Gwala is life and Vala North tell the stories of two communities, one in Milne Bay and the other in New Ireland Province, highlighting traditional ways of supporting conservation.
While these communities differ in language, geography and culture, they share practices that govern how communities can more sustainably manage the environment around them. This includes limiting access to areas restricted from human activity such as gardening, hunting and fishing.
The practice, known as gwala in Milne Bay and vala in New Ireland, involves a stick placed on the area in question as a symbol of restriction to stop any activity from occurring in that particular area.
For generations, this practice has assisted the recovery of conservation areas supporting Papua New Guinea’s biodiversity.
John Abraham, Chair of the Gwala Committee, captured in Gwala is Life and John Aini, Founder of Ailan Awareness in Vala North, both featuring in the films, share similar sentiments of their communities to this collective approach to protecting the environment.
Abraham highlighted the importance of traditional resource management saying: “Our forefathers’ definition of gwala is simply respect where the community agrees not to go hunting or fishing within the restricted zone. We are to become caretakers of that restricted area preventing it from being exploited.”
Chief Aini of the Malangan Society in New Ireland and Founder of Ailan Awareness said: “Vala is our traditional way to manage and protect our resources. The vala is trying to bring back the experiences, the bountifulness and the beauty from the past.”
Gwala is Life and Vala North is a partnership initiative between the GEF Small Grants Programme, a national not for profit organisation Eco-Custodian Advocates and Open Boat Films which uses the power of short film to showcase traditional methods of indigenous practices in natural resource and environmental management.
Tamalis Akus, SGP National Coordinator, said: “We are privileged today to celebrate the premiere of two films showing community interventions in societies where respect for authority is critical in ensuring these practices are sustained. These practices have broadly improved environmental management and influenced action towards the more sustainable use of natural resources, reduced poverty and built resilient communities.”
The films were launched at the University of Papua New Guinea, which coincides with the International Day of Indigenous Peoples on August 9, 2019.
The Global Environment Facility Small Grants Programme is present in 125 countries and operational in Papua New Guinea for over 15 years.
(Council President of Bwanabwana LLG in Milne Bay, Elama Peter, centre, and Founder of Ailan Awareness, John Aini, second from left, share their experiences and challenges on traditional management among panelists representing Small Grants Programme, environment and conservation and Language expert from UPNG)