A Letter from our Executive Director

Dear Friends,

I’ve just returned back to California from Malaysian Borneo, where Fi and I (the two-person staff of The Borneo Project) spent several weeks helping our partners, SAVE Rivers, prepare for a long-awaited trial against timber giant Samling. A few days before the trial was scheduled to start, we learned that it was postponed – for the FOURTH time. 

Samling filed a ‘defamation’ suit against SAVE Rivers, in July, 2021. This is an obvious attempt to intimidate SAVE Rivers and prevent them from supporting community-led efforts to fight logging on Indigenous territories. We’ve now been dealing with these legal issues for two years, and the waiting is taking a toll. As a rare voice for human rights in Sarawak, SAVE Rivers has not and will not stop supporting communities, but the lawsuit is draining finances, energy, and time. 

We’re eager to face Samling in court, but the Miri High Court keeps pushing back the trial dates. The trial has now been postponed until September, 2023. In the meantime we’re continuing to support communities at the frontline of innovation in climate justice and forest protection.  

After years of waiting for a trial to happen, it can be difficult to recognize day to day progress. A lot of the time the work just looks like offices and meetings and lunch breaks and emails. But then I take a step back and look at everything that we have accomplished in the past few years, and I feel grateful and proud to be part of this impactful movement. When I slow down to take account, the progress is clear: 

  • Local Indigenous-led organizations have grown immensely. Since I began my role at The Borneo Project our partners on the ground, SAVE Rivers, have grown from being 1-full time volunteer and many part-time volunteers to 4 full-time employees plus many volunteers. They are participating in critical global discussions – in Egypt, Kenya, the Netherlands and beyond – and they’re kinda famous in Sarawak these days (or perhaps infamous would be a better description, if you’re a timber company). We’re thrilled to have a role in their development. 
  • The movement for Indigenous rights and environmental justice is growing in Sarawak, and people are paying attention. Our relationships are expanding, whether with communities on the ground, government offices or international allies. There is a stronger understanding of the importance of this moment – of forest stewardship and the fight against climate change – in Sarawak and Malaysia. 
  • The Baram Peace Park, also known as the Upper Baram Forest Area, is officially moving forward! With 32 communities and the involvement of several state offices, this project will empower communities through regenerative projects and significantly reduce deforestation in the area. 

While we’re sure to encounter plenty more bumps in the future (and maybe another delay or two with the trial), we are powerful together. It is only because of our committed network of donors that we can weather these storms. Please continue to support this work by donating to The Borneo Project today. 

The big picture can also look very daunting at times, but remembering the progress we’ve made and continue to make brings great hope, and hope leads to action. Thank you for being part of this movement. It is with immense privilege that we get to do this work, and it can only happen because of our supporters like you.  

In solidarity,

Jettie Word

Executive Director, The Borneo Project