On 20 April 2019 Live and Learn Environmental Education released the Via River Catchment Fire Management Plan, which identifies strategies to reduce the impact of wildfires on biodiversity and community resources in Central West New Britain, Papua New Guinea. The strategies will be adapted and used throughout PNG to address the threat of wildfires that are being exacerbated by climate change.
Live & Learn is currently working with communities in central West New Britain to establish a conservation area that could cover at least 100,000 ha. It is a biodiversity hotspot due to its high species richness, providing habitats to many vulnerable species. The project is supporting local communities to develop sustainable livelihood initiatives, reducing the pressure on them to engage in economic activities that lead to deforestation and forest degradation.
Other than logging and conversion to palm oil, it was identified that wildfire is the biggest threat to the forest’s integrity and its biodiversity and carbon values. To mitigate the risk of fire, Live & Learn received support from USAID’s Pacific-American Climate Fund to collaborate with local communities and government stakeholders to develop a fire management plan for the area.
Benjamin Sipa, Live and Learn Project Manager, said that ‘A challenge for improving fire management in PNG is the remoteness of many rural villages and limited capacity of government agencies, therefore the plan emphasises community self-reliance, improving the coordination and access to information of all levels of government’.
The processes developed through this project can be implemented in other areas throughout PNG that are vulnerable to fire. Leo Porikura, Acting Advisor of the WNB Division of Disaster and Emergency Response, told us that, ‘The project has assisted us in addressing a gap in our disaster risk reduction planning. The Division is committed to incorporating these fire management actions into the WNB Disaster Risk Reduction Strategy that we are currently completing. We will support communities throughout the province to develop community fire management plans’.
Fires happened on an unprecedented scale throughout PNG during the intense El Nino events of 1997 and 2015, which had major impacts on communities, villages, gardens, cash crop areas and communal infrastructure, like bridges. Increasing the uptake of these fire management strategies could be crucial given that there is currently around a 70% chance that El Nino conditions will develop this year.
The Fire Management Plan can be downloaded by clicking on the link below:
An information pack and poster (in PNG Tok Pisin) can be downloaded by clicking on the link below: