Livelihood futures in Papua New Guinea

We worked with local communities, non-government organisations and government groups in Papua New Guinea to develop a collaborative decision-making framework informed by CSIRO science.

The Challenge

Uncertain futures demand a "no regrets" adaptation strategy

Livelihood Futures in PNG: Planning sustainable development for uncertain futures is a key area of research for CSIRO.

Show transcript

Livelihood Futures - PNG

[Music plays and text appears: Livelihood futures, Papua New Guinea]

[Image changes to show a body of water with mountains in the background and text appears: Kimbe Bay, Papua New Guinea]

[Image changes to show a man standing in the water and then a map of the areas as described below]

Dr James Butler: We’re here in Kimbe Bay in West New Britain province of Papua New Guinea. We’re working on a project which is supporting the Coral Triangle Initiative which is part of a multi-national initiative between Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Timor Leste, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines to try and protect a globally important area of marine biodiversity while also enhancing and enabling communities to have improved livelihoods and food security.

[Image changes to show different shots of children and people working in a village]

This project is part of the Australian Government’s support for the Coral Triangle Initiative and the project is aiming to develop a method which can combine local stakeholder’s knowledge with scientific knowledge to plan for the future of livelihoods while also trying to protect and maintain the crucial marine biodiversity in this part of the Coral Triangle.

[Image changes to show Dr James Butler Research Scientist – CSIRO]

Our project is aiming to develop participatory research method which brings together multiple stakeholders, both at the community level but also at the Government and NGO level, to think about the future. We provide information on potential climate change but also other change such as population growth and we are encouraging communities through this method to think about the future and design adaptation strategies which could cope for any eventuality.

[Image changes to show Dr Butler and other participants in a workshop]

Our workshops are showing that some of the things that people can do to cope with climate change but also other forms of change so we invite people who are from the provincial government, from the national government, from the local level governments but also from the villages themselves. So we aim to bring those people together so they can exchange ideas and learn collectively about the future and their current issues and how they need to solve their current issues to deal with potential uncertainty and change in the future.

[Image changes to show Noelene Pidik, Community Development – Live and Learn]

Noelene Pidik: As a community development worker I’ve learned so many things in this project and especially the workshops that I’ve attended, in terms of how to take the communities through in understanding the changes that are taking place, whether they be with marine, terrestrial, or development projects that are happening and how the communities are involved in this process to adapt to the changes.

[Image changes to show Barbara Masike, The Nature Conservancy]

Barbara Masike: Yes, I think the biggest thing that I have learned is actually having a good insight into some of the issues that we are facing. Yeah, together with CSIRO we were able to facilitate this project in getting the West New Britain provincial government and the local level governments and various communities in West New Britain province have a good understanding of the impact of climate change and how vulnerable communities can be to rising sea levels and rising sea temperatures but most of all to really help them so that they can be able to prepare themselves so that they can be able to cope with the impact of climate change.

[Image changes to show a village market with produce laid out on the ground and people walking through it]

Dr James Butler: The project has had some impacts already, particularly we’ve noticed in the workshops that people have become much more aware of the population issue. Population growth is relatively fast in West New Britain and also in other parts of Papua New Guinea and this is having a huge effect on people’s livelihoods in terms of the amount of land that’s available for growing food and crops is declining rapidly, pollution is increasing, social problems are increasing and there’s a general degradation of social conditions and particularly traditional ways of doing things. People, I think, have been aware of the impacts but not necessarily aware of how severe population growth is becoming and the effects that could have on their ability to adapt to change.

[Image has changed back to Dr Butler]

Another impact that the project has had is enabling new innovations to be introduced to people who wouldn’t otherwise know about them. So for example, we’re looking at new forms of growing garden crops which are more able to cope with climatic variation, particularly drought.

[Image changes to show a village man tending to his crops]

Local researchers have been able to input to the workshop processes to introduce this new innovation and enable the communities to become engaged in how they can apply it.

[Image has changed to show a body of water and then moves to show two men in the water and Dr Butler seated on the edge of a boat]

Another impact that the project has had is its enabled people to think more about the role of marine resources for their livelihoods and ways that they can conserve them. In Kimbe Bay within West New Britain province there’s been a very successful program of establishing locally managed marine areas. Now what our workshops have managed to do is illustrate to other communities outside Kimbe Bay how these locally managed marine areas could be applied but also what some of the future threats to LMA’s would be, particularly the population issue. So we’ve enabled communities to really think hard about how perhaps LMA’s should be reorganised and reprioritised to cope with these future impacts of change.

[Image changes to show Yvonne Tio, PNG Department of Environment and Conservation]

Yvonne Tio: The study undertaken by CSIRO, that’s contributed a lot to what we’re trying to do in terms of climate change adaptation, working in close consultation with the Office of Climate Change and our partners like the Nature Conservancy and West New Britain provincial administration. But there’s also a likeness about the issues that needs to be dealt with, not at the national level but at the provincial local level and really going down to the communities and trying to enhance the capacity of the local people to get them prepared and also to try and get them to start thinking about what they should be doing rather than wait til very late.

[Image changes to show different pictures of villagers, attendees of the workshop and then shows the different research initiatives being undertaken by the local communities]

[Image has changed back to Dr Butler]

Dr James Butler: We acknowledge that to solve the problems of the communities and to make them more adaptable for the future it’s not just science that matters, local knowledge and local regional understanding of issues is equally important. So what we’re trying to do through the project is combine our science and our perspectives of the future with local understanding of issues and problems and their perspectives of the future, and altogether that makes a much stronger approach for dealing with problems, particularly in terms of building livelihoods that are sustainable.

[Sponsors logos appear at the top of the screen and credits roll: Special thanks to West New Britain Provincial Administration. The Nature Conservancy, Mahonia na Dari Research and Conservation Centre. Communities of the Hoskins and Bali-Witu Local Level Government Areas. Music Freemusicarchive.org]

[Music plays and the CSIRO logo appears with text: Big ideas start here www.csiro.au]

Hide transcript

Many coastal communities in Papua New Guinea (PNG) are dependent on marine resources and ecosystems for their livelihoods and therefore are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.

Together with population growth and global economic conditions, this presents a formidable challenge to these communities, and it is vital to plan 'no regrets' adaptation strategies for these communities which can help prepare them for a range of future uncertainties.

Our Response

Local knowledge combines with global science

In a project supported by the Australian Government's contribution to the Coral Triangle Initiative on Coral Reefs, Fisheries and Food Security, CSIRO, with the PNG Department of Environment and Conservation and the Office of Climate Change and Development, developed a framework for analysing future scenarios.

The framework takes into account the perspectives of government and local community stakeholders, and designs adaptation strategies tailored to the characteristics of local livelihoods.

We draw on local knowledge and science to explore sustainable livelihood options in Papua New Guinea

The technique combines local knowledge with global climate projections (downscaled to 8 km), ecosystem services valuation, livelihoods modelling, and adaptive capacity analysis. However, predicting the impacts of climate change is challenging because climate projections are uncertain.

There are also a wide range of land and sea-based resources (or 'ecosystem goods and services') which underpin livelihoods, cultural differences between communities, and other factors such as population growth. So the design of strategies that bring benefits, even in the absence of climate change, need to be flexible to ensure they don't end up being maladaptive.

The Results

Adaptive co-management drives proactive planning

Stakeholders in participatory scenario planning workshops describe the current and potential future characteristics of the system, focusing on livelihoods. These take place at the provincial, Local Level Government and village levels. At each level, participants identify strategies for tackling potential threats to their livelihoods, and build their adaptive capacity.

Many coastal communities in PNG are dependent on marine resources and ecosystems for their livelihoods.

In subsequent workshops, the learning and adaptation strategies identified at each scale are integrated. Stakeholders' perspectives can be compared. Participants also assess whether the strategies are already being applied in policies and programs, and if not, the barriers to their implementation. This process promotes 'adaptive co-management' between the stakeholders.

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