KUCHING: The state Forest Department wants timber companies to strike a balance with local communities in their operations in line with sustainable forest management (SFM) practices.
Its director, Sapuan Ahmad, said while the department acknowledged that permanent forest estates were important for economic activities such as logging, they were equally important for forest-dependent communities.
“These communities have a strong feeling of attachment to the forest where they depend for subsistence living,” he said when opening a workshop to help strengthen sustainable forest management in timber concession areas in Sarawak and Sabah here yesterday.
As such, Sapuan said timber companies should find amicable solutions when dealing with the communities’ needs to co-share forest resources.
He said they should also minimise or prevent degradation of forests that would affect ecosystem services such as clean water, food resources and medicinal plants.
“We want to see how and where logging operations can or cannot be done, taking into account the considerations and needs of the local communities.
“This is why we promote SFM in Sarawak, which will hopefully lead to forest management certification. We want to be consistent with the principles of SFM which emphasise environmental, social and economic sustainability,” he said.
The two-day workshop was organised by the department and WWF Malaysia to discuss preliminary results of SFM initiatives in pilot project areas of Kubaan-Puak forest management unit (FMU) in Baram, Sarawak, and FMU 5 in Sabah.
The project is spearheaded by the department and WWF Malaysia and supported by the German food and agriculture ministry. Its goal is to develop a model for SFM in a tropical forest landscape which is environmentally friendly, economically successful and socially appropriate.
Sapuan said the department was keen to promote co-benefit sharing of natural resources between the government, people and industries.
He said the state government, on its part, acknowledged the presence of Penan communities in the Kubaan-Puak project area.
“This is why we propose to set aside a huge area as the Magoh Biosphere Reserve for the local communities there,” he said.
He also called on FMUs in the project area to be actively involved in the initiative and to work towards SFM certification.
On the workshop, Sapuan said it aimed to come up with ideas on how to develop pilot projects to support the actual implementation of community-based activities leading to SFM in the project site.
“We want to generate and maintain benefits for all stakeholders and for present and future generations, including the communities living there, so that the forest can provide for all in a sustainable manner,” he added.
Some 100 people are attending the workshop, including 30 Penans representing eight settlements in the Kubaan-Puak area.