Three delegations from the Baram Conservation Initiative returned from their study tours on Sunday with aspirations for community-based conservation for the Baram region.
On their study tour to Sabah and Kalimantan, community members from Baram learnt about community-driven sustainable development. The main objective of the study tour was for Baram representatives to learn about the various sustainable livelihood programmes around the island Borneo. Delegates talked with the various communities, NGOs and government agencies to further their understanding of community-based projects. The sites visited clearly demonstrate that communities greatly depend on the health of their forests, and that community-centred development can also protect the environment.
The delegation to the Batu Puteh Community Ecotourism Co-operative (KOPEL), Kinabatangan Sabah saw how community-based tourism can be a viable livelihood alternative when communities collaborate with government agencies. Sia Ngedau, who visited KOPEL opined, “I feel that ecotourism is very suitable for the proposed Taman Damai Baram because it is an economic activity that preserves the forest. Tourists want to see our forest and wildlife. Also, ecotourism provides job opportunities for the youth, so they don’t have to go far away to look for work.”
At the Crocker Range Biosphere Reserve, delegates learnt that successful conservation actively involves communities in planning and management. Sabah-based NGOs such as PACOS Trust and TONIBUNG attributed the success of their programmes to the active participation of the communities their programs. Dominic Usek, a Kenyah from Lepo’ Gah Tanjung Tepalit, was impressed with the stingless bee honey project at the Kivatu Nature Farm setup by the PACOS Trust: “I believe this is a good example of communities living in harmony with nature. The homestay programs at that we saw at Kampung Kiau Nuluh were also successful in providing additional income to the villagers. This I think we can also try in Sarawak.”
One delegation visited Klinik Alam Sehat Lestari (ASRI), Kalimantan-based NGO that furthers ecological protection through providing human health and livelihood programs. Their programs include reforestation, health and environmental education, entrepreneurial assistance, and organic gardening. Commenting on their composting program, Caroline Nyurang, Youth Program Director of Save River says, “these study tours are very effective learning opportunities and I hope we can have more of these. The programs in Kalimantan are also very applicable for us in Baram. For example, the composting program would help increase our agriculture product. The one area we are lacking now in Baram, however, is marketing and downstream product development.”
The study tours were organized by Save Rivers and Keruan as part of the Baram Conservation Initiative, a community driven effort that intends to protect the rainforest, establish sustainable livelihood systems, and prevent the expansion of large scale commercial agriculture and extractive industries in the region.