MIRI: Malaysia has achieved much success in improving the livelihood of the rural poor and in promoting sustainable use of forest resources, said a UN Development Programme (UNDP) representative here.
However, said Richard Leete, much more needs to be done to uplift the standard of life of the rural people in the country.
“We have visited the rural areas and we have seen many children in the villages who have been left far behind compared to the urban kids.
“Children in Kuala Lumpur play with computer games. Kids in rural Sarawak have no such privileges. Such is the huge digital divide,” said Leete, the UNDP representative for Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei.
He was here for the closing ceremony of a national workshop on sustainable forest projects on Friday.
Plantation Industries and Commodities Minister Datuk Peter Chin Fah Kui closed the event, which was attended by some 100 people from 20 native communities nationwide.
Leete said that while Malaysia’s successful development was a model for the developing world, there were still 1.2 million people in the country living below the national poverty line.
The poverty rate in Sarawak is still relatively high at 7.5%, he said, adding that many homes were still without electricity and treated water supply.
Leete said under projects funded by the UNDP and the European Commission, the executive body of the European Union, pockets of rural communities in various parts of Malaysia had been transformed.
“In Sabah, a Dusun community is replanting trees native to their forests and selling surplus seedlings to other communities and to the Sabah Forestry Department.
“In Sarawak, the Penans of Long Belok are creating small gardens to ensure sustainable food security.”
EC ambassador to Malaysia Thierry Rommel hoped the RM4.5mil fund it had given for 20 projects in Malaysia would help the local people in the long run.
He, however, said the EC was concerned about the problems relating to unsolved native customary rights disputes in Sarawak.
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