Remote Papua New Guinea communities harness modern field technology for conservation
Through funding received from the European Union and the Organisation of African, Caribbean and Pacific States, Tenkile Conservation Alliance (TCA) through the BIOPAMA grant facility has been able to provide access to modern field equipment to over fifty village communities in Papua New Guinea’s remote East and West Sepik regions in support of their work to conserve the Critically Endangered Tenkile and Weimang tree kangaroos.
Photo: Torricelli Mountain Range in Papua New Guinea - PC Tenkile Conservation Alliance
The €99,960.00 grant for the mapping and monitoring of the Torricelli Mountain Range Conservation Area (TMRCA) in Sandaun Province has enabled TCA to purchase equipment for over 100 staff, including new computers for 32 Project and Research Officers and 112 field devices for all staff including Village Rangers. In addition, training has been provided on the use of monitoring apps to gather field information, which has in turn been used to update land use maps with conservation area boundaries.
‘Up until this BIOPAMA-supported project, our supply of tech to our staff has been quite sporadic. We’ve had funds for half a dozen computers, or a dozen second-hand computers so we’ve never been able to get as many items in one period of time so all of our staff have working technology at one time. It is probably the first time in our history where all of our staff have new phones and new computers to work with,’ said TCA Chief Executive Officer Jim Thomas.
‘Prior to this, with most of those computers being second-hand but sometimes with donations to have a second-hand computer is more problematic and frustrating because keyboards don’t work. There were many computers where a letter did not work so it made it frustrating for first-time users to learn technology in the first place. It is nice and refreshing to have access to really good technology for everyone so no one is missing out.’
‘That’s been a great investment giving access to technology for indigenous communities. Those computers not only sit in the base Lumi where we work, but they also go out to the villages where communities get to see their data on a screen in a village as do the phones that are collecting the data from the communities. The biggest impact of the BIOPAMA grant has been giving people access to technology.’ he continued.
TCA staff have received training from the University of Papua New Guinea on how to use GPS and mapping (through BIOPAMA and another European Union-funded project). Those skills have helped develop maps for the land use plans.
‘We’ve also provided training for the use of CyberTracker and Smart app on the phone that staff use when they go out into the field. They see an animal or want to record a plant of some sort they use the phone app to record that particular biodiversity in nature. There’s a series of questions they will ask people if they are seen in the conservation area to find out if they are breaching any rules that are associated with that protected area. They have a tool they can use in the palm of their hand to not only collect data about animals and plants that we know very little about in Papua New Guinea but to also help them enforce the rules and penalties that they have associated with their protected area. This is again just giving people access to technology that can then be shared with partners around the world. A lot of this data that we are collecting, we will use for ourselves but we will translate it into advocacy for the protected area which is still not enforced by the Government of Papua New Guinea. All of this information, the maps, all of that data we hope will help motivate and encourage the government to endorse it as a protected area. All of this data can go to IUCN and the world database for protected areas. All of this information can be translated to other sources that are relevant to protected areas,’ said TCA Chief Operating Officer Jean Thomas.
‘The provision of technology has made work easier for TCA ground staff. In the past we gave them an exercise book and a pen and they literally wrote down in a book, then it was put into an Excel spreadsheet, then it was analysed before we could use it. Now with the use of technology it is very clear that this is the way to go in terms of collecting, analysing, storing and sharing data. Using the internet to do this has made our strategy around data collection and management a lot clearer too.’
‘As a result of these BIOPAMA supported interventions, we’ve now got up to date village land use plans for 51 villages in total and they all have their conservation area boundaries and clan signatures joined to them. Everything is in one place at the moment and we are ready to roll them out to our villages,’ she said.
Established in 2001, TCA works with local Papua New Guinea villages to ensure that the peoples and places of Papua New Guinea are respected, protected and enhanced in the context of their overall well-being; including their natural resources, habitats, ecosystems, communities, cultures and local economies.
The Alliance provides urgent and necessary services to rainforest villagers in Papua New Guinea including poverty relief and improving health and well-being. It facilitates processes, especially education, research and training, that provide opportunities for rainforest villages in Papua New Guinea to govern, manage and protect their biological and cultural richness from exploitation. The Alliance has implemented a bottom-up approach to achieving all of TCA’s goals and objectives, ensuring rainforest villagers are enabled with their own freedom of choice, as they advance into the 21st century, working towards self-determination for their biodiversity, culture and linguistically diverse communities.
The Tenkile and Weimang tree kangaroos are Critically Endangered with less than 300 Tenkile and less than 500 Weimang remaining in the wild. The primary cause of their decline is an increase in hunting due to a growing human population but with the conservation efforts of the Alliance introducing hunting moratoriums, the tree kangaroo populations are growing.
The Biodiversity and Protected Areas Management programme (BIOPAMA) aims to improve the long-term conservation and sustainable use of natural resources in African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries. It is an initiative of the Organisation of African, Caribbean and Pacific States (OACPS) financed by the European Union's 11th European Development Fund (EDF). In the pacific, BIOPAMA is implemented by IUCN in partnership with SPREP and the European Commission Joint Research Centre. www.biopama.org