Foreign donors are promoting land registration in Papua New Guinea (PNG) to facilitate a farmland grab, under the guise of agricultural development. Aid agencies, such as AusAid under its “Making Land Work Initiative”, are ramping up the push to reform customary land tenure in order to commodify rural lands in PNG and throughout Melanesia and turn them over to foreign investors.
In March 2009, the Parliament of Papua New Guinea passed two bills that ushered historic reform of the countrys land tenure law. These are the Land Registration (Customary Land) Act and the amended Land Groups Incorporation Act. Under these laws, Papua New Guineans who own land under customary tenure can register their land with a state body, facilitate formal leases of the land, and borrow money from banks using these long-term leases as collateral.
But Melanesians see this reform to undermine their livelihoods, cultures, environment and economies.