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Murphy, MEG 2009, 'What is free about fuelwood? A critique of the value of fuelwood in the rural and squatter settlement households in the Eastern Highlands of Papua New Guinea', PhD thesis, Southern Cross University, Lismore, NSW.

Copyright MEG Murphy 2009


The aim of this thesis is to ascertain fuelwood value at rural and peri-urban households, provincial and national levels; explore the notion of fuelwood as a gender concern, and establish fuelwood scarcity indicators. It contains 179 pages, six chapters, 64 graphs, 9 tables; a reference list and an appendix which includes the summary of the household survey, questionnaire and the list of surveyors. This study is based on a semi-structured stratified survey of 401 rural ‘Village’ and peri-urban squatter ‘Settlement’ households, field observations of five provinces and a literature review. The survey localities are the three villages of Aligaiyufa, Oiyafaiyufa and Masumabe and 45 ‘blocks’ within the Kama Settlement. All the survey localities are approximately 8km south of Goroka town in the Eastern Highlands of Papua New Guinea.

The study established that wood is the primary energy source for 100% of households, complemented with kerosene and electricity. The three most used and preferred wood species are Casuarina oligodon (yar) Coffea arabica (coffee) and Albizzia chinensis (marmar). The three most important collection sources are coffee gardens, river banks and general bush with river banks, coffee gardens and coffee plantations being the most intensively used. Wood collection is conducted 2-3 times a week with each wood load lasting 2-3days. Coffee wood from plantations and small holder gardens form an important wood source for both ‘Village’ and squatter ‘Settlement’ households. Gendered differentiation in wood collection, species preferences, wood purchases and perceptions are not markedly defined.

A combination of direct and indirect valuation methods were utilised to calculate the fuelwood consumption of households in the study area. Based on the direct market value of Casuarina wood sold at the Mt Hagen market, the quantity of purchased fuelwood per household (household size of 4.2 persons) is 3,640 kg valued at PGK728.00 annually. Based on this market value and not accounting for other determinants of fuelwood scarcity, the quantity of wood required for the 14,433 rural households in the Eastern Highlands province is 52 million kg valued at K10.5 million annually. In reality though, the study found that only 5% of households purchased wood. Of the 5% of households who purchased wood, over 60% purchased once a week, spending K2.00 for each purchase. Therefore based on the market value of wood, the potion of the rural population in the EHP purchasing wood once a week, equates to only 721 households that purchased 374,920 kg of wood valued at K74,984.00.

The study also established that households spend up to a total of 8 hours or the equivalent of a day per week on wood collection. Two ‘day values’ were determined by the study. The first ‘day value’ of K5.00 was derived from the 1992 national minimum rural weekly wage rate of K24.20.

The second ‘day value’ is based on the income from coffee which ranged from K7.00 to K15.00/week. Annually each household spends an equivalent of 52 days in fuelwood collection. This equates to K260.00/household/year based on the ‘day value’ of K5.00 or K140.00- K300.00/household/year based on the ‘day value’ derived from coffee income. Using the average of the ‘day values’ of K233.33, the national value of ‘days spent on fuelwood collecting’ for the 754,909 rural households in PNG is around K9,146 million (US$2,926 million). The per capita consumption is 866.7 kg per year. The national fuelwood consumption, based on the market price of fuelwood, is K550 mill (US$176 million) for 2.75 million tons of wood annually. However, because only 5% of households buy wood; the market based wood economy nationally is worth K3.9 million. Combined with the value of collected wood the most likely value of the fuelwood use in PNG is K9,150 million (US$2,928 million). The study recommended that establishing people’s perceptions is the fundamental indicator of fuelwood scarcities followed by other indicators such as times and distances, substitution for lesser fuels, blurring of gendered lines and accessibility of fuelwood/biomass resources.