The best of the blogs from the Paradise Forests

Feature story - 2 June, 2006
The Paradise Forests weblog features contributions from international volunteers at the Global Forest Rescue Station in Lake Murray, a remote area in the Western Province of Papua New Guinea.Our campaigners and activists on board our flagship, the Rainbow Warrior, also sent through blogs, as they sailed around the region on 'Forest Crime Patrol'.

Sep Galeva, of the Kuni tribe, invited Greenpeace and other organisations to help the people of Lake Murray establish eco-forestry projects. Sep is pictured as the first eco-timber shipment is loaded onto a barge.

In Beijing, we set up a China Forest Rescue Station, as most of theillegally logged timber from the Paradise Forests is sent to China forprocessing into cheap wood products, then exported or sold to thegrowing domestic market.

PNG landowner Brian Barring contributed blogs as he travelled throughEurope and the UK, spreading the word about the situation in hishomeland. The UK and EU countries are also big consumers of illegallylogged timber products.

The weblog brings the fight to save the Paradise Forests to life. Itdraws us in to the Lake Murray community. We share the commitment ofthe volunteers and the joy of the landowners as their shared dream - toestablish sustainable, small-scale, eco-forestry projects - became areality.  

Lukautim Bus

'Lukautim Bus' was the Pidgin slogan for our campaign. It means'Protect Our Forest' or, using a more literal translation, 'Look AfterOur Bush'. The slogan was unveiled on the Rainbow Warrior, as itarrived in Port Moresby to a traditional welcome. The campaign had officially kicked off!

At the GFRS, our first lucky volunteers were trying to get the hang oftheir new way of life. Europeans Flo and Klaas were determined to mastthe art of canoeing, hunting and fishing, so they could become part of the group - " boy bilong grup" in Pidgin.

Flo and Klaas became so adept at their new hunter-gatherer lifestyle,they even took on the task of providing food for the camp themselves - or so they say!

Setting sail

After holding open day for the public, the Warrior farewells their new Port Moresby friends and sets off. The next stop is Jayupura, in Papua, where the ship receives another colourful welcome. The local campaigners hold an eco-forestry forumand many influential people attend, including the Governor of Jayapura,the Provincial Forest Minister, spokespeople from NGOs and leaders ofmore than 15 Papuan tribes.

In Manokwari, the campaigners and crew held a similar forum at the local university, which actually had it's own forest out the back! After so long at sea, it was a welcome sight.

Stop trashing my forest!

Meanwhile, Brian saw snow for the first time in his life. Battling the cold weather - and adjusting to a European diet of bread,bread and more bread - Brian took his message to the media, civilservants and politiciansas he made his way around Europe. In the UK he delivered an impassionedplea to Alchemy Partners, whose company, Montague L Meyer, sellsplywood made from Bintangor and other tropical species.  Brian'smessage was simple and direct: " Stop trashing my forest!"

A taste of Paradise

Like Brian, the volunteers at the GFRS were coming to terms with beingfar, far from home. Life at 'Camp Kewe' gave them a new appreciation ofjust how much the forest means to the people of Lake Murray. It reallyis their 'supermarket'. They go there to find everything they need -not just food, but all the materials they need for shelter and transport ( dug-out canoes) too.

The new lifestyle bought with it certain dilemmas. Flo and Klaasencountered a dangerous snake (a death adder) which they implored thelocal boys not to kill. Their regret is relayed through the blog; while writing it, theyreached a new understanding of the realities of forest life. They,after all, had never lost a friend or relative to a snake bite.

In a similar vein, Merel's conscious effort to avoid any offensive thatturning down a local delicacy (turtle soup) would cause, led her to a chance meetingwith some local women - one of whom needed a lift to the local hospitalwith her newborn baby. Of course, the GFRS team were happy to oblige.

Speaking of soup, the Warrior, en route to Jakarta, came across shark fishermanwhose plight reminded Hapsoro that poor communities aren't just rippedoff for their forest products.  These fishermen worked hard tocatch sharks in open water. Their spoils are sold at well below themarket rate, because the demand for cheap marine products drives pricesdown.

Getting down to business

The volunteers at the GFRS were there to work, and work they did. Together with the landowners and foresters from the Foundation forPeople and Community Development (FPCD), they set about marking theboundaries of the land owned by the various clans at Lake Murray.

While small teams of volunteers were off boundary marking, othersjoined landowners for training days in eco-forestry. The trainingincludes field trips, allowing the landowners and volunteers to put their new skills into action.

As word spread around the lake, more and more clans wanted to join theeco-forestry project. In order for the clans to set up theireco-forestry business, they had to map out their land, and designate ause (hunting, sago plantations, eco-forestry, etc) for different areas.A local NGO (non-government organisation) called Barefoot heldworkshops to help with the mapping out  process, using  sticks, string and different types of leaves to represent the various areas.

Barefoot also encouraged debate about sustainable communitydevelopment, and initiated discussions on how each clan could use theproceeds from eco-forestry to benefit their village.

Cause for celebration

People from all over the lake came to see the arrival of the sawmill. This portable piece of equipment, used to mill trees into timberon-the-spot, thus causing minimal damage to the forest, was welcomed tothe region with a traditional 'sing sing'. FPCD will lease sawmills tolandowners on a buy-back scheme as their eco-forestry business takesshape.

Meanwhile, Lake Murray received its first order - a handwritten note requesting 43 pieces of eco-timber (around 2 metrecubed). Sep, the leader of the Kuni tribe, which invited Greenpeace andour partners to Lake Murray, arranged for a sunken barge to be refloated, to transport the eco-timber out. Everything was falling into place …

Bearing witness to forest crime

Out at sea, the crew of the Warrior were confronted with the realitiesof illegal logging, when it encountered the MV Ardhianto, a huge cargoship loaded with a slice of the Paradise Forests. It was being loadedup with timber from the Kayu Lapis Indonesia mill - known to trade indestructively and illegally logged timber.

Our activists, including Hapsoro, a campaigner from Indonesia, hung twobig "Stop Ancient Forest Destruction" banners, as they watched frominflatables, bearing witness to the forest crime.

Hapsoro was present again a month later, when the Ardhianto arrived in Yokohama, Japan, to unload its devastating cargo. This time, activists unfurled banners that asked, "Is this timber legal?"

Technology and tradition meet

Out in the forest, the boundary marking was coming along in leaps and bounds, thanks to the foresters and their GPS.  FPCD had only recently started using the Global Positioning Systems. In the past, they used a long tape measure!

At Campe Kewe, 18-year-old Susan, of the Yongom tribe, sat down with Merel, one of the GFRS volunteers, and wrote a weblog.  It was the first time Susan had ever used a computer.

Amele, a forester from FPCD, also contributed a blog, about gender equality on the lake.

Behold, eco-forestry!

The felling of the first tree  was a "sombre and dramatic" landmark in the project. A few days later, when the first shipment  of eco-timber was loaded onto the barge, Lake Murray was buzzing.

Years of planning went into the eco-forestry project. In 2006, afterthree months of lessons, practice sessions and planning meetings, thepeople of Lake Murray - and their posse of international friends -could finally say, "Em Nao: Eco-Timber!" ("Behold: Eco-Timber!").