Land suitability and future deforestation models as support tools for PNG's REDD+ policy

Nov 16, 2016

A stakeholder consultation workshop on agricultural mapping was held in Port Moresby on the 4th of November 2016. Key stakeholders were represented at the workshop including the PNG Forest Authority, Department of Lands and Physical Planning, Department of Agriculture and Livestock, Department of Treasury, Prime Minister’s Office and NGOs. This workshop was organised and funded by UNDP’s Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF) project with the support of the Climate Change and Development Authority (CCDA) and PNG Forest Authority (PNGFA).

The workshop was organized to present the results of a study that 1) assessed the extent of current agricultural area in five provinces, and 2) estimated future scenarios for agricultural expansion in these provinces. It was highlighted that small-scale agriculture and proximity to agricultural and forestry concessions were key drivers of deforestation. The report also identified the maximum extent of suitable grassland for the expansion of palm oil in a deforestation-free scenario. The workshop generated very interesting discussions among the core government line agencies on sharing of data and improving working relationships and consultation.

The workshop was aimed at understanding the usefulness of modelling techniques, in particular land suitability and a future deforestation models. This collaborative work was also aimed at developing a model of future commercial agricultural expansion in PNG based on historical trends and key variables that can be used to help guide policy decisions with regard to agricultural development and forest management.

This study was carried out by UNDP’s FCPF REDD+ Readiness Project in close collaboration with PNG Forest Authority and the Climate Change and Development Authority with the support of JICA and FAO UN REDD Programme through PNGFA.

Palm specialist and FAO/EU NFI project coordinator, Mr Roy Banka commended the work of the FCPF in conducting this agriculture mapping assessment. “It is timely for all government agencies such as Climate Change, Agriculture, Lands and Forestry to collaborate and focus on land use and management systems” said Mr. Banka.

Mr Banka further emphasized that the notion that grasslands are seen as a way out for palm oil cultivation to avoid cutting down primary forest probably does not indicate the significance and importance of grassland areas in PNG. “Grasslands are a different vegetation type with their own ecosystem dynamics, which may contain endemic flora and fauna” Mr Banka concluded.

The report showed that deforestation has occurred through the conversion of primary and degraded forest land into cropland by commercial companies and smallholders. These drivers, along with others, are estimated to have resulted in over 4 million hectares of deforestation over the 30 years prior to 2009. Increasing demand for agricultural commodities, palm oil in particular, is likely to see levels of land use conversion rise, with the 4 million hectares approved for conversion under Special Agriculture and Business Lease (SABL) agreements between 2003 and 2010 providing a clear indication of the demand for land.

It was anticipated that the feedback of the stakeholders during the workshop will be incorporated into the final report on future deforestation modelling and land suitability assessment in the country. This study contributes to the development and implementation of the National REDD+ Strategy. It shows results of land-cover change and above ground carbon stock losses in the next 10 years in 5 selected provinces in PNG. As a next step, the FCPF project aims to build the capacity of Papua New Guineans to do the same analyses in other provinces to ultimately generate a national-scale agricultural suitability map.

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