Environment and development
in coastal regions and in small islands
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Field Project Summary
Promotion of indigenous wise practices: medicinal knowledge and freshwater fish, Moripi Cultural Area, Gulf Province; food security, Trobriand Islands, Milne Bay Province, Papua New Guinea.

Revision Date: 1st April, 2001.
Title:  Promotion of indigenous wise practices: medicinal knowledge and freshwater fish, Moripi Cultural Area, Gulf Province; food security, Trobriand Islands, Milne Bay Province, Papua New Guinea. [Former titles: Wise use of swamps and riverine resources in the Moripi cultural area (Gulf Province, Papua New Guinea) and Towards sustainable island living in Trobriand Island (Papua New Guinea)].
Goals: To rekindle, stimulate and promote dormant wise indigenous practices; to ensure the continuity of useful knowledge and sustainable practices; to maintain wise traditional methods of resource exploitation; to maintain sound and durable notions of self sustenance; to challenge present critical attitudes and behaviour towards all forms of traditional knowledge; to restore sufficient levels of food supply in preparation for future natural disasters, such as climatic variations caused by El Niño/ La Niña episodes.
Location: The coastal area of the Moripi Cultural Area, Gulf Province; and five villages: Okeboma, Okupukopu, Ilalima, Osapola and Ketuvi, Kiriwina Island, Trobriand Islands, Milne Bay Province, Papua New Guinea (PNG).
Starting date: 1998 (Moripi Cultural Area), 1999 (Trobriand Islands). 
Partners: PNG Office of Environment and Conservation; selected village researchers; Gulf Provincial Department of Primary Industry; Milne Bay Provincial Forestry Department, Alotau; Millenium Ecosystem Assessment – Small Islands Under Pressure in Papua New Guinea (Dr. Colin Filer – Department of Anthropology/Resource Management in Asia-Pacific Project, RSPAS, ANU); Environmental Science, Biology and Physical Geography disciplines of the University of Papua New Guinea; UNESCO Coastal Regions and Small Islands platform.
Pilot project leader:

Dr. Linus s. digim’Rina, Head of Anthropology and Sociology  Department, University of Papua New Guinea, PO Box 320, University  PO, National Capital District 134, Papua New Guinea.
Tel: 675 326 716 (3/4) Fax: 675 326 7187
e-mail: lsdigi@upng.ac.pg

Description: The Moripi Cultural Area lies along the coast and is accessible by vehicular roads as well as by air from Port Moresby. It is composed of three main Toaripi language speaking villages: Miaru, Iokea and Oiapu. Other inland villages belong to the Austronesian language speaking people. The main feature of the area is characterised by the huge River Miaru on which the villagers largely depend for their resources.
The planned activities include:
(1)   A social profile of the Miaru village as the key point of entry.
(2)    A survey of indigenous medicinal plants and their uses.
(3)   Intensive research on the traditional methods of exploitation and conservation of a local variety of freshwater fish, Sarevera.
(4)   An archaeological survey of historical settlements.
The Trobriand Islands are all coral atolls, relics of previous volcanic activities in the region. The highest point on the islands is around 50 m above sea level. The five villages on which the pilot project is based are all on the main island, Kiriwina. The main crops cultivated for sustenance are yams, taros, bananas, tapioca and sweet potatoes. Long droughts and extended periods of rain render the local food supply precarious. This became evident in 1997’s El Niño episode when the people were forced to ‘beg’ for assistance from the government, who failed to supply their needs.
The planned activities are:
(1)   To encourage the replanting of local fruit-nut-producing trees and plants, including mangoes, guavas, breadfruit (kum), malay apples (mokolu), menoni, mokakana, lawa, yomwegina, lokwai, kikirodu, chestnut (vivi), gwadina, natu, vadila, kasikuku boi, pupukuna, coconuts, etc. These are mostly trees, adapted to local climatic and ecological conditions. The practice is not new and the knowledge exists locally within different generations.
(2)   To promote indigenous knowledge about values. The present fruit-nut trees planted by elders three generations ago are all dying. There has been no effort to replant/replace them, even though everyone loves to harvest them for food.  The 1997 El Niño episode killed all root crops and the people viciously competed for the very few fruit-nut producing trees.
(3)   To focus attention on real self-sufficiency rather than dreaming of ‘money’ being the sole provider of sustenance.  New ideas have had a negative effect on the attitudes of the younger generations about anything traditional. This exercise is an eye-opener for most villagers, and draws their attention.
(4)   The five villages will set an example for the entire island, as well as for the province and the country as a whole. Five years after planting, the trees can be harvested, and fruits and nuts will be shared with neighbouring villagers and relatives from afar. The project’s activities will be publicised.
& assessment:
Moripi Cultural Area:
(1)   A social profile of the Miaru village was completed in 1998. This involved university students as part of a fieldwork exercise. The report is near completion.
(2)   The survey and collection of information on medicinal plants is underway.  So far at least 33 different local plants and their uses have been identified.
(3)   Field information on the Sarevera fish has been compiled, further research and collaboration with marine biologists from the University’s Motupore Marine Centre has yet to be completed.
(4)   No archaeological work has been carried out to date, although it is scheduled for end 2000/2001.
Trobriand Islands:
It was agreed with the villagers concerned that the project leader would supply the mango seeds whilst the villagers would have to procure seeds of other fruit-nut trees themselves.
(1)   At the end of 1999, about 8,200 mango seeds were flown from Port Moresby to the island by the project leader. They were distributed amongst the five villages, mission stations, schools and some individuals from outside the pilot project’s ambit. An average of three mango seeds was supplied to each household.
(2)   During a visit in May 2000, a sample survey showed that two thirds of the plants had survived. Villagers complained of some bad seeds, which is attributed to the project leader’s indiscriminate collection of seeds from households and footpaths in Port Moresby.
(3)   Meetings held with the villagers showed unanimous endorsement of the idea. They said it was cheap and required little labour, being based on locally available seeds and local knowledge. This is leading to a realisation of the importance of local knowledge.
(4)   Many of the seeds have been planted within the residential areas. This might pose problems of overcrowding and dangers during cyclones.
Future Directions: Moripi Cultural Area:
The project will be expanded inland to include the northern Apanaipi village, Iokea and Oiapu to the east, and eventually towards the Malalaua district of the Lakekamu Delta.
(1)   Complete and submit the social profile report.
(2) Prepare a draft report on the medicinal plants survey by early 2001.
(3) Complete a draft report on the Sarevera fish.
(4) Concentrate efforts on the expansion of the project, including liasing with relevant provincial and district authorities as well as other research institutions.
Trobriand Islands:
The next step is to ensure that the planted seeds progress well, and to hold meetings for greater awareness of the project’s benefits.
(1)   Provide a thorough account of the variety of plants that have been included in this project.
(2)   Determine the relationship between ownership of trees as property and land, which may lead to a better understanding of existing land tenure principles.
(3)   Provide lectures and promote discussions amongst interested local groups, governing bodies and schools to promote the ideas.
(4)   Consult with partners, especially government departments, for assistance and cooperation.
(5)   Due to lime production for betel chewing, a widespread habit on the island, there is a real threat to the corals in the future.  Coral fingers provide the best lime powder for the locals. Protection of corals, and reduction of the over-fishing of mud crabs and ‘bech de mer’ for commercial purposes, are future projects and much harder tasks, which could perhaps be embraced by the planned UNESCO university chair.
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