Partnerships for Change - Building Partnerships to Adapt to Climate Change in Papua New Guinea
A Love Story
When Josaphat and Olita met, he loved what a strong worker she was. Demurring at the probing questions, Josaphat says: "If you're not strong enough, you have to leave the island." And Olita mirrors that admiration and grit as she looks at her husband: "If you're a strong man, you were born to be on an island."
To show his love, he helps her with her work.
"When he feels that he should assist, he uses his own initiative to lighten my load. On the island you really have to work to survive. The best gift you can give to your partner is your hard work."
An Idyllic Island
Josaphat and Olita live on Pati Island, in Papua New Guinea's New Ireland Province.
Their island, a 90-minute jet boat ride away from the quaint township of Kavieng, is one of dozens perched at the northern end of the New Ireland Province. Comprised of some of the most beautiful and secluded beaches found in Papua New Guinea, life can be tough and uncertain.
Climate change-related hazards in Papua New Guinea (PNG) are increasing in intensity and frequency, putting at risk human lives, livelihoods, and natural and economic assets. Worsening tropical storms, cyclones, drought, and even hailstorms in the highlands have already imposed setbacks to the country, its economy, environment, and basic human development needs.
Flooding in coastal areas is one of the most important climate change-related hazards in coastal and island regions of PNG, particularly in shoreline areas where rising sea levels and increasingly severe weather events run up against densely populated coastal communities. In the North Coast and Islands regions of PNG, home to nearly 2.6 million people, flooding – both coastal and inland – is the most urgent climate-change related hazard, threatening coastal communities, key economic centres, and provincial capitals.
Strong Bonds, Strong Partnerships
In recognition of their increasing exposure to climate change impacts, the Government of Papua New Guinea – via its Climate Change and Development Authority - in partnership with UNDP, initiated a project to "Enhance Adaptive Capacity of Communities to Climate Change-related Floods in the North Coast and Islands Region of PNG"http://www.adaptation-undp.org/projects/af-papua-new-guinea. With funding provided by the Adaptation Fundhttps://www.adaptation-fund.org/, the project's overall objective is to enhance the adaptive capacity of vulnerable communities to make informed decisions about and adapt to climate change-driven hazards affecting both coastal and riverine villages. In particular, the project worked to build community resilience to coastal and inland flooding events.
Mangroves are the lungs of our island The crucible of these climate change-related floods are humble mangrove forests, which serve as crucial habitat and shoreline protection. Josaphat, who used to serve as the Village Planning Committee Chair for Pati Island, is intimately familiar with the role that mangroves play in protecting coastal land from erosion and reclaiming lands from expanding seas. Their home is perched just metres from the encroaching shore, but is now buffered with the help of a mangrove plantation.
Josaphat and Oliat, both septuagenarians, have watched over the course of their long lives as the mangroves surrounding their island disappeared. In many parts of PNG, mangrove forests are decreasing due to large-scale logging and their unsustainable use by local communities - primarily for timber and firewood. These losses are occurring despite the current and predicted impacts of climate change and the inherent value that mangroves provide in their role as a coastal barrier. Moreover, the wider value of mangroves at the local, provincial, and national level remains poorly publicised, despite wide evidence for the especially valuable ecosystem services this habitat provides by way of coastal protection, fisheries, and as a source of timber products and food.
"When the mangroves got ruined and damaged", Josaphat and Oliat "didn't know what they could do and didn't know how to fix the problem", until a partnership between UNDP and the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) implemented activities to raise awareness on the value of mangroves and initiated activities to conserve and restore critical mangrove areas.
Recognising that mangroves offer a major benefit to communities in PNG in increasing resilience to climate change, project activities in northern New Ireland Province worked across 15 communities to conserve and restore critical mangrove habitats.
For project activities in New Ireland Province, and in recognition of WCS's longstanding work in the area, UNDP partnered with the WCS. WCS's mission is to save wildlife and wild places by understanding critical issues, crafting science-based solutions, and taking conservation actions that benefit nature and humanity.
Echoing UNDP's mission of "Empowered Lives, Resilient Nations", the vision of WCS PNG is "Gutpela sindaun, gutpela solwara, gutpela bus" which translates to "Empowered people with healthy forests and seas".
Together, and with support and training from WCS and UNDP, Josaphat and Oliat planted and cared for the mangroves that protect the northern side of their island. Josaphat reflects: "People's mentality of looking at mangrove areas has changed over time. People are now seeing the importance of the mangroves."
Positive Sum Partnerships Responding to climate change requires new, innovative, nested partnerships, from husband and wife, to family, to local communities and villages, through to provincial and national governments and development partners. Responding to climate change and achieving PNG's sustainable development goals can only be realised with a strong commitment to global partnership and co-operation.
Alice Daniel, Provincial Project Assistant for the New Ireland Province notes that "Because of existing relationships, this work allowed WCS and UNDP to add to rather than reinvent the wheel."
Another domain benefiting from this co-operation related to the development of village mangrove management plans. As project activities worked to conserve and restore critical mangrove habitats, additional support was provided to help develop local mangrove management plans and incorporate these into existing structures and policies. As a result, six community-level mangrove management plans and an overarching provincial management plan have been implemented.
Active Partnerships The new Village Planning Committee Chair, and Josaphat's successor, Gibson Puka has issued a clarion call to his village: "To look after our community, we need our community to work together."
Gibson's son, Neldon (7), gets cross if fellow children bother the mangroves, highlighting the family- and village-wide pride and investment in their natural resources.
To respond to climate change, for our increasingly interdependent human community, it will take all of us. From a vigilant 7-year old environmental steward, to a dedicated husband and wife team, to merging the power of intergovernmental organisations with the passion of local and provincial efforts, these partnerships are critical for building long-term support
Mangrove ecosystems in New Ireland are recognised for their coastal protection and wider ecosystem service value, and are restored and sustainably managed to ensure their continued role in mitigating the predicted impacts of climate change. The partnership and dedicated effort of Josaphat and Olita is a microcosm of the community, provincial, national, and international partnerships that will be necessary to prevent the mangrove forests of New Ireland Province – and their attendant development gains - from being eroded by climate change.
More information on the project can be found here.
View Original Photo Essay. Story by Andrea Egan and UNDP Papua New Guinea / Photos: Andrea Egan