Overview Objectives

This project focuses on interaction between people and forests and investigates how forest can sustain livelihoods and improve food security.
80% of Papua New Guineans live in rural areas and they depend heavily on their forests. Forests cover 63% of Papua New Guinea, and 97% of these forests are held in customary land ownership. Communities own most land and forests, so community forestry offers villagers a way of managing or developing these assets.
Community forestry-sustainable forest management (‘community-based reforestation’ of clan-owned grasslands) or ‘Ecoforestry’ (timber from clan forests processed by the community)-may keep the benefits of forests within communities.
This project will help people work together to sustainably manage native forest or grow trees.

Progress Reports (Year 1, 2, 3 etc)

The project commenced on 1 September 2013. We held a successful project inception workshop at Ramu Agri Industries Limited (RAIL) facilities on 1-2 October. The workshop was well attended and started the process of building linkages between project participants. The human research ethics protocol related to the social science research for the project has been approved by the Human research Ethics Committee of the University of the Sunshine Coast (Ethics Approval Number A/14/588). Project activities have progressed well, although some have been delayed due to circumstances beyond the control of the project. Field research has commenced in exploring community dynamics and value-added opportunities related to native forest utilisation around Madang. We have also commenced project activities related to the scaling up of community-based reforestation of grasslands. As part of initial project activities we ran a 6 day Social Science Training Workshop which was attended by 16 PNG-based researchers and four Australian researchers. The workshop focused on qualitative research techniques, including informal interviews, semi-structured interviews, participant observation and using an action research approach to research activities. The level of participation and engagement was high. A very successful outcome from the Social Science Training Workshop was the esprit de corps generated amongst participants. It directly resulted in two partners who had not previously worked together (UPNG and FA-Goroka) designing and collaboratively implementing a joint research activity based at Goroka. In addition, we have provided extensive advice and training to Ramu Agri Industries staff on nursery propagation and reforestation techniques which have improved their capacity to undertake successful reforestation activities. We expect the benefits of this capacity development will flow through to surrounding communities. Due largely to logistical issues, it has been decided that field trials will be largely focussed in the Ramu/Markham Valley and led and maintained by RAIL. Some further field trials are also likely to be established in the Goroka area, largely in conjunction with reforestation activities with Ona Ketu.

In the past year good progress has been achieved in reforestation research activities under Objective 2 in the Ramu-Markham Valley, through cooperation between RAIL and the FRI, mainly though researchers based at RAIL and Bonti Krasi based at FRI. Small-scale nurseries have been established in two communities in the Ramu/Markham Valley and a survey of the efficacy of seedling distributions has been carried for the Maruwassa nursery. A three-day nursery training course has been held at Goroka and follow-up visits have been made to farmer participants. In addition, assistance has been given at Kainantu to establish a small-scale nursery to produce seedlings for the Kainantu market. Seen through the prism of small-scale nurseries, these activities are beginning to provide useful information concerning constraints to the adoption to small-scale forestry.
In the Eastern Highlands, joint research has been carried out by the University of Papua New Guinea (UPNG), with administrative and logistical support provided by the Goroka office of the Forest Authority (PNGFA). As part of postgraduate study, Mr Dinger Kaiseng investigated the effectiveness of free tree seedling distribution as a method of improving tree planting.

Progress under Objective 1 on scaling up of ecoforestry has been substantially constrained by the decline in effectiveness of the NGO partner in the Madang area. Collaboration with communities previously working on sustainable forest management has not been possible and the development of the log yard in Madang has not progressed. Work under Objective 3 is progressing and draft reports on policy related issues have been prepared.

Development of research reports has been coordinated by Bob Fisher and Jack Baynes. These reports will be further developed and will be presented as five papers at the IUFRO Research Group 3.08 conference ‘Small-scale and Community Forestry and the Changing Nature of Forest landscapes’ in October 2015. Although these papers present our preliminary results, it is expected that formal journal articles will be generated from each conference paper once they are augmented with additional data.

Steady progress was made during the 2015/16 period. The project underwent a midterm review which highlighted the progress that had been made on most project activities. A highlight was the substantial contributions made by team members to the IUFRO Small-scale Forestry conference held on the Sunshine Coast in October 2015, underlining the research being undertaken in the project.

In terms of Objective 1: To enhance the scaling up of community forestry in native forests, the project has identified a lack of transparency along the value-adding chain; including the selling of logging rights, receipt of payments, lack of policing of regulations and recognised high levels of corruption within the country. These factors would limit exports by small community groups and are impediments to value-adding. Importantly, for community forestry in PNG, these factors hinder villagers’ ability to make informed decisions and diminish their trust in commercial arrangements relating to ecoforestry. Our work in Madang with clans engaged in ecoforestry indicated that they consist of sub-groups of clan members rather than clans or sub-clans acting as a whole. A second aspect of community dynamics as they affect decision making is that ecoforestry groups are reluctant to share resources with groups from other clans, due to histories of inter-clan conflict and lack of trust. Much of the current timber coming from clan-owned forests appears to be harvested without a Timber Agreement in place, which requires a 20,000 kina bond to be paid to the FA. Our research so far, indicates that these conditions are not currently met. It has become apparent that the first prerequisite for communities to access formal timber markets is to obtain a Timber Agreement. Given the prohibitive cost of the bond, the project will investigate options in which communities can cooperate to obtain one TA which covers multiple clan forests, i.e. group coverage.

A study of forest values and usage planned for six communities has commenced with one case study in Madang and one in Ramu being completed during this year. The study uses a rapid assessment process modified from a poverty assessment toolkit developed by PROFOR and IUCN. The aim of the study is to obtain a clearer sense of the importance of forests to communities as a basis for targeting interventions.

Good progress has also been made in achieving Objective 2: To develop appropriate systems for scaling up community-based reforestation of grasslands. In the Ramu/Markham grasslands and the Eastern Highlands, field trials were initially delayed by the El Nio weather pattern which affected both areas in 2015. However rains in 2016 have allowed the establishment of the trials to commence. In May 2016, a species elimination trial and a variable spacing were established in the highlands at Goroka. Tree survival and growth data collection has commenced. On the lowlands at Ramu, an initial agreement to establish a similar but larger (20 species) trial on clan-owned land was abandoned after the land became part of a land ownership dispute. The trial has now been relocated to land adjacent to the Forest Authority nursery at Leron, near Lae. It is expected that planting will be finished in 2016. A livelihoods-based, multi-species, multi-purpose planting is currently being designed and implemented at the Sankiang village at Ramu.

Work has continued on identifying potential market opportunities for community and smallholder timber. A previous project identified firewood as a potential market and recent work has confirmed its potential for sale in local market places. However our investigations have revealed that firewood demand by Ramu Agri-Industries (for furnaces) is very limited. Firewood for cooking seems to be met currently from harvesting from ecologically sensitive areas such as riverine areas. Sourcing firewood from reforestation initiatives thus offers ecological as well as economic benefits. For high-value trees, the cost of transport between Lae and Ramu, (i.e. approximately K3000 per round trip) appears to be prohibitively high but despite this, sales of high value logs have occurred and further investigations are being made into the potential for growing high-value teak. During the current period, qualitative research was undertaken in conjunction with extension activities to explore community dynamics. The data has provided insights into the motivations and insecurities facing farmers and family groups. The principal finding is that land tenure conflicts are a serious impediment to cooperative tree planting between clans, or groups of families within clans. At Ramu, key drivers which are likely to affect scaling-up have been investigated in five villages and at two schools. Two different approaches to training have been employed. At Goroka, two training courses have now been delivered using highly structured formal training. These courses trained individual farmers to grow seedlings and establish woodlots. At Ramu, a community-based approach to training has resulted in training being delivered to groups of interested people within communities. Essential nursery materials and equipment (e.g. a wheelbarrow and shade-cloth) has been provided and follow-up visits have helped communities to overcome problems.

Steady progress was made on Objective 3: To analyse policy and institutional systems that can support enhanced implementation of community forestry in PNG. The assessment of policy impacts on community and smallholder decision-making continues to be a major focus of research. Work continued on this activity during the current period and it is expected to a report finalised by the end of 2016. Work continued on a substantial report on all legislative and policy instruments affecting community and smallholder forestry during the period and will be finalised by the end of October 2016. Preparation of a paper which presents recommendations for livelihood-based community forestry has commenced and it is expected that a journal article will be completed by the end of 2016. Project reports describing (1) the socio-cultural background and (2) current policy, as it affects community policy, are being prepared. The project’s communication plan was finalised and implemented during the period.

Project ID
Project Country
Commissioned Organisation
University of Queensland, Australia
Project Leader
Dr John Herbohn
+61 438 621534
Collaborating Institutions
Queensland University of Technology, Australia
James Cook University, Australia
Papua New Guinea Forest Authority, Papua New Guinea
Foundation for People and Community Development Inc., Papua New Guinea
PNG Forest Research Institute, Papua New Guinea
Ramu Agri-Industries Ltd, Papua New Guinea
University of Papua New Guinea, Papua New Guinea
Southern Cross University, Australia
Papua New Guinea Forest Authority Goroka Office, Papua New Guinea
Project Budget
Start Date
Finish Date
Extension Finish Date
ACIAR Research Program Manager
Mr Tony Bartlett