Many thanks to Tansy Bliss’ text below, we are able to tell you through her writing and Yogi’s photos how brilliant this local NGO is at the heart of Kimbe Bay, West New Britain. Tansy is a naturalist and the Eco-tourism Officer of Mahonia Na Dari.
By Tansy Bliss
Mahonia Na Dari Research and Conservation Centre is a small, locally managed non-governmental organisation based in Kimbe Bay, West New Britain. It was set up back in 1998 and over the years has gradually developed to meet the needs of the local community. On its doorstep is a marine ecosystem with some of the highest biodiversity and best diving in the indo-pacific region.
Mahonia Na Dari’s vision is to protect this unique marine environment through raising awareness and educating future generations about what they have and how it functions. This is achieved most effectively through a series of semi structured 10 week, 1 day courses attended by selected students from the secondary schools in the area. This Marine Environmental Education Programme (MEEP) has been running now for over 10 years. The learning is focused around integrated resource management and interrelated ecosystems supported by the fundamentals of marine ecology and biology. The students also learn new skills; how to snorkel, take comprehensive field notes, lead and participate in discussions and present information in interesting and stimulating ways.
They leave with confidence and a desire to make a difference to their world by sharing information and ideas and taking action at a local level. One of the early students from the 90’s recently returned as a teacher, bringing her own students to the course because she believed it made a difference to her life and how she wanted to live.
Mahonia Na Dari also offers a Marine Excursion program and schools can come for 1-5 days and tailor the program to suit their needs.
Some want practical sessions on reef survey and data collection techniques, others want the students to live and learn the experience through drama and role play and some come to use the well resourced library with its wide selection of books, videos and DVD’s.
It is the Research arm of Mahonia Na Dari, mainly co-ordinated by James Cook University in Australia, that provides the background information and data that supports and verifies the need for sound resource management. As their understanding of the marine eco-system increases so too do the options for better management.
This information needs to get to the resource owners and where appropriate, be put into action. This happens mainly through working with the Locally Managed Marine Area (LMMA) committees who are responsible for implementing marine management plans for their own particular groups of reefs and supporting eco-systems. The LMMA concept is supported by Mahonia Na Dari and The Nature Conservancy as it links into the Kimbe Bay network of Marine Protected Areas which forms part of the coral triangle initiative.
The stimulus for the formation of Locally Managed Marine areas comes from increased awareness about the reefs and what is happening to them. Once again Mahonia Na Dari has a role to play. It trains marine educators from the communities who then run awareness programs in the villages, targeting any key concerns that have been identified. Language barriers are removed as “tok ples” the local language, replaces tok pisin and a full and rich dialogue develops.
Gradually over the years, Mahonia Na Dari has also come to recognise that whatever happens on the land affects what happens at sea. Oil palm plantations dominate the coastal landscape. The associated economic boom has brought significant in-migration putting additional pressure on the marine resources. Logging in the headwaters of catchment areas may be contributing to sedimentation, there is soil erosion from traditional gardening on steep unprotected slopes and rivers and streams are depositories for domestic and human waste which eventually ends up in the sea.
In the eco-system based approach to management, now being adopted by key aid agencies and the PNG Government, everyone has a role to play. Mahonia Na Dari’s contribution is by providing opportunities for increased awareness, quality education and research that will lead to local action at a local level.
For more information please visit our website www.mahonianadari.org