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BY DR GIO BRAIDOTTI
C ooking fires and community celebrations
create an ongoing need for firewood in
Papua New Guinea. Fuelwood is used by
73% of people in Port Moresby, 96% of people
in rural communities and nearly all highlanders.
However, this resource is becoming expensive to
buy and collection can lead to conflict.
This represents an economic development
opportunity for smallholders. With the
application of some forestry-management
ingenuity, small plots of land are being utilised
to meet this high firewood demand.
Rather than use a conventional plantation
system, ACIAR is helping PNG establish a 'short-
rotation coppicing' (SRC) system in which
young tree stems are repeatedly cut to almost
ground level to stimulate the regrowth of many
new shoots. Coppicing allows wood to be
repeatedly harvested, even from young trees, in
the manner of a perennial crop.
Project leader, Dr Ian Nuberg from the
University of Adelaide, says the aim is to provide
PNG with the basis for a sustainable national
fuelwood economy that can lift smallholder
income and also provide the potential to
expand into charcoal production.
"Only landholders who have plenty of land
can plant woodlots as they take a long time to
grow," Dr Nuberg says. "What we are doing is
growing trees like an agricultural crop."
Pilot plantations have been developed
using fast-growing species such as eucalypts
that are known to coppice well. About 18,000
trees have been planted with the on-ground
support of two non-government organisations
(NGOs)---HOPE Worldwide Papua New Guinea
and People's Action for Rural Development in
FUELWOOD TENSIONS SPARK OPPORTUNITY
Over-harvesting of trees in Papua New Guinea is creating a supply crisis for fuelwood,
and thus a business opportunity for smallholder farmers.
Staff from both participating NGOs received
training in nursery management and raised
the project's seedlings in association with
PNG's Forest Research Institute (FRI), which was
involved in seed sowing and tree establishment.
"We want to make sure that the species used
in the SRC system not only grow well but find
market acceptance," Dr Nuberg says. "To help
us achieve that we surveyed more than 4,000
domestic and industrial fuelwood users and
sellers to quantify and describe the nation's
fuelwood flows and markets."
Wood and charcoal from different tree
species are also being given away, so that
people can evaluate them. This includes
demonstrations of charcoal stoves at highland
"That allows us to understand the value
of both the wood and charcoal as a cooking
fuel and their market acceptance for broader
cultural uses," Dr Nuberg says.
While the study identified tree species that
are fuelwood favourites in various regions,
not all tree species coppice. In the highlands,
for example, the species of choice is the local
Casuarina oligodon, known as Yar, which is an
excellent fuelwood but does not coppice.
"In that situation we are trialling an Indonesian
tree, Casuarina junghuhniana (nicknamed
'Indoyar'), which is reported to coppice and is
suitable for firewood and charcoal."
In total, seven tree species are being trialled
in SRC in the highlands, three as highland alley
cropping species and seven different species
in lowland SRC woodlots. The objective is to
establish---in lowland peri-urban areas and
highland rural regions---a range of fuelwood
production systems as pilot projects.
"Such a system enables the creation of
business opportunities to supply a growing
fuelwood market, while at the same time
providing opportunities to produce other
products, including seedlings, poles and fodder,"
Dr Nuberg says. "So far, the trees are growing
very well and the project is being expanded
through AusAID funding. n
Papua New Guinea
PROJECT: FST/2006/088: Promoting diverse
fuelwood production systems in Papua New Guinea
CONTACT: Dr Ian Nuberg,
NGO profile: People's Action For Rural Development
People's Action For Rural Development Inc is a not-for-profit NGO established and
run by Papua New Guineans. It is based in Mount Hagen in the Western Highlands.
The NGO has connections with many local community-based organisations.
Apart from the fuelwood project, they run a pig-breeding program and provide
NGO profile: HOPE Worldwide
HOPE Worldwide Papua New Guinea is one of 60 affiliates in the Christian NGO,
which was founded in 1994. Their mission is to provide medical, educational and
social services to underprivileged Papua New Guineans. Staffed by more than
70 Papua New Guineans, the organisation works in partnership with the PNG
Government, communities and various international agencies and corporations.
They maintain close relationships with HOPE Worldwide affiliates in Australia and
New Zealand, who provide funding support and oversight.
With agriculture a major industry in PNG, the NGO believes training and
extension services can assist farming families to achieve both food security and
extra income through cash crops. These are considered a necessity in a country
where there are formal jobs for only about 15% of school leavers.
In Papua New Guinea, Dr Ian Nuberg is working with
smallholders to use a short-rotation coppicing (SRC)
system to meet strong market demand for firewood. In
SRC, stems are repeatedly cut to almost ground level to
stimulate the regrowth of many new shoots.
PHOTO: IAN NUBERG
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