Newsletter February 2021

Women in Moi, using their traditional fishing nets to catch fish along Idam River, West Sepik Province. Photo: UNDP Papua New Guinea/ Michael Sembenombo

Delivering fresh drinking water to remote West Sepik

Women queue to fetch clean drinking water from a newly installed water tank at Wapfai, Green River District in West Sepik Province. Photo: UNDP Papua New Guinea | Michael Sembenombo.

Reaching the hinterlands of Vanimo-Green River District in West Sepik Province is a journey not for the faint of heart.

The further you get from Vanimo Town, the capital of West Sepik Province, it feels like traveling back in time. At a certain point, the network connection will be lost and mobile phones become useless. Your phone will be substituted for a VHF 2-way radio system before the powerlines fade into the background and the FM band of the radio stops. Once you reach the end of the road network, the only way forward is by foot or dugout canoes along tributaries feeding into the mighty Sepik River.

Monitoring and Evaluation Analyst, Mr Michael Sembenombo, recently visited 10 villages in the Moi and Kasai area. His mission was to evaluate 10 water supply projects, supported by UNDP through its humanitarian coordination component, under the ‘Strengthening Disaster Risk Management in Papua New Guinea Project’ and the Australian Government's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT).

Local people travel up Yapsi River, Warabuka, Kasai Parish. Photo: UNDP Papua New Guinea/ Michael Sembenombo

The UNDP team traveled in dugout canoes on the Moi, Idam and Yapsi rivers, tributaries of the Sepik River, to reach most of these remote communities that are situated close to the border between Papua New Guinea and Indonesia.

Caritas Papua New Guinea, in partnership with the Catholic Dioceses of Vanimo, was contracted to implement the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) Project. The project had three components: the installation of a water catchment system, hygiene and sanitation, and Covid-19 awareness.

Mr Sembenombo said that for most of these communities, it was the first time in a long time they had access to clean water.

A Water Catchment System set up at Wapfai Village, Moi Parish, Ward 13 of Green River District. Photo: UNDP Papua New Guinea/ Michael Sembenombo

At Wapfai Village in the Moi area, Mrs Selina Wana and Mrs Sarah Eugene expressed their gratitude for the water catchment system. They now have close access to clean water.

“We used to access water for drinking, cooking and doing laundry from the Idam River. We don’t have any other options nearby when the Idam is flooded. The next source of water is very far away, toward the mountains,” said Mrs Wana.

For these remote communities having access to clean water has contributed to a decrease in waterborne diseases such as diarrhea, abscesses and rashes.

“Our children used to bathe and drink from the river and that has made them sick. We take them to the small health post here at Moi, but many times there is no medicine or nurse. We then travel eight hours to get to the Green River Health Centre. Now we are seeing changes with the installation of this water tank, especially for us women and children. Having access to clean water will help us and our children very much,” she said.

Parish priest of Kasai, Fr Moses, tests the tap in one of the installed water tanks at Kasai. Photo: UNDP Papua New Guinea/ Michael Sembenombo.

New water catchment systems, which include a 2000L water tank, hand washing basin and a shelter for rainwater harvesting, were installed in Bisiabru, Bariot and Wapfai and two tanks at Moi Parish. Similar water catchment systems were installed in Warabuka, Kasai Primary School and in Kasai Parish where a shelter and hand-washing basin was erected next to a 9000L water tank donated by Community Development Scheme (CDS) in 2010. The parish tank had been idle for nine years until support from UNDP and the Australian Government arrived through Caritas Papua New Guinea and Vanimo Catholic Diocese.

The only community yet to have a system installed is Koima Village, a full day's travel up the Yapsi River.

Fr Moses, from the Order of the Little Way Missionaries of Saint Therese of Child Jesus, said he is appreciative of UNDP’s support through Caritas Papua New Guinea and the Catholic Diocese of Vanimo for the provision of this essential resource.

"Enabling people to have access to clean drinking water makes me happy. Water is one of the basic needs of all human beings, including plants and animals. I have been working with my team to install all the water catchment systems in Moi and Kasai,” said Fr Moses, explaining it was a community effort involving both men and women in each village.

"Women collected gravel, fetched water for mixing cement and cooked food to feed the men while men constructed the shelters, built tank stands and hand-washing basins, set up water tanks and gutters," he said. "This showed that the community really wanted this project."


National Adaptation Plan a first in Papua New Guinea

Climate Change & Development Authority Acting Managing Director, Mr Jacob Ekinye, opens NAP workshop at Holiday Inn, Port Moresby. Photo: UNDP Papua New Guinea / Clive Hawigen

Papua New Guinea is one of the world's most vulnerable countries to the impacts of climate change. Developing a National Adaptation Plan to address these existing and future impacts is of critical importance.

A National Adaptation Plan (NAP) two-day workshop, led by the Climate Change and Development Authority (CCDA) in partnership with the United Nations Development Programme, brought together national and provincial governments’ climate change, environment and disaster management teams to share expertise and engage in the process of integrating climate change into planning.

The workshop, held February 10-11, aimed to inform stakeholders of the key objectives of a National Adaptation Plan and how the plan will be implemented within sectors throughout Papua New Guinea.

The National Adaptation Plan process will assist Papua New Guinea to conduct comprehensive medium and long-term climate adaptation planning. It is a flexible process building on each country’s existing adaptation activities and helps integrate climate change into national decision-making.

The NAP is a means of identifying medium and long-term adaptation needs and informs the development of implementation strategies and programs to address those needs. This progressive and iterative process follows a country-driven, gender-sensitive, participatory and fully transparent approach.

Participants from across Papua New Guinea attended the NAP inaugural workshop, in Port Moresby. Photo: UNDP Papua New Guinea / Seru Kepa

Climate Change and Development Authority Acting Managing Director Mr Jacob Ekinye said this is the beginning of more collaboration between national and provincial governments, as well as key partners, as it works toward developing a plan to adapt to the impacts of climate change.

“We still have a long way to go to build a climate resilient and a carbon neutral pathway to sustainable economic development,” he added.

UNDP's Chief Technical Advisor Dr Andrew Rylance said the impacts of climate change affects all sectors - it is not just an environmental issue, it is also a health, agricultural and planning issue. The NAP aims to embed climate change within sectoral planning.

“The NAP is the first national plan for adaptation in the country’s history. This is the first workshop of a series of consultations planned for 2021 for the development of this very important climate change document,” he said.

By the end of the project, Papua New Guinea will have developed a NAP document to be used by relevant sectors to mainstream and integrate adaptation strategies and actions within existing policies and frameworks, while also considering the integration of climate change adaptation into the development planning and budgeting processes of Papua New Guinea.


Planting revolution aims to grow a million trees in Simbu

Mr Kerenga distributed 1000 tree seedlings (pinus corpus, & eucalyptus) to Mauberema Eco-Tourism and Nature Conservation, Simbu Province. Photo: Willie Kerenga.

Nauro-Gor was a community once devastated by tribal warfare and a conflict lasting nearly 30 years. Now, they have swapped their bows and arrows for shovels and tree seedlings.

United Nauro-Gor Incorporated is a Community-Based Organisation leading a tree planting effort in Papnigl Village, the Kundiawa / Gembogl District of Simbu Province, in the Highlands of Papua New Guinea.

The tree planting revolution has earned Nauro-Gor, a community of 14,000 men, women and children, a reputation throughout the Highlands provinces as being a community at one with Nature. Over 500,000 trees have been planted since 2010. In the process, they have gained respect for their conservation work from neighboring communities.

Mr Willie Kerenga, who leads United Nauro-Gor, said the organization aims to plant a million trees.

“The mountains surrounding the village were once covered by forest. Over-harvesting has turned this once densely forested area into grassland. Our aim is to reforest our land then extend this mass tree planting exercise to neighboring communities and throughout the province,” he said.

Mr Kerenga (with hand gloves) engages in actual tree planting at one of the project sites in his community. Photo: Willie Kerenga.

None of this would have been possible without support from the GEF Small Grants Programme (SGP). Since 2010, United Nauro-Gor Incorporated has received two grants worth US$ 100,000 combined to fund its efforts.

“With the help of the Small Grants Programme, the community built a big nursery and provided training in various conservation programmes,” said Mr Kerenga.

Mr Kerenga, a lawyer by profession, volunteers his time to run United Nauro-Gor. The community-based organization was formed by the seven clans that make up the Nauro-Gor tribe. As a leader in the tribe, Kerenga mobilises the community to do mass tree planting.

“It was a way of uniting our community, to bring peace to a place that knew nothing but violence for 30 years. Since the tree planting revolution started in 2010, the community’s mindset has changed,” he said.

No one thought a simple tree planting exercise could bring a community together. But since the start of the effort nearly 10 years ago, the landscape has changed and in the process attitudes have also changed.

“Positive change will come if one has a goal and strives toward achieving it. The community mobilised and showed that they didn’t want violence anymore,” he said.

Papnigl main nursery site which distributes trees to the entire Nauro-Gor tribe. Photo: Willie Kerenga.

Mr Kerenga acknowledged the support received under the GEF Small Grants Programme, adding they have also been able to create partnerships with other organizations in the region, as well as government institutions.

“We’ve created a partnership with Mauberema Eco-Tourism and Nature Conservation, the Western Highlands and Simbu Provincial Forest Authority Offices, Papua New Guinea Research and Conservation Foundation and the Health Department. We are also partnering up with schools and supplying them tree seedlings,” he said.

“The GEF Small Grants Programme has been very supportive. We’re all working together for a common cause: to save the planet and to tell the whole of Papua New Guinea the importance of conservation."

Mr Kerenga has been an active participant in conservation, representing United Nauro-Gor in various international conferences. He has also represented Papua New Guinea as an Observer in the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and Climate Investment Funds (CIF), both in the terrestrial and marine spaces.

“Our aim is to plant a million trees. It’s still a long way to go,” he said. “We are making progress now, this dream is almost a reality".


Bougainville's first socio-economic survey toward a sustainable roadmap for growth

Baseline survey aims to capture social and economic status of Autonomous Region of Bougainville. Photo: Courtesy of Christopher Kageni.

A Socio-Economic Baseline Survey of the Autonomous Region of Bougainville will for the first time, capture the social and economic status of the region toward a roadmap of sustainable development and growth.

Covering 13 districts, 47 constituencies and 449 wards, the mission began on 18 January led by the United Nations Development Programme in Papua New Guinea. The inaugural baseline survey team also included senior officials of the Department of Commerce and Industry and the National Coordination Office for Bougainville Affairs and 25 officials from the Autonomous Bougainville Government.

The survey team conducted focus group discussions with each ward, or local government area, to validate the socio-economic data, explained Team leader and UNDP Papua New Guinea Economist Mr Christopher Hnanguie.

“The main outcome will be an economic growth and development roadmap for the region in the medium to long-term.”

“The socio-economic baseline survey aims to capture the social and economic status of the Autonomous Region of Bougainville (AROB). It serves as the reference point for future quantitative and qualitative statistical data on social and economic progressive status,” said Mr Hnanguie, who spent three weeks on the island in cooperation with focus communities.

The first AROB Economic Baseline Survey is expected to be completed at end of March 2021 with a report presentation highlighting results expected at the upcoming Bougainville Economic Summit later in 2021.

This survey is being delivered under the Sustaining Peace through Economic Empowerment and Sustaining Peace in Bougainville Projects funded by the Government of Japan and United Nations Peacebuilding Fund. It contributes to achieving SDG 8: Decent work and economic growth, and SDG 16: Peaceful and inclusive societies.


'Sustaining Peace in Bougainville' takes Transition Dialogues to communities

The Sustaining Peace in Bougainville Project in partnership with Misereor, the German Catholic Bishops' Organisation for Development Cooperation, has started the next phase of the successful Bougainville Transition Dialogues (BTD) in strengthening the peace process.

In the next phase, the Peace and Conflict Studies Institute Australia (PaCSIA) and its local partners in Bougainville are creating spaces for community dialogue about the transition consultation between the Government of Papua New Guinea and the Autonomous Bougainville Government.

Bougainvilleans voted overwhelmingly for independence in the 2019 referendum and the two governments are now consulting on the ratification of the referendum outcomes and the next steps in Bougainville’s peace process. The project supports these consultations by providing information to the population of Bougainville and by providing spaces for dialogue, discussion and soliciting the views of Bougainvilleans from all levels of society.

Dialogues are facilitated by a network of local Bougainvillean peacebuilders from the communities. Questions and comments raised by participants are documented by facilitators and shared with both governments, churches, the United Nations and international stakeholders. Feedback from communities is used by both governments to create awareness materials and to inform key messages and consultation discussions.

The BTD facilitators started a new round of dialogue in early February 2021 and are currently making their way across Bougainville to discuss the consultation framework agreed by both governments and to gather questions from the people of Bougainville to be answered later in the year.

Community participants in Konnou District of South Bougainville noted the process is educational and they “learned about the ministerial task force, consultation forum and consultation team and understand now what these terms mean.”

Stakeholders from Halia District of Buka Island commented that dialogue is a great way to share ideas and contribute meaningfully during the transition period.

“This kind of dialogue is very good because every person will have a say concerning our future,” one stakeholder said.

This project is a partnership between the Autonomous Bougainville Government, the Bougainville Christian Churches Association, UNDP, PaCSIA and the civil society of Bougainville.

The 'Sustaining Peace in Bougainville' project is complemented by participatory video initiative Wokabaut Senis with Bougainville communities producing short videos on how they contribute to the peace process and to the economic development of their region. Facilitators record these videos and share them between different communities using portable video projectors. The videos help to create unity and showcase innovative thinking and community-based initiatives. The videos can be viewed on PaCSIA YouTube Channel.

The Sustaining Peace in Bougainville Project, funded by United Nations Peacebuilding Fund, aims to enhance political dialogue between the two Governments and the two Parliaments, ensuring decisions around Bougainville Peace Agreement (BPA) implementation and the Post-referendum are progressed jointly. The project ensures inclusive peace processes through empowering participation of outlier groups in the consultations, dialogues and contributes to achieving SDG 16: Promote just, peaceful and inclusive societies.


IT equipment for law and justice delivered to Department of Justice & Attorney General

Attorney General and Secretary for the Department of Justice and Attorney General, Dr Eric Kwa (2nd l), UNDP Papua New Guinea Resident Representative, Mr Dirk Wagener (centre) joins officers from DJAG and State Prosecutors Office. Photo: UNDP Papua New Guinea/ Seru Kepa

Information Technology equipment to support Papua New Guinea's national law and justice agencies was delivered to the Attorney General at a handover ceremony in February by the Resident Representative of United Nations Development Programme.

The much needed equipment, 27 laptops and 23 speakers worth almost US$ 39,000 (PGK 135,000), was received by the Department of Justice and Attorney General (DJAG) to support Provincial Liaison Officers in coordination of 15 law and justice agencies across 20 provinces including the Autonomous Region of Bougainville. This combined impact reaches approximately 8 million people across Papua New Guinea where the Department of Justice and its agencies provide services.

The occasion was witnessed by the Attorney-General and Secretary for Justice and Attorney-General, Dr Eric Kwa, and representatives of the Department of Prime Minister and National Executive Council and Office of the Public Prosecutor. UNDP Papua New Guinea Resident Representative, Mr. Dirk Wagener, and Assistant Resident Representative, Ms. Julie Bukikun, were present to hand over the equipment.

On presenting the equipment to the Attorney-General on behalf of DJAG, UNDP Papua New Guinea Resident Representative, Mr. Dirk Wagener highlighted DJAG as an important partner in the delivery of law and justice services to the people of Papua New Guinea:

“Papua New Guinea was fortunate to access US$ 250,000 (K880,000) during a difficult period to support efforts on gender-based violence prevention and law and order. Other support we are providing through the same facility is to the Police Family and Sexual Violence Unit where an electronic information system is being developed to assist them to register and monitor cases, and provision of two container offices to the Sexual Offences Squad. UNDP was also a key contributor to the first National Gender-based Violence Summit in November 2020 as part of the joint "EU-UN Spotlight Initiative”.

“My appeal is that while all law and order issues are important and must be given attention, addressing gender-based violence and protecting and upholding the rights of vulnerable and marginalized groups needs to remain a priority.”

Attorney-General and Secretary for Justice and Attorney-General, Dr Eric Kwa, thanked UNDP for donating the equipment. “We are very grateful. This equipment will greatly enhance our ability to coordinate, assist and support our partners for better delivery of justice services,” he said.

“My department coordinates 15 law and justice sector agencies and administers more then 20 key pieces of law and regulations. When there is an effective coordination mechanism in place, law and justice services, including addressing gender-based violence, are effectively implemented and monitored”.

This support was made possible through the UNDP Rapid Response Facility, a global response mechanism set up in 2020 to support countries facing risks of increased incidents of gender-based violence during COVID-19 related lockdowns and restrictions.


My country will be destroyed

Ms Nen spoke at a high-level meeting to review progress made in addressing the priorities of Small Island Developing States (SIDS) through Accelerated Modalities of Action (SAMOA) in New York City, USA. Photo: United Nations/ Laura Jarriel

I am a youth of a small island. Although unheard today, despite being disregarded, I have faith in my tomorrow and I know that my land will be delivered. Delivered from all that’s held my people captive. I am a youth of a small island, I am a youth from Papua New Guinea, and I know the change that will follow me into tomorrow is far more promising than the ruins I sit amongst today. - Vinzealhar Nen, Youth Climate Activist

“I believe that if we don’t start doing things now, my country will be destroyed,” says Vinzealhar Nen. This is what motivates her to speak out about climate change.

Despite the dire consequences her country faces from the growing climate crisis, Nen, a poet and youth climate activist from Papua New Guinea, remains inspired by other young people who are willing to make an impact.

“The energy we have… excites me. When a group of people comes together and says, it doesn’t matter if they help us or not, we can move forward.”

As an island state, Papua New Guinea is especially vulnerable to climate change. “Clean water becomes unclean for consumption,” said Nen, who spoke specifically about the dangers of sea level rise, in a presentation at a UNDP Stakeholder Meeting in 2020.

She pointed out rising temperatures and ocean acidity lead to “mass migration, not just for plants and animals, but also human beings.”

While her interest in environmental issues was first piqued when she was only nine years old, it was in 2015 with a youth-led organization, 350 Pacific, that Nen realized the effect of climate change on island countries such as Papua New Guinea.

In September 2019, as a result of her climate change advocacy and poetry, Nen attended a United Nation’s High-Level Meeting to address the Priorities of Small Island Developing States (SIDS).

“Before, I saw myself as a team player, not a team leader,” she said of her experience. “It was an eye opener and encouraged me to start the tree planting campaign.”

By any measure, the tree planting campaign was a success. Held in 12 provinces, the campaign took on a life of its own, driven by an estimated 1000 young people at the grassroots level.

In Simbu Province, where the most trees were planted, young people living in the city worked with their family networks in villages, prompting a community reforestation effort. A young teacher in Bougainville organized her students to plant trees. In West New Britain, where annual tree planting drives take place, a young girl worked with organizers for an additional 500 trees to be planted.

The experience of most Papua New Guineans remains a driving force in her advocacy efforts. “We see what is happening,” she says of the slow response to climate change by the country’s elites.

“They don’t have to live inside those village houses where a wave crashes through it… they cannot really feel or see it.”

While Nen discusses the mismanagement of natural resources and calls for more education about sustainable livelihood practices, she also points to the lack of choice many Papua New Guineans have. “In regions without access to electricity, for example, families rely on wood or charcoal to cook and warm their homes. It is also difficult for young people to fully engage in climate work and address environmental challenges when they struggle for education, jobs and healthcare,” Nen explains.

For Nen, support for youth-led initiatives, especially information access and a youth platform, is vital to combat climate change in this South Pacific island nation. “We need more opportunities like those that the United Nations has given us to have our voices heard.”

Cooperation between the generations is also necessary.

“The older generation comes with knowledge, wisdom and direction, while young people bring our energy. The energy that young people have to create change, they are going to be the change that we want to see.”


Working to achieve the SDGs

Ms Akus at her workstation, UNDP Papua New Guinea Country Office, Port Moresby. Photo: Clive Hawigen

“When a project is under implementation, communities are collaborating to drive initiatives that make a difference in relieving pressures from the environment" - Ms Tamalis Akus, National Coordinator, GEF SGP

Her role as National Coordinator for the Small Grants Programme of the Global Environment Facility (GEF) established on the eve of the Rio Earth Summit has required Ms Tamalis Akus to leave the comforts of Port Moresby and step into rural Papua New Guinea.

Many civil society organisations accessing these small grants are in rural communities and their work to conserve and raise awareness of the unique flora and fauna of Papua New Guinea is important.

The Small Grants Programme (SGP) partners with over 70 community-based organizations in Papua New Guinea that share grants ranging from US$3,000 - $47,000 (K10,000-165,000) to make a difference in the lives of one hundred to 1,000 people per community.

Ms Akus had always wanted to be involved in development work with a keen interest in natural resource law and policy.

“Working with the program has enabled the opportunity for me to contribute toward small interventions that will raise awareness and inform our people on the impacts of climate change, the importance of protecting our unique biodiversity and sustainable use of our natural resources,” she said.

Over the years working at the GEF Small Grants Programme, Ms Akus has met colleagues from various nationalities and professions.

“These interactions have taught me that we are now living in a world where you have to be multi-skilled and have the ability to adapt into different working environments and deliver on different responsibilities as needed."

"Being part of a global family that works toward improving lives and building resilience amongst our people has been a very rewarding experience,” she said.

Ms Akus would like to continue to do development work to impart her experience and knowledge where needed in the work toward a sustainable future.

“We are all working toward achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and through the GEF SGP I feel that I have made my contribution."

"I know that when a project is under implementation, communities are collaborating to drive initiatives that make a difference in relieving pressures from the environment and working toward the sustainable use of our natural resources. That’s what drives me to continue my work,” she said.

Ms Akus has a Bachelor of Law Degree from the University of Papua New Guinea, and a Postgraduate qualification in International Environment Law from the University of Auckland, New Zealand.


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