Volunteers travel around Lake Murray, to assist in the boundary marking of tribal land. The Global Forest Rescue Station began after Lake Murray landowners invited Greenpeace and our partners to help set up sustainable ecoforestry practices in the area.
The GFRS was established when Lake Murray tribes invited
Greenpeace to help protect their ancient forest. Volunteers from
around the world took up the invitation, and went to live and work
alongside the Kuni, Begwa and Pari tribes.
Together, they set about 'boundary marking' an area of over
300,000 hectares of remote forest.
Logging companies, mainly from Malaysia, have already acquired
70 per cent of Papua New Guinea's available forest resource. The
livelihood of forest communities - who rely on the forest for food,
clean water and medicines - is under immediate threat. Less than 1
per cent of these communities have any form of official
Boundary marking is the first step towards gaining official
recognition of the ownership of land under state law. Throughout
the process, two worlds collided. Landowners called upon the
stories of their ancestors to help them identify areas and features
of their land. Land use 'maps' were made out of string and
different types of leaves.
The landowners and volunteers, with guidance from highly skilled
foresters from Foundation for People and Community Development
(FPCD), walked the boundaries and placed demarcation ribbons at
selected points along the way. The foresters collected GPS readings
of these points, for later calibration.
The boundary marking was a precursor for the local people's
dream of establishing their own eco-forestry businesses.
Eco-forestry is the opposite of large-scale, destructive logging.
Trees are harvested using portable equipment and milled on the
spot, before the wood is carried or floated out of the forest.
Eco-forestry causes minimal damage, and the money made from just
one tree can pay a child's school fees for a year.
Local community development organisations, including Barefoot,
held workshops explaining the concept of 'sustainable development'
and the benefits it could bring to the 6,000 people in Lake
In the past, some tribes have been duped into handing over their
land to logging companies, for very little financial return. They
are no longer willing to lose their forest for someone else's
The ten foresters from FPCD trained the landowners in forest
management, business skills and the use of a portable sawmill.
The GFRS culminated in the felling of the first eco-forestry
tree. The tree was milled using the portable sawmill, and loaded
onto a barge the landowners had retrieved from the bottom of the
lake. This eco-timber was shipped locally. In future, eco-timber
will be milled for local and international customers.
Greenpeace campaigns director, Danny Kennedy, said the GFRS was
an example of "mass networking", PNG style. "Working from village
to village, always in alliance with half a dozen community-based
organisations, we have demarcated clan lands and prepared them for
ecoforestry, trained five clans in portable sawmilling and business
skills and begun training members of a dozen more clans," he
In doing so, the GFRS has turned Lake Murray into an "island of
resistance to the industrial logging that plagues the province
"Over 4 million hectares are at risk in Western Province, but
with this beach-head and the commitment of the communities here to
sustainable ecoforestry we aim to stop the spread of logging from
the east," Kennedy said. "This is a direct challenge to the
industrial logging industry in PNG."
"We have done all this as equals," he added. "Not as some big
company coming in with a development model to foist on people here,
but as friends in common cause to save the magnificent forests in
the area with some tools and ideas about how to do that."
The people of Lake Murray offered untold hospitality, warmth and
friendship to the GFRS participants. They were kind, generous and
patient with each of the 26 volunteers - all of whom wanted to
learn every little detail about life on the lake.
Strong connections were forged; friendships were made that won't
be forgotten. Sep Galeva, who initiated the project on behalf of
landowners, said the community would always remember the
In the final weblog to be posted from the GFRS, Sep wrote that
Lake Murray felt empty and lonely without the volunteers. "Today I
could not hold back my tears any more," he said.
Although the GFRS is over, the real work for the landowners is
just beginning. So far, one clan village has used the portable
sawmill. Now, each eco-forestry business must set up a camp for the
foresters. When this is done, the foresters - who have returned to
their homes in the PNG highlands to visit their families - will
return, moving from clan to clan and supervising the start of each
new sustainable eco-forestry business.