PNG Biomass follows a number of fundamental principles to access land in Papua New Guinea:
1. We respect the individual and collective rights of landowners and communities.
We want people to have a meaningful voice in deliberative decision-making processes about their own development. We seek a participatory process to ensure decisions will lead to more sustainable, socially acceptable and politically viable outcomes.
We operate our project in the spirit of free, prior and informed consent (FPIC). We implement the ‘spirit of FPIC’ throughout our project life-cycle, by employing timely, transparent, deliberative processes to reach mutual agreement on future developments, whether or not this is required by third parties. We apply the ‘spirit of FPIC’ to all significantly affected local communities, in line with emerging good practice guidance.
2. We protect the customary land rights of the traditional owners of the land.
We recognise and support the central role of land in the life of communities where we operate. Accordingly, we do not and will not acquire land (i.e., purchase land). Furthermore, we will only access or use land with prior informed consent of the landowner. To date this consent has involved land use agreements with the customary owners, which is generally the relevant clan.
These agreements are known as Clan Land Use Agreements or “CLUAs”. Under a CLUA landowners permit the Project to conduct agreed activities (such as the establishment of trial plantations to test tree species) for a specified period of time and monthly land usage fee. The Project acquires no interest or title in the land under a CLUA. At the end of the term of the CLUA the Project will cease all operations on the land unless invited to continue by the landowner, and a new agreement is signed.
3. We follow the latest national legislation to get secure legal tenure over land.
We are now finalising arrangements with clans to develop and maintain commercial plantations on their land once the Project makes a final investment decision. We are careful to ensure these arrangements will maintain and strengthen the rights of customary landowners.
We have conducted a consultation, awareness and engagement program over several years that culminated in an agreement with all the relevant clans on the commercial terms for the use of their land for plantations.
These agreed land use terms will be included the land leases we will sign with incorporated land groups (ILGs) which clans are establishing at the moment. These entities will be able to acquire Government issued certificates of title over clan land under recent legislation. Thereby formalising and recording land ownership rights.
The leases we will sign with incorporated land groups will be entered into on a voluntary basis for a period of 30 years. We are putting in place long-term secure legal agreements that follow PNG’s latest legislative structure. Any extension of a lease will require a further agreement between the Project and the landowners through their ILG.
We are providing resources and support for the formation of these incorporated land groups as well as in land surveying and other activities necessary for them to obtain a certificate of title to their land from the Department of Lands and Physical Planning (DLPP).
A delegation from DLPP visited the Markham Valley in mid-2018 to assess our land access methods by seeking direct feedback and comments from landowners. The delegation was more than satisfied with our approach and lauded our proactive and supportive engagement with landowners.
4. We only use degraded, underutilised or weed-invaded land.
We find kunai grasslands that are degraded and underutilised, or land that is invaded by the non-indigenous weedy species of Rain trees (Samanea saman).
The removal of rain trees is encouraged by the Department of Agriculture and Livestock who sent us a letter noting that “The Department is aware that the exotic species Samanea saman (Rain Tree) has extensively colonized pastoral and grassland areas around Erap and Leron over the past several decades, and that the tree denies sunlight and ground vegetation under its extensive canopy when it grows. Samanea saman is considered a weedy exotic species by the Department of Agriculture and Livestock, and we encourage your efforts to fell and gradually eradicate the rain trees as weedy and noxious weedy pest and make available more land for use in a more productive manner.”
5. We do not divorce landowners or communities from their land.
We have conducted social mapping as well as a social impact assessment to identify customary landowners, their clans and land use. This way we can ensure not to infringe on village land, village gardens, cultural heritage sites, environmental protection and conservations zones. We also make sure to allow for buffer zones and fire breaks in and around our plantations.
We are required under the Gold Standard for the Global Goals to leave at least 10% of the land we lease unplanted as preservation areas.
On the land we have leased we encourage landowners to access our plantations and plant cash crops in between the rows of trees – a practice we call ‘intercropping’. This allows landowners, and in particular women, to generate incomes from land under lease to our project. Our plantation establishment enhances the agricultural potential of the land and by allowing landowners to still utilise the improved land we create a multi-use agricultural environment.
6. We protect and promote female land ownership and usage rights.
We recognise women’s lack of voice in relation to land and the risk that women may become vulnerable by missing out on some of the project benefits, including land rentals, participation in the project, and membership of business groups. While we cannot change or influence cultural and customary landownership along patrimonial lines, we are promoting female land usage rights, we are offering employment and business opportunities to women, and we are advocating for female participation in decision-making on land. We aim to ensure that the establishment of Incorporated Lands Group and Community Business Groups does not perpetuate the marginalisation of women in economic and political decision-making.