SUSTAINABLE forest management requires strong collaboration between all stakeholders, including the indigenous communities
living in the affected areas, says WWF-Malaysia.
Its Sarawak conservation head Jason Hon said this was demonstrated in the Kuba’an-Puak pilot project spearheaded by WWF-Malaysia in partnership with state authorities, timber licence holders and local communities.
The project, which started in 2015, aims to create a model for sustainable forest management which is environmentally-friendly, economically viable and socially appropriate.
It covers an area of about 360,000ha, including several forest management units (FMUs), between the Mulu and Pulong Tau national parks in the interior of northern Sarawak.
Hon said a key outcome of the project was getting the local Penan community to be part of the forest management system in the area.
“In the past, they were never part of the system, or they did not know their roles.
“Our big achievement is we managed to put them into the system of forest management, which is very important.
“We see them as custodians of the forest, as co-stewards of natural resources.
“We don’t come in and tell them what to do, we listen to them and then decide how to do it with them,” he said on the sidelines of the Kuba’an-Puak project finale workshop here.
Hon said another major achievement was the signing of an agreement on co-benefit sharing between the timber concession holders and Penan community.
Under the agreement, which was signed in May and witnessed by WWF-Malaysia and state forest agencies, 30% of profits from the timber concession will go back to the community.
“We think this is a good set-up. The company has agreed to give 30% back to the community.
“The question now is how to ensure that the 30% will be equally distributed. This is where we come in to help and advise the community.
“For example, we suggested that the money shouldn’t go to individuals but into a collective pool for the whole community,” Hon said.
He said the next phase of the Kuba’an-Puak project would focus more on community needs over the next three years.
“We have already set up a platform for forest management through the community representative committee and sustainable forest management liaison committee.
“The next thing we want to focus on is how to improve the livelihood of the community through infrastructure, basic needs and access to water and electricity,” he said.