The best of the blogs from the Paradise Forests

Feature Story - 2006-06-06
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 the illegally logged timber from the Paradise Forests is sent to China for processing into cheap wood products, then exported or sold to the growing domestic market.

PNG landowner Brian Barring contributed blogs as he travelled through Europe and the UK, spreading the word about the situation in his homeland. The UK and EU countries are also big consumers of illegally logged timber products.

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

Lukautim Bus

'Lukautim Bus' was the Pidgin slogan for our campaign. It means 'Protect Our Forest' or, using a more literal translation, 'Look After Our Bush'. The slogan was unveiled on the Rainbow Warrior, as it arrived 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 of their new way of life. Europeans Flo and Klaas were determined to mast the 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 forum and many influential people attend, including the Governor of Jayapura, the Provincial Forest Minister, spokespeople from NGOs and leaders of more 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, civil servants and politicians as he made his way around Europe. In the UK he delivered an impassioned plea to Alchemy Partners, whose company, Montague L Meyer, sells plywood made from Bintangor and other tropical species.  Brian's message was simple and direct: " Stop trashing my forest!"

A taste of Paradise

Like Brian, the volunteers at the GFRS were coming to terms with being far, far from home. Life at 'Camp Kewe' gave them a new appreciation of just how much the forest means to the people of Lake Murray. It really is 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 Klaas encountered a dangerous snake (a death adder) which they implored the local boys not to kill. Their regret is relayed through the blog; while writing it, they reached 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 that turning down a local delicacy (turtle soup) would cause, led her to a chance meeting with some local women - one of whom needed a lift to the local hospital with her newborn baby. Of course, the GFRS team were happy to oblige.

Speaking of soup, the Warrior, en route to Jakarta, came across shark fisherman whose plight reminded Hapsoro that poor communities aren't just ripped off for their forest products.  These fishermen worked hard to catch sharks in open water. Their spoils are sold at well below the market rate, because the demand for cheap marine products drives prices down.

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 for People and Community Development (FPCD), they set about marking the boundaries of the land owned by the various clans at Lake Murray.

While small teams of volunteers were off boundary marking, others joined landowners for training days in eco-forestry. The training includes 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 the eco-forestry project. In order for the clans to set up their eco-forestry business, they had to map out their land, and designate a use (hunting, sago plantations, eco-forestry, etc) for different areas. A local NGO (non-government organisation) called Barefoot held workshops 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 community development, and initiated discussions on how each clan could use the proceeds 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 timber on-the-spot, thus causing minimal damage to the forest, was welcomed to the region with a traditional 'sing sing'. FPCD will lease sawmills to landowners on a buy-back scheme as their eco-forestry business takes shape.

Meanwhile, Lake Murray received its first order - a handwritten note requesting 43 pieces of eco-timber (around 2 metre cubed). Sep, the leader of the Kuni tribe, which invited Greenpeace and our 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 realities of illegal logging, when it encountered the MV Ardhianto, a huge cargo ship loaded with a slice of the Paradise Forests. It was being loaded up with timber from the Kayu Lapis Indonesia mill - known to trade in destructively and illegally logged timber.

Our activists, including Hapsoro, a campaigner from Indonesia, hung two big "Stop Ancient Forest Destruction" banners, as they watched from inflatables, 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, after three months of lessons, practice sessions and planning meetings, the people of Lake Murray - and their posse of international friends - could finally say, "Em Nao: Eco-Timber!" ("Behold: Eco-Timber!").