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Saturday, August 8, 2015

Childhood experience motivates Wenceslaus Magun to advocate on environmental stewardship


Madang teachers doing a presentation during their Marine Environment Education Training conducted by MAKATA at Alexishafen, Madang: Photo: Wenceslaus Magun

 “When I saw the forest gone, the rivers shrinking and all the fish and other vertebrates gone, I felt like my heart was being stabbed with a dagger.”

His love for the environment was rooted in his upbringing in Utu Village near the Gogol Valley in the Transgogol area of Madang Province where one of the largest logging operations by the JANT Logging Company was rampant in the 80’s.

The unscrupulous and heartless logging activities in Madang, that destroyed a once pristine tropical virgin forest of which he gained so much from, permeated the seed of environmental stewardship in his heart.  As he grew up he desired to do something about it. This burning desire to save the remaining tropical virgin forests, pristine waters, soon developed into a holistic approach. He needs to do likewise with the marine resources and the rest of the flora and fauna that lives in those habitats.

Wenceslaus Magun is now a full-time-volunteer who sacrificed his Journalism career to drive a taxi cab in Port Moresby and earn just enough to save Leatherback Turtles in coastal villages in Madang whose beaches the gentle giants come to nest.

From 2006 till 2008 he helped Karkum village established their first Leather back Turtle conservation project, in Madang.

The Leather back Turtle project in Karkum Village was established under the Sea Turtle Restoration Project, a project of Turtle Island Restoration Network, a US nonprofit environmental organization with a mission to protect endangered sea turtles in ways that make cultural and economic sense to the communities that share the beaches and waters with these gentle creatures.

The Karkum Community signed their conservation Deed in 2008 when Mr. Magun was working as the Sea Turtles Restoration Project Western Pacific Campaigner up until the project ended at the end of 2008. Seeing that all the efforts would have been a waste, Mr Magun decided to take it upon himself and has been raising funds to keep the project going through a local organization he’s heading known as Mas Kagin Tapani (MAKATA).

MAKATA aims to continue its current programs in working with coastal communities in the Bismarck and Solomon Seas to restore and protect the critically endangered Leatherback Turtles and incorporate new goals and objectives as well based on community needs.

“Our goal is getting them through a process to think and work out what they can do to address these issues and to develop action plans to move forward. Our effort has seen Karkum village, established its locally managed marine area using conservation deed in 2008. 

In addition, he reiterated that the Kimadi and Magubem communities have also established their resource management areas in 2013 using traditional management system.

From 2009 up till 2015 Mr. Magun continues to ensure the program is sustained.  He floats this organization from his kitchen table in Port Moresby without salary since then. Much of the money obtained to run MAKATA came from his taxi service in Port Moresby, and small grants from TNC, WWF, UNDP-SGP, Santa Monica Sea Food and WiseFish, and others.

Using these small grants and income MAKATA facilitates Marine Environment Educational Awareness Programs, Media Campaigns, Community Development Trainings, Resource Mapping, Boundary Surveys, Marine Monitoring Training, Turtle Training, Convention on Biological Diversity Training, Land Use Planning for Kimadi, Magubem, Tokain, Yadigam, Mirap, Karkum, Basken and Sarang Villages in the Sumkar District and Mur, Sel, Baru, Yamai, Lalok, Male, and Bom-Sagar Villages in the Rai Coast District, totaling more than 10,000 people. 

MAKATA has adapted two conservation tools to save the critically endangered Leatherback Turtles in Madang.   They have used the Adaptive Community Resource Management Plan in Mur in 2014 using TNC grant and Conservation Deed in Karkum under UNDP_SGP. 

“In the meantime, two of the communities we had worked with, namely Kimadi and Magubem, have adapted their traditional management practice,” he said. 

He added that: “Adapting traditional management systems is one form of resource management, protection or conservation tool that is accepted and recognized by CBD under CBD’s “Other Effective Area-based Conservation Measures (OEACM).”

He said: “Conservation Deeds in PNG are the result of a community-driven process that creates a locally managed conservation area, and a long term community stake in the protection of natural resources in ways that also meet the economic and social needs of the community.”

“These management systems recognize customary tenure system.  It’s a bottom up community based and driven resource management approach.  It gives the indigenous local resource owners power to be masters of their own destination.  It also allows them to develop management plans using appropriate traditional and customary knowledge and practices over their land tenure systems that have been used and passed down from one generation to the next.”

Mr Magun believes that an informed community will take appropriate and necessary action to mitigate threats to their habitat and biodiversity and ensure that they manage and sustainably use it for their own benefit.

“We envision a maritime conservation process planned and implemented by the partners will be sustainable. Community members will be and have been the ones to or have actually set up their marine conservation areas and eventually sign or signed their conservation deeds.

“The Conservation Deeds not only protected the Leatherback Turtles but all forms of life in the ocean as well as along the coastlines.  It’s about appreciating what God has given us and as stewards of the environment we are called to safeguard God’s creation.”

The Nature Conservancy, who is known for supporting the Hawksbill SeaTurtle restoration efforts in the Arnavon in Solomon Islands, extended its support to enhance the excellent effort by Mas Kagin Tapani whose work is not only about saving turtles but saving all forms of life in the wasters of Madang and the Bismark Sea.

With the support from TNC, MAKATA is now assisting the communities in establishing resource management plans and extending the work to other coastal villages along the Madang coast.

“If we do not help guide people in managing and utilizing their resources sustainably, they will exhaust all their resources as their livelihoods are very much dependent on their resources and sea turtles are no exception.”

“Our approach is different: sea turtles are a vehicle to address larger marine conservation and community livelihood issues.  For example in communities in which we conducted initial assessments, villagers raised concerns about declining fish stocks, increased industrial fishing activities, the impacts of a proposed sea bed mining, sea tailing disposal from mining activities, large scale industrial fishing zones and the impacts of a industrial port.  They also raised concerns about their other basic needs, such as neglected medical aid posts, poor water quality supply, lack of library books, and finding markets for organic cocoa, vanilla, cava and other spice crops.  Through our approach, all of these factors tie into the protection of sea turtles.

“Our long-term approach is different as well.  We do not want to set up a precedent where communities only participate in marine conservation activities when provided funds from outside sources.  Our goal is for the local owners of the resources to be the long-term guardians and stewards of their natural resources and benefit from it.  Our training have provided them with increased capacity to achieve these outcomes,” he said.