By VERONICA AURE
I could hear my own heart beat go louder as dusk fell upon us in the dense pristine jungle at the foot of Mt Karamui but I wasn’t terrified and I never surrendered even though the harshness of the jungle got the better of me.
I had one intention in mind and that was to reach Beiye Village in Ward 13 of the Daribi Area, Karamui so I pushed all other thoughts aside and kept going. The journey felt like forever but I knew I could not give up because I had people banking on me to make it through. It took us the whole day till nightfall to eventually reach the first village in Ward 8, Yogromaru before we were to overnight. When morning came, we trekked for another four hours through the different wards before we reached Beiye in Ward 13.
Even though the punitive terrain of Karamui gave me second thoughts, I am content that at least I trekked the foot of Mt Karamui and experienced the hardships men and women in Karamui face daily in terms of accessibility. I realise that locals living in Karamui are truly blessed however, they lack basic government services because of the terrain which in turn affects education, health and infrastructure development and other aspects of life.
During the consensus building process we also found out that women in Karamui are the ones who face the most burdens when it comes to accessing household incomes, health services and education services. Also their cultural norm restricts or hinders them from participating more effectively in all aspects within the society.
According to Naomi Vincent, a widow from Oiyayo Village, it is a taboo for pregnant mothers to be checked by male health workers. She said most mothers sometimes gave birth away from health centres with the help of village birth assistants because their husbands forbade them from seeking professional medical help. She added that pregnant mothers walked long distances for hours to reach proper medical facilities and sometimes they gave birth along the way and turned back.
“This is just one of the many issues we face every day in Karamui that needs urgent intervention by responsible authorities,” she said.
It is understood that Karamui hosts one of the highest mountains in the province, Mt crater, one of the biggest rivers (Wahgi) in the highlands region and a number of other fast flowing rivers and streams.
It covers about 500ha, more than half of the provincial land mass of Chimbu and is the biggest district in terms of landmass.
Most people live between 800 and 12,000m above sea level in the Karamui area. The Karamui LLG has a total of 27 council wards and a population of 23,596 according to the 2011 national census.
Partners with Melanesians Inc, (PWM)with its local CBO partner the Karamui Conservation Resource Management Programme Inc (KCRMPI) facilitated a two-week community consensus building forum to gather the views and issues affecting the 27 council wards in the Karamui area from June 23 to July 13.
The process was to basically identify individual and community participation in decision making and provide avenues for the individuals and groups to exercise decision making and come to a consensus.
PWM is committed in working with local communities and resource owners through networking and partnerships with other national and international NGOs, development partners and donor organisations, private and public sector stakeholders including the respective local, provincial and national government agencies in building the capacities of the resource owners in conserving, managing and utilising their resources for their livelihoods for present and future generations.
From the interaction with locals we found out that the process of consensus building was a first of its kind in the whole of Karamui.
Ward 12 councilor Simon Asai said locals now wanted this excellent initiative to continue in which we facilitate, mobilise and empower more communities through the process.
He said community interaction and participation was very high during the ward forums which showed that people were actually interested in understanding the concept of conservation.
PWM is currently working with its local partners the Managalas Conservation Foundation Inc at the Managalas Conservation Area in Afore LLG, Northern, the Inaina Wildlife Management Area project in Central, the proposed Collingwood Bay Conservation Area project in Tufi, Northern and the proposed Mt Karamui Conservation Area project in Karamui, Chimbu where we conducted the two-week forum.
PWM is involved in conservation and eco-friendly sustainable community development programmes in PNG.
It is aligning its work with the PNG Government’s Vision 2050, especially the pillar on Environmental Sustainability and Climate Change and the fourth goal of the country’s constitution which calls for the natural environment to be conserved and used for the collective benefit and replenished for the benefit of future generations.
PWM’s work in PNG on rainforest protection, biodiversity conservation and community development is wholly supported by the Rainforest Foundation of Norway (RFN) and the Government and people of Norway.
- Veronica Aure is the community empowerment and education awareness coordinator for PWM.