|WHEN one thinks of the damage being done by major logging companies in Papua New Guinea today, the vast areas of land cleared in virgin forests and the ecological damage it creates, it is formidable.|
For some forests in provinces already depleted of trees, it is a sad situation.
While that is the case, there are new ones sprouting all over the country because of the instant economic benefit it brings. For the rural people, most are being cheated from receiving the real benefits from their timber resources due to ignorance.
Non-government organisations are now putting pressure on the Government to encourage eco-forestry rather than the big logging ventures because they believe small-scale sawmilling is environment friendly.
Not only that, the rural people will take charge of their resources with pride than the foreigner and some self-centred Papua New Guineans.
A lot of harm has been done to PNG's forests already, but there is hope, and that can only be found through the non-government organisations, such as those affiliated to the Papua New Guinea Eco-Forestry Forum based in Kimbe, West New Britain Province.
Throughout Melanesia, community groups undertake conservation and development projects to manage and conserve their forests. The emphasis is on community participation and long-term sustainable approaches to development. The projects often help village-based business enterprises.
The NGO input is seen by many concerned Papua New Guineans, especially the landowners who care what happens to their forests, as a welcome alternative. Those that have been involved with big loggers now realise their mistake and lament the devastation that has been inflicted on the forests their forefathers tended for hunting and gathering fruit and medicinal plants, or for preserving the underground water feeding creeks. The wildlife and their source of food and shelter are destroyed and, worse still, the landmarks pointed out to the landowners by their elders are gone forever.
The Port Moresby branch of Farmset Limited, which provides professional service to the primary sector, staged the first of seven demonstrations for October on the use of small-scale portable sawmilling, in Port Moresby.
The one-day demonstrations were also held in Lae, Madang, Buka, Kimbe, Rabaul and Kavieng from October 15 to 26.
The chainsaws used at the demonstrations were from the Westford Chainsaw Mills, manufactured by the Westford Enterprises Pty Ltd of Western Australia, which was awarded the Australian design mark for 1996.
The Westford Enterprises managing director Malcolm Sells visits Papua New Guinea once a year to be part of the demonstrations while the staff of Farmset Limited take care of the rest on request from local landowners and village-based business groups. City residents have also shown interest.
The specials at Farmset for this month or while stock last are Husqvarna chainsaw K2800, Westford slabbing mill K489 and Westford rail mill K3100.
Mr Sells said the slabbing mill and rail mill (guide rails) are mobile and can be moved from place to place to enable harvesting of selected trees.
"Small-scale sawmilling is kinder to the environment because in PNG most species of trees required for timber are scattered unlike in some countries were there's kilometres of say, pine trees,’’ he said.
"Using the chainsaw and the mills avoid damage to vegetation and felling of trees not wanted for timber.
"The demonstrations have attract many Papua New Guineans who have followed up on purchasing as well as training requests with Farmset Ltd staff," he said.
Mr Sells said the slabs, rather than being sawn again for house timber, can be used as tables and chairs in hauswins, or in rural eateries and even in some city restaurants as has happened in Australia.
A group from Fergusson Island in Milne Bay Province, both workers in the city and visitors from the island, turned up at the Port Moresby demonstration.
Training officer in charge of the Southern region Khans Banobano told the men and women at the Port Moresby demonstration that the training they provided was within the buying package and easy on the villager.
"Forest owners, who do not have the financial backup and have not lived anywhere but in their village, appreciate the time we spend with them out in the bush," Mr Banobano said.
"Some of these guys and ladies cannot speak English well nor write and explain their thoughts and learning the basics from us is easy for them.
"They do not have to turn to the dictionary for the meaning of words that a college course may pose."
Mr Banobano said a high school educated member of the family can later be sent to a college or training centre offering sawmilling courses, which could be paid for through the initial sale of timber. "The NGOs encourage landowners to start up on their own instead of relying on the Government which may take years to pay attention to them," he said.
Among the crowd was Mataio Tongia from the Rigo area, Central Province, who was impressed by the mobility and easy handling the mills provided while sawing logs, and ways to treat and store the sawn timber.
"This is the best way to go about preserving our forests, cutting logs for timber at chosen places and building houses at almost no cost," Mr Tongia said.
He said that in the villages, giving will be reciprocated.
"Supposing I did not have that particular tree on my land. I could go and help harvest my neighbour’s tree and saw it for him, he would either give me some of the timber, or he'd offer me a tree for free."
He said factory produced timber had become so expensive that a family would keep delaying building a modern house in the village, with the cost of food and other items skyrocketing at the same time.
Mr Banobano and Mr Sells showed sawing of small logs, resawing of building timber, cutting slabs and easy winch operation, while on the larger logs, they demonstrated getting the first level cut, cutting slabs and cutting weather board.
At the end of the demonstration, some of the people collected bags of the sawdust to use in their gardens or for mixing with chicken manure as fertiliser.