By VERONICA FRANCIS
THE Managalas Conservation Area in Oro will be officially launched and declared by representatives from the Ministry of Environment and Conservation and Protection Authority (CEPA) and the Department of the Prime Minister and NEC on the Wednesday, Nov 29 in Itokama, Afore LLG.
National conservation group, Partners With Melanesian (PWM) has been working on the Managalas Plateau for over three decades to protect 360, 000 hectares of rainforest, its 21,000 habitants and its natural resources through the process of community mobilization and consensus building.
The Managalas Plateau is also home to the very rare Queen Alexandra’s Birdwing Butterfly. It is one of the few remaining areas of Oro that remains untouched by development of any kind.
This is the focus of the establishment of the second biggest Conservation Area in PNG.
According to the PWM Executive Director, Kenn Mondiai the dream of the Managalas community to protect their customary ownership rights to their land and their resources has achieved this milestone.
“It has been 32 years since its inception and to be still around to see this through as the lead facilitator with my hard working team is truly satisfying. Many people before us have also contributed in one way or another towards the Managalas conservation area declaration. We have come a long way to where we are now despite all the challenges and negativity surrounding the work of conservation and NGO as a whole,” he said.
He acknowledged the Rainforest Foundation of Norway for its financial support since the conservation work started in 1996 and key individuals like Dr Mike Olsson, Damien Ase, Vincent Manukayasi, many visionary Managalas leaders who are still around and many who have passed away.
Mondiai said the initial project started in the area in 1983-84, where the different tribes of the plateau, through consensus, accepted this project and over time were proud of its outcome.
“We have developed a special relationship, which means we have a long term relationship that goes way beyond just a working relationship, it’s about life now, and tomorrow’s children’s future and their children’s future. Now that Managalas will be officially declared after being gazetted, the biggest challenge for the communities and PWM is the effective management of CA and improving livelihood of the communities and income generation,” he said.
He added that PWM and Managalas Conservation Foundation, with each of the 11 Community Based Organisations will build upon the platform of partnership established over the past 32 years and take on a bottom up approach from all levels to achieve this objectives.
Mondiai said this new level of partnership for effective CA management and income generation for supporting livelihood activities will see it bringing in specialized partners to complement their work and at the end of the day, it is the people’s decision by way of consensus.
“As long as I am the Executive Director of PWM with my team, we will be the voice of the voiceless, to facilitate to ensure their rights are protected and their customary ownership and rights to resource development and management is protected from exploitation,” he said.
Around Nov 8, 2012, the Managalas Conservation Area application was submitted by PWM to the Minister for Environment and Conservation and CEPA to consider under the Conservation Act (1978) for gazettal to proceed.
It took four years for the application to be approved by NEC decision No. 325/2016 and went on to be officially signed by Governor General Sir Bob Dadae and gazetted on the March 22 this year.
- Veronica Francis is Public Relations/ Media Specialist at PWM.