Sabah-EU REDD+ project restores forests and raises community livelihood

SANDAKAN: An eight-year European Union-funded project to restore forests and improve community livelihood has successfully met its targets, particularly in promoting sustainable and low-carbon development in Sabah.

The Sabah-EU REDD+ Project that began on Dec 5, 2013 also raised communities' living standards while restoring and rehabilitating degraded forests in the state, said Sabah Forests chief conservator Datuk Frederick Kugan.

(REDD+ is an international framework that stands for "Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation, conservation of existing forest carbon stocks, sustainable forest management and enhancement of forest carbon stocks.)

The project is set to end on Nov 30.

REDD+ is part of the EU's programme titled “Tackling Climate Change through Sustainable Forest Management and Community Development”.

During the eight-year term, the project team worked with communities in three areas: four villages in Kinabatangan River Corridor, 10 villages in Kg Gana in Kota Marudu, and seven villages within the Kinabalu Ecolinc Zone.

These were communities living adjacent to forest reserves in the three REDD+ demonstration sites.

"The project has aided in the development of sustainable alternative livelihood activities for the communities, such as sustainable farming, improvisation in their existing small-medium enterprises, providing machinery for land cultivation, agro-tourism and others," Kugan said in a statement on Monday (Oct 18).

In Kinabatangan, for example, he said the project team built four swiftlet houses in each of the four villages as part of the project's sustainable livelihood development programme.

In Kg Gana, it helped establish community cooperatives and carried out forest restoration activities.

In the Kinabalu Ecolinc Zone, the team helped train the communities on homestay management and marketing procedures to aid their agro-tourism industry.

More than 1,350ha of degraded forest area had been restored and rehabilitated with hundreds of thousands of trees planted, Kugan added.

Kugan said the successful demonstration in the three sites had strengthened the communities' engagement in forest protection and sustainable forest management, paving the way for Sabah to fully implement REDD+ activities.

He also hoped that this success would attract additional funding, allowing the Sabah Forestry Department and the REDD+ Team to replicate their success on a larger scale.

He said since September this year, as part of the project's wrap-up at community level, the team had gone on a tour and held workshops at all the sites.

During the workshops, the community representatives shared their experiences and perspectives throughout the project's implementation period, including lessons learned about sustainable livelihood.

In terms of economic activities, participants reported that their income had increased and diversified as a result of improved tools and knowledge as well as exposure to new markets.

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