Investigating how sustainable land use for smallholder farming communities in the Lowlands of Papua New Guinea can be achieved.
Combining agricultural production with biodiversity conservation is one of the main challenges of the 21st century. This issue is especially urgent in Papua New Guinea: 85% of its population depends on shifting agriculture. Many of the farms are located in or close to the rainforest. Papua New Guinea’s tropical forest is the third largest area of rainforest remaining worldwide, and it hosts 5-10% of the world’s biodiversity. Subsistence agriculture is already a major driver of deforestation in Papua New Guinea, and the pressure of agriculture on the environment is only likely to increase because of the rapid population growth in this area.
97% of the land in Papua New Guinea is under customary land tenure, so how these smallholder farming communities manage their land is crucial to ensuring both food security and biodiversity conservation in Papua New Guinea. Currently there is a major knowledge gap about how land in Papua New Guinea can best be managed to produce the food required, while at the same time safeguard the environment, in the context of population growth and climate change.
The aim of the research project is to contribute to our understanding of agricultural production and biodiversity conservation in Papua New Guinea, and to use the information to engage in land use planning exercises with smallholder farming communities in which it is examined how agriculture and biodiversity conservation can best be combined in the context of social- and ecological change.
The overall aim of this study is to contribute to the scientific understanding of how land in Papua New Guinea can best be managed to produce the food required by its growing population while at the same time conserving biodiversity. The research aim is addressed through the following objectives:
- Examine how herbivory and disease influence current crop yields in smallholder systems in Papua New Guinea, and what farming practices influence these ecological processes, in different ecological and social contexts.
- Examine whether using locally-available fertilisers can enhance agricultural production and the time an agricultural field is normally used.
- Understand potential barriers for smallholder farmers to take up new agricultural techniques, and how information about new agricultural practices can most effectively be disseminated among communities.
- Explore options that would enable local communities to balance the need for both enhanced food production and biodiversity conservation on their land in a sustainable manner, in the context of a dynamic social-ecological system.
Summary of planned activities:
- Research the effect of herbivory and disease on crops in smallholder agriculture in Papua New Guinea along an elevational gradient ranging from 200m a.s.l. to 2700m a.s.l. For more information about this project see here.
- Set-up experimental gardens in a smallholder village in the Lowlands of Papua New Guinea to test the effect of soil enhancing techniques on the yield of sweetpotato (kaukau in Tok Pisin).
- Conduct interviews with local farmers to understand potential barriers for taking up new agricultural techniques, and how information about new agricultural practices can most effectively be disseminated among them.
- Develop an integrated land use plan in the context of social- and environmental change for the smallholder farming communities we work in.
- Disseminate the findings to the communities and relevant institutions in Papua New Guinea.
For my fieldwork I collaborate with the New Guinea Binatang Research Center. My field sites are located in Madang province in Papua New Guinea.
- Papers regarding smallholder agriculture in Papua New Guinea, effective information dissemination in Papua New Guinea, and sustainable land use in Papua New Guinea. Ecological- and social data collection is currently underway with the first outputs expected in 2019.
- Establishment of partnerships with relevant institutions in Papua New Guinea, such as the National Agricultural Research Institute (NARI), Department of Agriculture and Livestock (DAL) in Papua New Guinea, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), to allow for broad dissemination of the results.
- Contribution to a synthesis project in which the effects of El Niño on livelihoods, food security, ecosystem services, disease vectors, and key infrastructure across twelve affected countries are examined.
This work is financially supported by BBSRC, NERC and GCRF.
For more information about the project, please e-mail Mirjam (firstname.lastname@example.org).