MIRI: A native Kayan community living in the deep interior of northern Sarawak has won global recognition for its decade-long effort in community development, conservation of natural food resources and protection of forest biodiversity.
The Uma Bawang Residents Association, representing about 700 longhouse folks from the Kayan ethnic group, was chosen by the International Slowfood Movement as the “most impressive community association in Asia” for the activities for last year.
Uma Bawang is the name of a longhouse situated near Long Lama, a small outpost about six hours by timber track from Miri town.
The Kayans are one of about 30 ethnic and sub-ethnic groups in Sarawak.
The International Slowfood Movement, with its secretariat based in Turin, Italy, is a global network actively involved in the conservation and protection of traditional food resources and environmental preservation.
According to its website (www.Slowfood.com),the movement has 65,000 members spanning 45 countries and according to its press release dated Feb 5, its president Carlo Petrini has been invited by the International Future of Food Commission, under the United Nations, to be one of its members.
The Uma Bawang Residents Association was one of 140 community groups from all over the world nominated for consideration for the movement’s 2002 “most impressive community body” award.
It emerged the number one association in the Asia category.
There were three winners, one each for Asia, Middle East and Western countries.
The contest was held in Turin in October.
Interviewed by The Star yesterday, chairman of the Uma Bawang association Jok Jau Evong said he did not want to disclose the association’s achievements (until now) because the association “did not want to be seen as seeking fame.”
“We prefer to be simple. When we founded the association in March 1990, our aim was to implement development plans to benefit the members of our community who are mostly living in longhouses and small villages near Long Lama.
“We started off with minor agricultural projects, conservation of jungle food resources and social development projects and later on, decided to start a reforestation project to plant trees in jungle clearings.
“We are quite surprised with the success of our reforestation project. Up till now, we have managed to plant about 20,000 new trees of various native species,” he said.
Evong said the movement informed his association last year that it was nominated as a candidate for the award – the sole nominee from Malaysia.
“The winners were chosen based on innovativeness, dedication and effectiveness of the projects carried out,” he explained.
Evong said his association was given some monetary incentives, a certification and plenty of praises during the award presentation ceremony attended by community bodies from all over the world.