Sabah has surpassed 50% forest reserve target, says Hajiji

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah has surpassed the target under the 1989 Langkawi Declaration to maintain at least half its land mass as natural forests, with 53% designated permanent forest reserves or protected areas.

Chief Minister Datuk Seri Hajiji Noor noted how the country, especially Sabah, is home to a diverse biodiversity and an ecosystem of global importance, making conservation crucial.

"Even as nations were negotiating at the Earth Summit in 1992, Sabah was already charting its conservation road map.

"We had a head start drawing up recommendations and actions for implementation with strategies to promote, protect and sustainably manage natural resources, in line with the outcome of the Earth Summit and other conventions and treaties," he said at the 4th International Conference In Agroforestry (ICAF 2022) opening and welcoming dinner here on Tuesday (Nov 15).

Hajiji's speech was delivered by the state's Chief Conservator of Forests, Datuk Frederick Kugan.

Commenting on agroforestry, Hajiji said this type of agriculture incorporating tree planting can increase biodiversity as trees in such systems provide a habitat for many species.

This provides a buffer zone against deforestation and act as a "green corridor", allowing species to migrate across landscapes which is important for their survival, he said.

"Agroforestry as a land use system can contribute to achieving at least nine out of the 17 sustainable development goals (SDG).

"I am referring to zero hunger, no poverty, good health and well-being, gender equality, clean water and sanitation, affordable and clean energy, responsible consumption and production, climate action and life on land," he said.

Hajiji said this is especially relevant following post Covid-19 impact in terms of addressing Malaysia's food security.

"If done right, agroforestry can lead to less reliance on one crop while improving soil fertility, which are important aspects for increasing food security.

"This approach can contribute to higher yields and a more diverse livelihood, which means a multitude of ways to make ends meet for smallholder farmers living in poverty," he explained.

Hajiji, however, noted that implementing agroforestry is not without challenges, stating that there is a need for education initiatives, research and knowledge on new technologies that can increase productivity in an environmentally-friendly manner.

This can be achieved by key stakeholders sharing lessons learnt from agroforestry projects and practices and showing how the approach can be feasibly scaled up, he added.

"In this respect, I hope ICAF 2022 participants will make full use of this conference themed 'Agroforestry for Sustainable and Resilient Communities' not only to share research findings, but enhance the research network locally and abroad for making agroforestry in the region successful and sustainable.

"Much knowledge and ideas on agroforestry will be shared here by experts in the field, and I believe the discussions and recommendations would be important for all of us to take note," he said.

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