The WOMEN: Leaders in food security from across Papua New Guinea

Their PROJECT: Mangoro Market Meri (Mangrove Market Women): Women guardians of the mangroves.

"For my people, our livelihood is totally dependent on the sea. But our marine resources have reduced in number and size at a very fast rate due to over-fishing, to meet the demand for food and money."

Piwen Langarup: Program Coordinator, Manus Environment Conservation Communities Network. Piwen lead the creation of a locally managed marine area to improve the food security of her home village, Pere.

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The Setting

Papua New Guinea is extremely biodiverse. From the iconic birds-of-paradise to coral reefs teeming with life, the country harbours approximately 6% of the world’s species in just 1% of the world’s land area. This includes 250 species of mammals and 750 species of birds, half of which are unique to the country. What's more, scientists estimate that half of the species in Papua New Guinea have not been scientifically named!

Along the coastal waters, land and sea intertwine in a tangle of twisted mangrove forests that surround many parts of Papua New Guinea. Mangroves are invaluable: they trap sediments from runoff, so that coral reefs and seagrass aren't smothered by silt, and they buffer coastal people against the impact of king tides and storm surges. Mangroves are also the breeding and feeding grounds for fish, shellfish and other seafoods that many PNG communities rely upon for their food and income.

But mangroves under threat: they are cleared by logging and mining companies, and over-harvested for timber and firewood. This has a negative impact on the environment, and on people's lives.

Our work with women in Papua New Guinea

In Papua New Guinea, The Nature Conservancy supports women to run food security and gardening programs that will reach thousands of interested women. For instance, we support the Manus Women’s Environment and Development Forum to effectively and sustainably manage their mangroves and fisheries. The forum supports women to improve their gardening practices to ensure more reliable food year-round.

Women account for 60 to 80% of all food production in developing countries like Papua New Guinea. As such, women rely on healthy and accessible marine and garden resources to provide for their children. Across PNG, women are coming together to create positive solutions to food security and other environmental issues.

The Women's project

The women plan to link local efforts, ecotourism and blue carbon to create long-term solutions for mangroves and PNG women. The women will develop a project to to effectively and sustainably manage their mangroves and near shore fisheries. This project aims to address two urgent problem in their communities: over-fishing and over-harvesting. The women will develop innovative approaches such as placing an economic value on mangroves for storing blue carbon (the carbon that is captured by the world's oceans and coastal ecosystems).

As Barbara Masike-Liri explained: “My mother fished a lot in the mangrove areas, and I remember as a child, sleeping in her canoe while she was fishing. My mother is like many women in PNG who are unemployed, but who also must bring food to the table. Our big idea this week is to continue to do conservation but to really connect it to economic benefits. This is our big idea. Mangoro Market Meri. It translates to Mangrove Market Women. These are the women of the mangroves. They are the guardians of the mangroves.”

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