The Catholic Agency for Justice, Peace and Development

Food harder to find on Manus Island, Papua New Guinea

Fr Dominic Maka, Vicar-General of Kavieng Diocese (pictured), says changing weather patterns are affecting crops, other food plants, and food chains where he lives on Manus Island in northeast Papua New Guinea. Some species are finding new ways to survive, while others are struggling or fading away.

“Animals and fish patterns of feeding have changed. They are not feeding on things that we normally know so they can be easily located and be caught for human consumption. Behaviour patterns change as well as feeding grounds.” For example, flying foxes (a type of bat) can’t find the usual abundance of fruit up in trees, so they come down to eat root plants like tapioca and sweet potatoes. Parrots are doing the same.

Cocoa pests are also increasing with warmer, more humid weather. Fr Maka says the cocoa pod borer (the larval stage of a mosquito-sized moth) and black pod fungal disease are attacking cocoa plants at a high rate, affecting the industry provincially and nationally. Most farmers are getting poor returns because of the impact on quantity and quality of cocoa beans.

He says intensive logging is also affecting food sources in the region.

“Soil is torn and ripped by big, heavy machines creating a lot of soil erosion which floods rivers and creeks, the source of our drinking water,” he says. “Erosion kills freshwater fish, eels and prawns, the source of protein and other living things along the creeks and rivers.”

The natural habitats of wild pigs and cuscus (the largest type of possum) are being destroyed, while species unique to Manus such as the green tree snail and chauka bird are in danger of becoming extinct.

“Money is becoming the agenda,” says Fr Maka. “Ordinary people ... have felt the pain of round log harvesting.”

Sign up to the caritas monthly e-newsletter:

Tutu ana te puehu - Stirring up the dust