Agroforestry supports food security and conservation in Papua New Guinea

  • Papua New Guinea’s predominantly agricultural society practices agroforestry (the cropping of useful fruit and nut trees with understory vines, shrubs, and vegetables in a forest-mimicking system) widely.
  • The practice produces a wide array of products for farmers, from betel nut to coconut and cacao, and is seen as a tool to address the country’s issues of rapid population growth and shrinking land resources.
  • The diverse and predictable harvest provided by agroforestry also allows the community of Gildipasi the additional luxury of putting aside nearby areas of forest for conservation: 2,000 hectares (4,940 acres) of forested areas and a marine zone have been protected in the last 18 years.
  • Agroforestry also sequesters carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and provides homes and forage for wild creatures here, ranging from cockatoos to bandicoots.

After a short walk from his community on Papua New Guinea’s northern coast, Yat Paol clears away dried leaves from a shady patch of ground and sits calmly to chew on buai, or betel nuts — one of PNG’s most sought-after agricultural products.

Although surrounded by a lush tropical forest, the respite Paol enjoys from the afternoon sun comes from one of the many cacao trees dotting his family’s small plot, planted alongside slender areca palms, the occasional banana tree, Gliricidia shade trees, and an upper story of tall coconut palms.

“Everything grows very well here in Gildipasi,” he says, referring to the area of Madang province that is home to his community of Tokain 1, as well as a handful of other villages where around 3,000 people from 25 different clans depend on subsistence agriculture and cash crops. But the land and environment are coming under increasing pressure from rapid population growth, Paol says.

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