Posts Tagged ‘Self-determination’

BOUGAINVILLE Copper Ltd (BCL) said in early May the people of Bougainville’s future depended on the reopening of the Panguna mine. At BCL’s annual general meeting in Port Moresby last month, chairman Peter Taylor said:

“There is widespread agreement today that Bougainville’s economic future needs mining if it is to be able to fund services for the people from its own resources, as well as address future opportunities for economic and social development.”

But Bougainvilleans do have a choice for their economic future not solely based on mining. We know this because, during the war, Bougainvilleans found they were very capable of supporting themselves outside of mining: outside the cash economy altogether.

The wonderful book, As Mothers of the Land[1] – detailing the incredible and decisive role played by women throughout the war and subsequent peace process – provides an overview of this successful adaptation to self-sufficiency during the blockade.

Josephine Tankunani Sirivi, for example, describes how people returned to traditional gardening knowledge and the barter system. “Now we no longer had cash, paid work or any access to processed food, yet we were able to produce enough to feed our people and to share with others,” she says.

Rather than society succumbing to anarchy and starvation, “it was a time of sharing and caring wholeheartedly for one another.”

It was also a time of innovation: learning how to use coconut oil for cars and power; designing hydro-electric power from mountain streams; setting up a short-wave radio station (Radio Free Bougainville); producing rice, oil and soap; using cocoa to produce bleach; and re-learning the use of various herbs and vines, tree bark, roots and leaves for medicine.

Perhaps most impressively, these (primarily women-led) initiatives created an outstanding health and education infrastructure entirely through community organisation and without wages, let alone millions of dollars of foreign aid. Marilyn Taleo Havini describes this revolution:

“Women’s groups began by forming family, church and non-denominational fellowships to feed orphans and widows, to teach, nurse, pass on recipes, seeds and agrarian skills such as permaculture, and to conduct technical and secretarial training.

“By 1996, several of these community initiatives had come together under (the) name Bougainville Community Based Integrated Humanitarian Program (BOCBIHP). Behind the blockade, by the time the peace process began in 1997, they had established 12 health centre bases that supplied 23 aid posts and 47 village health clinics. The nursing school in the jungle graduated trainees and health workers including 36 village midwives, 36 village aides and 23 aid post orderlies.

“BOCBIHP fielded 80 qualified schoolteachers and 113 volunteer grade-10 graduates as their assistants. They opened 71 community schools with an overall enrollment of 4,726 pupils. They also opened a secretarial school and a bible college.”

Sirivi sees the self-sufficiency movement as having enabled many people to survive the war. In addition, “new communal respect for traditional knowledge and jungle skills added to the pride of being Bougainvillean.”

If these outcomes were possible under the extreme conditions of the war, what amazing efforts could be achieved today, in a time of peace?

Mining has left a deep stain on Bougainville, and mining alone won’t remove it. Regardless of whether Panguna is reopened or not, Bougainvilleans can benefit – like all Papua New Guineans, and all Pacific Islanders – by organising themselves to control their own communities, as described above.

Not being reliant on mining, these communities can survive and thrive when they control their own development.

*

Watch a movie about the Bougainville ‘eco-revolution’ during the crisis, ‘The Coconut Revolution’, here.


[1] Tankunani Sirivi, J. and Taleo Havini, M. (eds.)2004, …As Mothers of the Land: The Birth of the Bougainville Women for Peace and Freedom. Canberra: Pandanus Books

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Yat Paol is a farmer on Madang’s North Coast. He runs a grassroots NGO aimed at linking up rural PNG communities who are using their land to build small businesses.  Rather than selling off their land, and their children’s future, to a logger or miner. Journalist Andrew Pascoe interviewed him.

“This model of development, this alternative from the outside, that’s aggressively being promoted and pushed by the government and all the other powers – including the financial institutions on the outside, the Australian government with AusAID, aid programs by other governments also, and even some NGOs who buy into these programs like poverty reduction and that garbage – they say we are a poor country, we are a starving people.

I plant my own food and I eat it from my own land. I catch fish from my own river. We get it free. We get it free, we don’t buy it, so what do you need $1 a day for? I don’t need that garbage. And I’m not alone in that thinking.

Our own model of development is already there. We’re already having it. I’m living in my village. I’m OK. I can live for up to a week without a kina or a toea, without spending one toea. Everything I need is there already. That’s our model of development which our government and the powers that be lose sight of, they’re blind to that, turning a blind eye to that. The real model of development that is ours, that has sustained us for 50,000 years or more. And now we have this alternative model of development that’s come in and is aggressively promoted.

The government and all these who are supporting this model of development, this outside model of development, they forget that people are living their lives. Life still goes on in the villages. People don’t need your big money. People don’t need your big industry – big, so-called ‘development’. We have marketable produce all over the country. We are not poor people. And I don’t believe this garbage about poverty reduction — not in this country. Papua New Guinea is evergreen. We have everything.

So whose interest is this model of development serving? It’s serving big business, it’s serving the Government through the taxes, and those corrupt politicians and high level executives who steal all the money, most of the money, anyway. And their bosses: the foreign governments and the aid programs, international financial institutions, who think they are doing good, for the so-called developing nations. So it’s benefiting rich people – not us, on the ground. I’m saying us because I am part of that now.

The only thing we need is good roads, accessibility to the markets. That’s the only thing – access to markets and services. To goods and services that we cannot produce ourself. That’s basically what we really need.

I believe in agriculture. But agriculture in our terms, agriculture that we the people can be in control of, not some foreigner-controlled agriculture project. Whatever we can farm ourself, of course with technical support, and some finance from the outside, but we do it ourself, and we control it. Like cocoa, or our buai, even tobacco. Those are money makers. We don’t need to buy this British American produced tobacco, we have our own local tobacco. And buai, that’s a big money maker. They talk about ‘informal’ sector. What’s informal? That’s what’s sustaining us, economically and socially. That’s the only sector that sustains us financially and socially, not the so-called formal sector. What is it doing?

I’m optimistic, because I see that people are not sleeping. They don’t need no government to come with their development model. They are tilling their land. They are cultivating their land. They’re making small business. Of course they need outsider support. For them to be able to manage, because managing cash economy is something that’s new for us. We need skills to be able to manage it and grow the business. This is small-to-medium kind business, not big business, not industries. Management skills and also processing kakao, we can make our own chocolate on a small scale. If the government is serious about its people, it should make that possible to happen, I think that’s the work of government, to be able to facilitate that. If its really serious about being a government for the people, by the people, and of the people, that’s the real work of the government.

And our constitutional founders saw that. The constitutional planning committee, they saw that our strength is in our land, in our cultural heritage, and in our artistic talents that’s ours. I think that’s the key. It’s in our blood. We are farmers. We discovered farming 10,000 years ago, so that’s in our blood. We don’t need no alternative to come and teach us how to farm. Our people are farming already.”

David Wissink, the spokesman for Morobe Mines Joint Venture, asked the question of yesterday’s historic protest: ‘So in reality what was gained?’

Most Papua New Guineans know the answer to this question. But for David’s benefit, let’s spell it out.

1) We showed the government that they are accountable to us.

Now the politicians realise we are not going to let them get away with blatant disregard for us and our rights.

2) We showed solidarity.

Good things start to happen when ordinary Papua New Guineans stand together and start talking about issues we share as a nation.

3) We showed that we are better than them.

They are violent – they let our people be murdered for LNG. They don’t respect our rights – they rushed through an unconstitutional Bill without asking us at all (and now they want us to stop talking about it). They try and divide us and cause conflict between us. WE are peaceful – we marched peacefully, as a nation, and started talking about a better way for all.

David, and mining companies like the one he works for, doesn’t like it when Papua New Guineans speak out. It makes him nervous that Papua New Guineans are thinking for themselves. He thinks: “Maybe they will realise they don’t want or need companies like Newcrest telling them what to think.

“Maybe they will realise they don’t need to support the corrupt government which makes so much money for the miners.

“Maybe they will realise they don’t need mining or foreign companies at all, because they have a better way of making a living (it’s called land).'”

So WE say congratulations to the protesters, who love their country and believe foreign corporations like MMJV and the government they corrupt are holding us back from a better way (our way). And don’t let them try and tell you that you are violent trouble-makers. They are the violent ones, stealing your land and your money. You are the peacemakers: and the future.

‘Em Graun Bilong Mipla’ is Scott Waide’s outstanding new documentary which, over 18 inspiring minutes, proves there is another way for Papua New Guinea. A way that doesn’t involve corruption, urban ghettoes, dispossession of land and loss of PNG’s incredibly diverse cultures.

Watch video here:  http://youtu.be/4Qk9X_rOOjI

‘Em Graun Bilong Mipla’ tells the story of Saussi, a rural community which rejected offers to lease its land for oil palm. Instead it has used control over its land’s natural resources to become incredibly self-sufficient. Today, Saussi is far wealthier than any community we know of that has allowed extractive ‘development’ onto their land.

PNG is unique in that most of the people still own their land (86% – formerly 97%, before the current land-grab by foreign corporations began). But communities everywhere are coming under massive pressure from mining, logging, fisheries, oil palm and other companies to lease their land, in some cases for generations. Not realising the wealth inherent in their own land, or not having the power to maintain control over it, communities are being evicted from their land by companies at a rapid rate. As they do, traditional societies are breaking down and PNG is becoming awash with crime and hopelessness.

Saussi proves its doesn’t have to be that way. PNG and other Pacific countries can choose to become rich through holding onto their land, or poor by selling out their future to foreign corporations. It is a choice that involves all of us. Landowners need to realise the value of what they own, the middle class needs to support their rural brothers and sisters’ way of life, and the government needs to create an enabling environment to help people maintain control over their land.

‘Em Graun Bilong Mipla’ needs to be shared by anyone who believes there is another path – a better path – for PNG and the Pacific.

http://youtu.be/4Qk9X_rOOjI