The PNG-SMART Collaboration recently kicked-off with two-weeks of field training in the proposed Torricelli Mountains Range Conservation Area.
This area is home to the Critically Endangered Tenkile and Weimang Tree Kangaroos, as well as 40% of PNG’s mammal species and over 50% of its avifauna. The Tenkile Conservation Alliance (TCA) has been supporting Indigenous landowners for nearly 20 years to conserve these extraordinary species and enhance livelihoods. The organisation works with 50 villages and employs a considerable number of local people.
“Our goal is to empower landholders to manage their own lands and resources, and we pride ourselves on integrating conservation, community and culture. The people of Torricelli are at the forefront of conservation in PNG, committing to conserve these species for future generations,” said Jean Thomas from TCA. The Government is expected to gazette this area in the coming months.
The training was led by Paul van Nimwegen, Oceania Protected Areas Programme Coordinator. “IUCN through the BIOPAMA project is supporting partners in the region through providing training on a range of protected area practices that improve management effectiveness. One of these is the Spatial Monitoring and Reporting Tool or SMART. This system assists conservation areas to easily collect, store and retrieve field data, which then can be used to support evidence based decision-making,” Mr van Nimwegen noted.
Nicholas Wari from the Tree Kangaroo Conservation Program (TKCP) PNG was also present, sharing his experiences and knowledge of using the tool in the YUS Conservation Area. “It has been really helpful for empowering communities of YUS to monitor biodiversity and highlight compliance issues’, said Mr Wari.
As a result of the training, thirty-five TCA staff learnt how to collect field observations with GPS enabled devices, upload data and use SMART to support adaptive management. Mr van Nimwegen emphasised, “we focused on creating a practical and participatory learning environment, which involved going on practice patrols”. The participants also worked together to adapt the SMART system to the local context, ensuring its application to local communities (including translating it into Tok Pisin). “I can foresee that this tool will not only help communities to monitor biodiversity but will also improve TCA’s institutional reporting and accountability”, Jean Thomas continued. The field staff will soon return to their villages and commence collecting field data. As Nelson Taingol from Wilbeite Village noted, “we will give it a try, and then we will become SMART”.
The SMART-PNG Collaboration is an initiative of the PNG Conservation and Environmental Protection Agency, TCA, TKCP-PNG, BIOPAMA, UNDP and BirdLife International, which aims to strengthen management effectiveness and governance of conservation and forest areas through adopting the SMART system across the country. This collaboration is funded by GEF, European Union and the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Group of States.