Low Environmental Impact – High Social Impact in Papua New Guinea

A community training centre and teachers’ residence is slowly taking shape in the remote Ramu and Keram River area of Papua New Guinea. Surrounded by forest, blanketed in heat, and two days’ travel – one by road and one by canoe – from the nearest town of Madang, this environment is a tough one at the best of times.

But for Manis Aver and other training centre staff, this is home. He is working on the Gandep Training Centre, a project that will potentially provide for 200 communities and 3000 people.

Frank Sanders, a development worker from Australia, is involved in establishing community development training programs – an extension of the training centre. The centre already offers a building program to 10 local villagers. These apprentices are learning the skills and techniques of the trade, while also giving back to the community. Working alongside Manis, they are helping to erect the much-needed teaching and staffing facilities for the centre.

For this huge project to work, Manis and his assistants are making the most of local assets and must have access to durable, easy-to-use, and economical equipment. Mainly large logs of Kwila (Intsia bijuga) are being milled to build the centre. The dense hardwood is strong and durable and ideal for construction. Trees are felled and milled on site and have been donated by the landowner.

So the sawmill used by Manis and his team is a critical part of the project. “Without the Peterson mill, it would be impossible to process large trees out here,” Frank says. Due to the remote location, one of the biggest advantages for Frank is that it can be carried into the rough forest on foot. The mill must be lightweight, easy to assemble, and have minimal environmental impact. And Frank has certainly been putting all those qualities of his two Peterson sawmills to the test. He has completed six staff houses, two classrooms and a library already, and he’s just getting started.

Frank’s choice, the Peterson 8in. WPF (Winch Production Frame) with a 24hp Honda motor, allows him to cut the Kwila logs with ease, with the mill and motor capacity designed to handle the heavy wood. The 8in. blade (Peterson’s also offer a 6in. and 10in. option) enables Frank to cut the various timber dimensions required for the different buildings. Other benefits that appealed to Frank included the quick set up (15 minutes with two people) and the stainless steel and aluminium materials that make it rust resistant. The mill also breaks down into smaller pieces easily and quickly, providing portability that is invaluable in an environment like this one. “Peterson’s WPF is the most labour-effective way of milling with limited heavy machinery,” says Frank.


Milling in PNG Forest


Frank has trained three operators from the village, and five assistants help with moving logs into place or removing cut timber. During production though, only one operator and two assistants are needed per machine, which means more hands are freed up for other jobs in this large-scale forest operation.

The Winch Production Frame was designed with people like Frank in mind, says chief designer Jake Peterson. “It produces accurate boards every time, it is made for fast production on a commercial scale, and it’s extremely portable. It is the ideal sawmill for a project like the Gandep Training Centre.”

Frank and his Peterson sawmills won’t be having a break any time soon, with a dining hall and agricultural and community development building still to come.

But Frank wouldn’t have it any other way.


Forest Logger & Sawmiller April – May 2006

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