he did not finish formal education. However he told the UNDP about how his role in his tribe (the Walia tribe) community kept him closely in touch with the ecosystems of his region. “Our forest is an important aspect of our livelihood. It provides us with food for nutrition like, protein (birds, cuscus, snakes, wild pig, and insects) as well as plant food and nuts and berries. We depend on the forest for firewood for cooking and fuel to keep us warm at night. Trees also provide timber for building our house and fences, so the forest is a part of our lives,” said Chris.

Chris Willie supporting UNDP staff with survey data.

Most households in Enga province rely on subsistence farming for their livelihoods but they face challenges in maximizing their income due to high costs of farming inputs such as fertilisers and a lack of access to markets to sell their products. Low profit margins can push families to use more artificial and imported fertilisers.

Janet Pungin, a mother of four in her 50s is responsible for farming and raising livestock in her household, especially caring for pigs. “Because pigs are valued in Engan culture, it is my responsibility to ensure that our pigs are fed and taken care of. Pigs are fed sweet potato so it is important there is a constant supply of feed for the pigs.

Chris showing us one of the bush huts – this hut is used as shelter when it rains

I also grow potatoes, cabbages, carrots and bulb onions to sell at the markets. Money made from the sale of these crops helps us with other needs. But In order to see high yield, we must use fertilizers and this has been the normal practice over so many years,” said Janet.

My family and other families in my community own a certain piece of land. We use the same land to grow food crops and vegetables all year around using crop rotation,” she added, indicating the existence of some sustainable land management practices already used by households.

Janet Pungin (in purple) and with other women farmers of the Walia tribe.

The first community survey was primarily done to collect local knowledge and introduce awareness of the CCAs. In addition, the survey sought to measure potential carbon stocks in the designated area, and collected baseline data on tree types, as well as their circumference and height. Enga’s rugged highland landscape is characterized by steep grasslands and forest and makes accessing the potential CCA areas a slow process.

While significant amounts of biodiversity data were established in this first survey round, the complexity of social relations and the importance of community ownership of the CCAs means more extensive social mapping will be necessary to understand issues such as land tenure, land use, and livelihood practices. The potential CCA development process will continue in 2023.