The land rights of indigenous communities in Papua New Guinea were never questioned until logging companies took an interest in the value of the forest. The constitution itself recognises that 97 percent of the land belongs to indigenous communities.
Boundary marking, Lake Murray, Papua New Guinea.
Yet, with the arrival of the logging companies, a scramble for forest resources has ensued and customary landowners are now having to act fast to protect their land, the forest and the life it supports.
Boundary marking is a key tool in helping communities take back control of their land, their lives and their future because it prevents the government trading their land rights away to the loggers.
What is boundary marking?
Boundary marking is both a physical process in which territorial borders are identified and marked and a social process involving negotiations over where a tribe's boundaries lie. For the first time, tribal chiefs in Papua New Guinea are coming together to formally agree where the borders of their respective lands lie.
The process involves a boundary marking team walking the edges of the territories with the customary landowners.
The team takes readings from a Global Positioning System (GPS) and at the same time, the boundaries are physically marked with tags and a line or path is cut through the forest. Once the path is completed, the GPS coordinates are plotted and a boundary map created.
The Global Forest Rescue Station
The Global Forest Rescue Station (GFRS) was the base camp for marking the boundaries of indigenous tribal lands around Lake Murray, Western Province, Papua New Guinea.
Set in the middle of the forest, from February to May 2006, international volunteers from 15 different countries along with Greenpeace staff, PNG non-governmental organisation partners and the local people documented the struggle to protect the forest from logging and demarcated over 35,000 hectares of forest.
During the time of the GFRS the number of clans interested in demarcating their lands and starting ecoforestry grew from 11 to 42, involving over 300,000 hectares of threatened rainforest. The first ecotimber milling began in May and the 'Ogia' clan is currently milling ecotimber for its first export to Australia. The first ecotourism lodge was completed in July. These community solutions are helping build an island of resistence to the destructive industrial logging that threatens the largest remaining intact forest in Asia Pacific.