Community tree planting project

Project title: Community tree planting [Project ID: 2017P3-PNG]
Supervisory agency: Papua New Guinea Forest Authority
Executing agency: Voice of Yongos (VOY)
Budget in USD (total/APFNet grant): 228,711/183,811
Project duration: June 2017–June 2020 
Target economy: Papua New Guinea
Location: Yongomugl Subdistrict, Simbu Province
Objectives: To create and promote a community supported reforestation project that contributes to socioeconomic and environmental benefits to the people of Yongomugl Subdistrict, Simbu Province, Papua New Guinea.
Expected outputs: Expand seedling production by establishing four new nurseries; Distribute and plant 320,000 tree seedlings by 2018; Capacity building for farmers and project staff on nursery skills and planting site management; Raise awareness and knowledge on sustainable forest management practices for students, teachers and community leaders; Create community initiatives to improve and sustain the livelihoods of landowners, nursery volunteers, tree farmers and local communities. 
Project background 
Papua New Guinea (PNG) is one of the most culturally diverse economies in the world. But only about 18 percent of the population reside in urban centres, indicating that most people’s livelihoods are still dependent on forests. Yet, in the past 30 years much of PNG’s forests has been cut or degraded, leaving local people’s livelihoods in peril. This crisis has brought national attention, causing the PNG Forest Authority to issue a new goal to replant 250,000 ha of forests by 2025. In 2017, APFNet and the non-governmental organization (NGO), Voice of Yongos (VOY), set out to equip local people with the tools to bring their forests back while also sustaining livelihoods.

Project featured topics
Planting the seeds of hope 
PNG does not have a long history of reforestation and is still lacking many basic facilities necessary for reforestation, such as tree nurseries. Unless one relies on full natural regeneration, a steady supply of high-quality seedlings of desired species is absolutely crucial for successful forest restoration. Ideally such facilities are also owned by the local communities using them.The project constructed four large nurseries, as well as six mini-nurseries, due to increasing demand. The nurseries focused on growing species desired by local farmers, such as the fast-growing and resilient Eucalyptus grandis, Pinus strobus and Pinus patula. All nurseries have facilities for soil straining, tubing and transplanting of seedlings. The larger nurseries are able to store up to 40,000 seedlings each, while the smaller ones can produce and store up to 10,000 seedlings each. All nurseries are owned and operated by individual landowners with support from VOY. Landowners use the seedlings to plant around their own and neighbours’ homes. Overall, the nurseries will produce 320,000 seedlings throughout the entire project duration. As nurseries are relatively new facilities in the community, two training workshops on basic nursery management skills and quality control were conducted for about 80 nursery workers, volunteers, tree farmers and family members. Each nursery has a nursery coordinator who supervises daily operations, including seedling production, seed germination, soil collection, straining, tubing and transplanting seedlings into poly bags. 
Planting trees = planting a future
Establishing nurseries and growing seedlings is only the first step for successful reforestation. Understanding the interests of local farmers, how climate may influence tree growth and survival in the future and how results can be sustainable are important to develop a successful restoration approach. 
Many landowners have customary land tenure and thus full jurisdiction over what kind of forest restoration (if any) should occur. Getting landowner consensus was key. Fortunately, after many years of working in the area, VOY has gained the trust of local landowners, as well as the experience to openly discuss land issues, long-term goals, concerns and realistic options that satisfy landowners, local communities and sustainability goals. 
In order to raise awareness about the long-term benefits of tree planting, VOY conducted several consultations with customary landowners and taught them about the socioeconomic and ecological importance of trees. Three ecologically valuable tree species, identified earlier, were agreed upon to plant, providing an initial “shelter” for native species to grow underneath at later stages. These species also provide good incomes and are generally universal, hardy and “easy to grow”, thus lowering local people’s concerns about failure to grow. Individual decisions were made based on site surveys and community-based forest management plans, clearly describing forest management actions and site activities, such as boundary clearing, firebreaks, installing warning signboards, removing fire hazards (e.g. broken glass) and patrolling sites to prevent tree theft. Forest management activities included weeding, fertilizing, pruning and replacement of dead seedlings. Overall, 180 ha of degraded grasslands will be restored to forests. To provide incomes in the short-term, VOY worked with Simbu Farmers Marketing Ltd to teach farmers how to grow vegetables, such as onion, carrot and cabbage. These vegetables are in high demand domestically from major wholesalers, supermarkets and catering firms. 
Overall, this project puts people at the front and centre of forest restoration. With VOY, an NGO with multiple years of experience of engaging with communities, this project will serve as a prime example of how to plant a future together.