MAKATA's Chairman, Mr. Yat Paol donating K5,000.00 as direct conservation incentive fund to GILDIPASI President, Mr. Peter Bunam to kick start the community banking initiative. Photo: Wenceslaus Magun
By WENCESLAUS MAGUN
Kangate beach at the mouth of Gabe River in Tokain some 100 kilometres northwest from Madang town may not mean much to anyone, even to the locals. Yet it marks the centre for the establishment of a community village banking initiative for the people of the GILDIPASI region.
On Saturday 22nd of October 2011, at 12:48pm Mr. Yat Paol chairman of Mas Kagin Tapani Association (MAKATA) a local not-for-profit group, presented K5,000.00 to Mr. Peter Bunam, chairman of GILDIPASI Planning Committee at this beach front. The money is a direct conservation incentive to propel sea turtle conservation efforts in the GILDIPASI region.
The GILDIPASI region consists of villages from Yadigam, Tokain, Malas, Magubem, Dibor , Simbukanam and the surrounding inland villages comprising of more than 3,000 people.
Speaking on behalf of the GILDIPASI people, Mr. Bunam expressed deep appreciation and acknowledgement to the funder, Santa Monica Seafood and FishWise and MAKATA for making this dream a reality.
“I lost heart in running the affairs of GILDIPASI due to lack of cooperation from key members. But today, marks the beginning of a new era. It has boosted my moral and motivated and inspired me to rise up from my slumber and lead my people to achieve our vision and mission,” Mr. Bunam said.
He assured Mr. Yat that the funds will not be used immediately but after a proper training on village banking is implemented. Responsible, reliable, honest and accountable people will also be appointed to manage this fund.
“We will bring in specialised trainers from the Lutheran Church Development Services to conduct a training on their concept of “Putim (Invest), Kisim (Withdraw) na Mekim (Use) before we start using the fund,” Mr. Bunam stressed.
He emphasised that in order for the community to take ownership of this project, they will be urged to invest in this fund as a prerequisite to seeking loan for their micro-enterprise projects.
In addition, Mr Yat assured Santa Monica Seafood and WiseFish that as a resource owner from Tokain village he will ensure that proper procedures, bi-laws, and policies are established by GILDIPASI to manage this fund. The official signing of the Memorandum of Understanding between MAKATA and GILDIPASI will be on the 30th of October in the midst of all the community members.
Other key spokesmen and community leaders from GILDIPASI, Mr. Sim Bunam, Mr. Ernest Gidaget, Mr. Joseph Mukup, Mr. Alfred Kaket and Mr. John Natu assured the national coordinator for MAKATA Mr. Wenceslaus Magun that this gesture has challenged them to speed up the process of establishing their coastal management marine area (CMMA).
The sea turtle restoration and protection project was established in mid 2006 by Mr. Magun when he was contracted by Turtle Island Restoration Network (TIRN) a 501c3 non-profit organisation in US as their Western Pacific Campaigner. By December 2009, TIRN ceased funding this project but has supported its sustainability with the initial funding for its establishment.
This project has seen Karkum village established its CMMA on 17th of November 2008 when they signed their conservation deed. With support from their DUARGO community based organisation they have since conducted independent and voluntary beach monitoring exercise. Data collected have been supplied to the South Pacific Regional Environment Program (SPREP) since 2010.
Their efforts has seen a gradual increase in the number of leatherback turtles being protected along their grey sandy beach nesting sites and their hatchlings safely returning to sea.
Of the seven turtle species, leatherback turtle (Dermochelys coriacea) is identified on International Union for Conservation Network’s (IUCN) Red List as critically endangered. They are the largest living turtles that survived the dinosaur era. They can grow to 2 meters, weigh more than 300 kilograms, dive the deepest and swim for 6,000 miles from California to feed and return to PNG to nest. Sadly they are habitually being killed for protein in these communities and from accidental bi-catch from industrial fishing, pollution, climate change effects, poaches, and feral animals.
According to Mr. Magun, much more can be achieved to sustain this project if communities are trained and motivated to nurture environmental ethics grounded in Christian principals, modern scientific knowledge and appreciated with traditional cultural heritage and linkages.
“We strive to assist communities develop and manage their own management strategies and implement conservation initiatives to maximized hatchling production and on-shore survival,” Mr. Magun reiterated.
Key funders for this project include:
• Turtle Island Restoration Network;
• WWF-Western Melanesia;
• Global Greengrants;
• South Pacific Regional Environment Program;
• The World Bank-PNG;
• Santa Monica Seafood and FishWise;
• Cathy Edmunds; and
• Waves Cab services.
MAKATA’s mission is to support local communities to protect and restore the declining leatherback turtle’s population and strive to restore and protect the health and safety of the marine resources and its indigenous people as their voice and link in the Bismarck Solomon Seas.