27 October 2020

In 2018 Neal Hartley travelled to PNG for what seemed like a simple enough assignment - to create a website and Facebook presence for FORCERT, a sustainable forestry organisation. FORCERTS’s vision is to create “A resilient and self-reliant community of Papua New Guinea living in harmony with nature, maintaining their traditional culture and meeting the needs of the present. 

However, Neal soon discovered the assignment was not quite as straight-forward as it seemed. 

“There was no internet set up for me and FORCERT had expanded its focus. Moving away from forestry certification, the organisation is now involved with a wide range of activity – from working at community level to influencing policy at a national level,” says Neal. 

This expanded the scope of the website and we spent a lot of time together coming up with how we wanted to present everything that FORCERT was involved with. 

Neal worked with his FORCERT counterparts to plan the website and Facebook page while he was in PNG. However, due to limitations with the internet quality he returned to New Zealand and continued to liaise with the FORCERT team to build the website. 

The website went live a few weeks ago and Neal is hoping it will help get information out about FORCERT, as it is an organisation making real difference.  

This is an organisation worth supporting and investing in as they prioritise and create real ground level change, while also influencing high level national policy to improve outcomes for communities across Papua New Guinea. 

One of the featured communities on the website is the remote village of Tavolo which Neal visited 

To get there I had to go on an 18 hour boat ride on a tiny passenger ship during a giant storm and then we had to take a four hour ride on a small boat around the coast, followed by a hike and river crossing! 

The people at the village showed me guest houses, a medical centre, school rooms and a church which they had built. This was impressive because all the resources and materials had to be brought in on boats or on foot yet the people were so determined and had such success.  

The village was a great example of FORCERTS vision on how it supports partner communities. The people of Tavolo were so committed to getting the benefits of modern society but without selling any of their forests. It was just really amazing to see people truly living as protectors of their traditional life and land while being able to successfully adapt to modern times without allowing it to destroy or overrun their traditional values. 

While visiting Tavolo Neal had the opportunity to see some of the amazing biodiversity of PNG.  

I walked through ancient rainforest, saw great hornbills and other amazing wildlife, swam pristine reefs, and ate food sustainably grown and gathered from nature. It's amazing to walk through a forest to see and hear everything around you. It really struck home how important the work of FORECRT is.”  

A particular highlight during Neal’s assignment was attending the FORCERT AGM. “met all these passionate people who were so dedicated and had great vision. They could see a sustainable future and they were all engaged in getting there. 

You can find out more about FORCERT (and see the website Neal worked on) here: 

Website: https://forcertpng.org/  

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/forcertpng/