Miruma Community Signs Mt. Waugareame Conservation Deed to Protect Their Land and Preserve its Biodiversity
Eastern Highlands Province, Papua New Guinea – On June 29, the seven clans in the Miruma community of Papua New Guinea’s (PNG) Eastern Highlands Province signed a conservation deed, legally enforcing their rights to protect their land and preserve its biodiversity for current and future generations. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the Wildlife Conservation Society, and other organizations partnered with local Miruma community-based organization Wamiufa U5 to help the Miruma community protect their forest, reforest degraded lands, understand wildlife dynamics, and develop conservation livelihood projects.
The signing of this conservation deed marks a significant achievement for the Miruma people in their efforts to legally protect their forests. The conservation deed ratifies the Miruma community’s land rights to conserve and protect Mt. Waugareame Conservation Area, an area of about 2603 hectares. By signing the conservation deed, Miruma clan leaders have set a benchmark for similar communities to use their land rights to preserve their unique biodiversity for future generations. Conservation deeds are legally binding agreements that are entered into voluntarily by the community but once signed have the force of law.
As part of her first official trip to PNG, USAID Deputy Mission Director for the Pacific Islands, Betty Chung, joined the Miruma village to witness the signing. “We at USAID want to help communities in Papua New Guinea manage their customary land and sea in a more sustainable way,” said Deputy Mission Director Chung. “We know these natural resources are important to not only your livelihoods, but also to your cultural identity and your future.”
PNG has vast tracts of pristine primary forest containing unparalleled biodiversity. The Bismarck Mountain Range, located in the central highlands, is home to the endangered Goodfellow’s tree kangaroo, giant rats, and many species of the bird of paradise. At the heart of the Bismarck Range in Eastern Highlands Province is the remote community of Miruma, comprising seven clans from the Wamiufa tribe with an estimated population of over 4000 people who have a rich culture and passion for forest conservation.
Wildlife Conservation Society Country Director, Dr Adrian Tejedor said that this was a milestone achievement in customary landowner empowerment in PNG, one of the world’s 17 biologically megadiverse countries and one of the last frontiers for biodiversity conservation.
“Apart from the legal protection of their forest, the communities will enact and enforce rules to ensure that the environment is protected along a new inter-province road that will traverse the pristine montane forest and alpine grasslands of the conservation area,” said Dr Tejedor.
Representatives of the Miruma community said the conservation deed represents a significant community achievement made possible with support from USAID, through its PNG Lukautim Graun Program, the Wildlife Conservation Society, and the European Union’s Sustainable Wildlife Management project.
Community leaders and members of Miruma welcomed the assistance provided through the USAID and EU funded projects.
“It has taken a long process to come this far. For everyone to come to an agreement to give their consent for a conservation area alone is not easy. By developing laws to protect what we have in our forests and on the land, is an achievement,” said Mr. Peter Siune, one of the elders in the Wamiufa Tribe.
Led by Cardno International, USAID’s PNG Lukautim Graun Program works with government, non-government organizations, community-based organizations, and implementing partners like Wildlife Conservation Society to support rural and remote communities in PNG to reduce deforestation, conserve biodiversity, and strengthen local livelihoods.