ITTO, Sarawak Forest Department initiates two projects aimed at improving biodiversity conservation in Miri

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Malay Mail Social Logo

KUCHING, March 21 — The International Tropical Timber Organisation (ITTO) and the state Forest Department have initiated two projects aimed at improving biodiversity conservation and enhancing local socioeconomic development in the Upper Baram Area (UPFA) in Miri Division.

The UBFA covers 283,500ha, encompassing primary forests, farm areas, settlements, timber concessions and agricultural lands.

“ITTO has been supporting sustainable forest management in Sarawak for several decades,” ITTO executive director Sheam Satkuru said in a statement today after signing an agreement with the Forest Department director Datuk Hamden Mohammad.

“We are proud to work with the Forest Department and the many communities in the area in their efforts to enhance their collective approaches towards several matters, creating sustainable livelihood opportunities,” she added.

“This is a very exciting development for Sarawak, the participating communities and the ITTO as it introduces a new approach towards Sustainable Forest Management (SFM) and community forestry, with the support of NGOs,” Satkuru said, expressing ITTO’s gratitude to the donors for their support.

Hamden said the UBFA proposal arose from the communities in Baram themselves, and the ITTO funding has been crucial in getting it off the ground.

He added the implementation of the UBFA project will complement the adjacent Pulong Tau National Park in conserving biodiversity and support the sustainable livelihoods of people in those communities.”

He said one of the two projects has a total cost of US$1.39 million, of which ITTO — with support from the government of Japan, the City of Basel, Switzerland), and Bruno Manser Fonds — are providing US$556,000 while the Malaysian government is contributing the remainder in kind.

He said the project will focus more on research.

“The second, which complements the first has a total cost of US$479,500, including US$258,000 contributed by ITTO provided by the Japanese government,” he said.

Hamden said the rest of the funds will come from the state government.

“This project aims to empower and train local people in community forest management, landscape restoration and community-based ecotourism,” he said.

He added that the state government will provide infrastructure support as part of efforts to improve livelihoods and forest management.

The project, formerly known as “Penan Peace Park”, is a way of strengthening biodiversity conservation and sustainable management and enabling the communities to maintain and improve their livelihoods, but later renamed as UBFA to take into consideration the involvement of other ethnic groups in Upper Baram.

The four ethnic groups in the area — Penan, Kenyah, Kelabit and Saban—all rely heavily on forests for their subsistence.

In the early 1980s, about half the project area was licensed for timber harvesting, but this was met with intense protest, especially by the Penan, who blockaded roads to keep contractors out and to prevent the logging of a core area of 79,000 ha of primary forest.