First shipment of Lake Murray eco-timber arrives in Australia

Feature story - 28 February, 2008
A shipping container filled with sawn timber from an eco-forestry project in Lake Murray, Papua New Guinea (PNG) has arrived in Sydney, Australia.

Men from the village of Aweikaimqassi work together to prepare a freshly cut tree for milling on a portable sawmill, as part of a local eco-forestry project.

As part of the eco-forestry project, we teamed up with the local people and set up the Global Forest Rescue Stationon the shore of Lake Murray in 2006.

The rescue station was used as thebase for surveying the surrounding forest to determine traditional clanboundaries, and training for the local communities in land and businessmanagement, marketing and timber milling.

Celebrating the arrival of the first shipment of taun, rosewood and red cedar to Australia, Lake Murray landowner, Sep Galeva said that while it had taken his people a lot of hard work over the last few years to get the timber exported, this was just the first of many containers to come.

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"What we have shown is that anybody can do this. Forest communities around PNG don't have to rely on industrial logging for survival, they can do it themselves in a way that protects the environment and keeps the land for future generations," Mr Galeva said.

"Our bad experience with illegal and destructive logging from the Kiunga Aiambak road project, run by Concord Pacific, made my people choose eco-forestry instead so that we have control over our land."

Greenpeace Forest Campaigner Sam Moko added, "By doing this they willcontinue to enjoy all the benefits their forests traditionally providethem and get real income from cutting their timber for generations tocome."

"There has been a lot of pressure on communities in LakeMurray to sign their land away to logging and palm oil interests andlandowners need to make informed decisions before they agree to the bigcompanies, otherwise they could find themselves regretting theirdecision and facing ongoing social, environmental and legal issues."

"TheLake Murray people involved in eco-forestry have thought about theiroptions and have decided to take their future in their own hands."

The people of Lake Murray approached Greenpeace, the Foundation for People and Community Development (FPCD), Barefoot and other non-government organisations to help them get their eco-forestry project off the ground.

According to Yati Bun, Executive Director of FPCD, this kind of initiative is a way for landowners to take charge of their forest resources.

"We joined the Lake Murray initiative to support landowners manage the forests themselves and make sure they are getting the maximum benefits," Mr Bun said.

"They are earning 2-3 times what they would get locally from logging companies for their sawn timber. Over the long term eco-forestry provides economic, social and environmental benefits to local communities, empower them to be self sufficient and ensures their valuable forest resource survives into the future."

"We want other PNG forest owners to know that eco-forestry is a viable alternative to logging, and that they can make very good returns exporting timber to Australia but they also need to know that it is not easy. If people want to choose to control their own destinies they must commit themselves to working hard and not sit back and expect things to just come to them," he said.

The Lake Murray eco-forestry initiative has been supported by funding from Doen Foundation in the Netherlands.

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