Rural Economic Development: This program aims to reduce poverty by helping communities improve self-reliance and generate local income. Integrating traditional skills with modern business practices, the program assists local artisans in developing business plans and cooperative enterprises and works to expand international markets for fair-trade indigenous arts. With a focus on women’s participation, the project provides seed grants and training for microenterprises such as fish ponds, rice banks, rattan farms, organic community gardens and livestock rearing. The project has also supported cross-cultural Reality Tour exchanges for international travelers.
Green Energy: The Borneo Project assists in development of renewable, non-polluting, locally controlled micro-hydro power systems to provide electricity that sustains local community development. In 2002, installation of a micro-hydro system in Long Lawen provided that village with a cost-effective, clean, and reliable electricity system maintained by the community. The 10-kilowatt system is self-financing and eliminates the need for 1,000 gallons of diesel fuel per year. It can be used to power schools, cottage industries, and refrigeration for improved food security. With Borneo partners, the Green Energy program aims to develop micro-hydro systems in diverse communities and train community members in systems installation, operation, and maintenance. Communities create rainforest protected areas in the headwaters of watersheds that supply water for the microhydro systems.
Rumah Nor: In their own words, one Iban Dayak community tells the story of their ten year struggle to protect traditional farms, orchards and primary forest reserves from industrial pulp plantations authorized by the Sarawak State government without due process of law or compensation.This 27-minute film was a collaborative effort by The Borneo Project and the community of Rumah Nor, Sebauh, Sekabai, Bintulu, Sarawak, Malaysia over several months in 2006 and 2007.
Borneo Voices: Borneo Voices works to publicize and build support for indigenous rights, rainforest protection, and community-controlled development in Borneo. It mobilizes resources in the U.S. and educates international audiences through speaking tours, information exchange, media outreach, volunteer coordination, research and reporting. Borneo Voices provides ongoing leadership to the network of international organizations, development professionals, public interest groups, and citizens working specifically on Borneo issues and bolsters alliances among these groups. Borneo Voices publicizes the negative impacts of the tropical timber trade and keeps Borneo’s indigenous organizations informed of global trends that impact their communities and forests.
As the rainforest is destroyed and indigenous communities are forced to find livelihoods outside of the forest, many communities are losing their rich cultural heritage. Government schools encourage students to assimilate into mainstream culture, and actively discourage the use of traditional language and cultural practices. Indigenous languages, stories, art, and dance are being lost as elders pass away. The Borneo Project’s Indigenous Education program fosters culturally appropriate schools and books to indigenous Penan communities across Borneo.
Since 2008, The Borneo Project has channeled financial and volunteer support to three Penan community preschools in Long Latei, Long Belok and Ba Abang, in eastern Sarawak. These communities have been active in territory demarcation, reforestation, logging-road blockades, and lawsuits to establish rights to ancestral lands. At these innovative schools, Penan children learn to read, write, and prepare for school using indigenous language books and materials. Parents and elders learn to read in afternoon classes. Teachers, who come from the village, receive continual training and support. Field coordinators visit the villages every seven weeks to bring the teachers’ salaries, food, art supplies, and teaching materials. These schools are managed and maintained by PACOS Trust, a community-based organization dedicating to supporting indigenous communities.
Our Indigenous Language book project, launched in 2011, focuses on publishing Penan language books and handing them out for free—one book per family— in Penan villages. We use art by indigenous Penan artists, and where that is not available, we work with the Beehive Collective in Machias, Maine, who provide beautiful sketches of tropical wildlife. We have currently published two titles, Frog Myths and The Story of the Flying Dragon and Turtle.