Papua New Guinea’s (PNG) mainland consists of 33 million hectares of forests, which represents one of the last intact rainforests in the world. However, the forest ecosystem is under threat with a deforestation rate of 1.4 percent per annum. It is estimated that by 2021, 83 percent of the forest ecosystem that is not in designated protected areas will be cleared or degraded due to agriculture and logging as well as oil palm developments.
The challenge facing PNG is how to pursue economic development while conserving biodiversity. With 26.3 percent of the population living below the national poverty line, the PNG government is keen to expand commercial agricultural activities. This cash-poor rural segment of population owns significant areas of land, as PNG legally recognizes customary land tenure. Although landowners have a strong incentive to agree to developments on their land as a source of income, concerns have been raised about the impact that changes such as deforestation will have on the ecosystem services that communities rely upon.
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