"We Stay the Same": Life, Logging, and the Continuing Pursuit of Development on New Hanover Island (Lavongai), Papua New Guinea




Roberts, Jason Steadman

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This study examines the local motivations, processes, effects, and responses to large-scale logging and agricultural development efforts in subsistence communities on New Hanover island, (Lavongai) Papua New Guinea (PNG). Recently, New Hanover became the site of three special agricultural and business leases (SABLs) that combined to cover 79% of the island. The proliferation of SABLs within PNG is an outcome of national development initiatives promoting a significant increase in the production of commercial agricultural crops such as oil palm. Accordingly, SABLs were designed to develop sustainable agricultural industries across the country through the conversion of forested lands and the simplification of communal land tenure, for the purposes of private lease. However, SABLs simultaneously provided a convenient loophole around more restrictive national forestry policies and thereby became attractive to traditional logging interests in the Asian/Pacific region. Consequently, many SABLs across PNG have failed to produce viable agricultural development or broad local benefit. It is within this context that this study engages interests in political ecology and the anthropology of hope to analyze the relationships between local hopes for better lives, resource-dependent development schemes, forest sustainability, and horticulturalist resilience. This study is particularly significant in light of the growing threats to forests and forest-dependent livelihoods and the recognition of the importance of local forest practices to global sustainability.


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Development, Hope, Land Tenure, Logging, Political Ecology, Special Agricultural and Business Lease (SABL)