Papua New Guinea (PNG) is a biodiversity hotspot with large carbon pools making it a target of international conservation efforts. Protection of biodiversity in this Pacific island nation requires conservationists to work with customary landowners, whose land rights are ensured in the constitution. New projects using market-based conservation have recently been attempted in PNG. Landowners welcome direct payments from conservationists but conservationists and landowners have contrasting cultural perspectives. This dissertation examines the perspectives of landowners and conservationists in a market-based project. The first chapter describes Wanang village and the development of Wanang Conservation, the first project in PNG to use direct payments for conservation. The second chapter explores the multiple meanings of conservation to villagers. Conservation is discussed in terms of ancestral resource protection, material benefits, exchange relationships, political leadership, and as a connection to ancestors. These narratives demonstrate that the diverse roles conservation plays at Wanang are far more complex than simple biodiversity protection. In the third chapter, villagers' and conservationists' interests in ecosystem services and how these interests align are discussed through an examination of the bundling of carbon storage, hunted game, useful plants, and forest spirits in mature and recently disturbed forests. Villagers' interests in hunting, forest spirits, and plants used for tools, medicine, food, and rituals, align with conservationists' interests in carbon storage in mature forests. The fourth chapter examines the complexity of using economic incentives in Melanesia. Conservationists use economic discourse to explain how the project functions and how they appeal to villagers as rational, self-interested, economic actors. However, villagers see incentives as part of an exchange relationship with moral obligations that extend beyond the transaction. The parties are able to build a relationship around the idea of material exchange, although they understand it differently. This dissertation demonstrates the complexity, unintended consequenses, and difficulty of sustaining payments for ecosystem services in PNG. Villagers have multiple interests and expectations of conservation and a different understanding of how projects function than do conservationists. Despite these differences, villagers and conservationists can find common ground to work together, yet the work is never finished, as continuous renegotiations are necessary. Future research should examine the role of social relationships, incentives, and ancestors in the sustainability of the direct payments model.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. October 2014. Major: Conservation Biology. Advisors: David Lipset and Dr. George Weiblen. 1 computer file (PDF); xi, 218 pages.
Henning, Bridget M..
The diversity of conservation: Exploring narratives, relationships and ecosystem services in Melanesian market-based biodiversity conservation.
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