Penans in Kubaan-Puak FMU want sustainable practices
MIRI: Penans living deep in Kubaan-Puak forest management unit in Upper Baram are curious about the “new way of timber harvesting” which has gotten the state government, industry players and conservationists all abuzz.
The forest dwellers have heard something about it in the recent years and again from officials from Sarawak Forestry Corporation and WWF-Malaysia recently.
One of the approaches of the new way that they are referring to is High Conservation Value Forests (HCVFs) assessment.
The other is natural forest certification which Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Adenan Satem has announced in August in which timber companies in Sarawak has to comply to remain relevant in the future.
This is because forest certification which ensures sustainability of the natural resources and environment is becoming a demand in the global scene.
Formerly nomadic, the Penans in Kubaan-Puak forest management unit (FMU) have learned to settle like other indigenous groups just this past decade.
Kubaan-Puak forest management unit is their home, playground and kitchen and therefore, the community is concerned with its well-being.
“We want to be included in dialogues on how logging activities would be carried out in Kubaan-Puak which is our home and livelihood,” said 39-year old Penan community leader, Asai Berat from Long Siang.
“Changes in forests will have impacts on us because the most important value in our lives is found in the forests. The forest provides our needs. Life in rural areas are not based on money but our surrounding – the forests.”
The Penan communities are also excited with the prospect that forest certification will be implemented in Sarawak.
They told this to a high-level German delegation who were in the state for a four-day working visit recently in August. Four out of seven Penan settlements in Kubaan-Puak FMU attended the dialogue session with the Germans, SFC and WWF in Mulu.
The eight-member German delegation led by Member of Parliament Cajus Caesar was on a follow-up trip with Malaysian authorities on the implementation of sustainable forestry and conservation of biodiversity and wildlife.
Kubaan-Puak is a key landscape connecting Mulu, Pulong Tau and Gunung Buda national parks. These areas form an integral part of the Heart of Borneo Corridor Initiative that seeks to restore landscape connectivity from Brunei to Sabah and Indonesia through Sarawak to conserve biodiversity and protect ecosystems of Borneo.
During the dialogue session with the Germans and representatives from WWF-Germany and Malaysia and SFC held in Mulu, Miri Division, Asai said if their surrounding forests were healthy, they could easily source for food.
“Rivers are like our blood and they are important. If rivers are clean, we can drink the water but if rivers are polluted, we’ll be in trouble. Rivers are just like our blood, if our blood is dirty, we will fall sick,” he explained.
Selapan Malin, 43, a village elder from Ba’ Selulung said they realised that change and development were imminent in the rural landscape.
“We are concerned with the destruction to forests but we noticed that in the recent years, the way of timber being harvested has improved and less damaging than before.”
He said timber industry has two sides – the good and bad.
“One of the benefits is logging tracks which allow us to send the sick to the nearest hospital with the help from logging companies,” he said.
Caesar said the delegation could assist the Penans to improve their livelihood through agriculture and eco-tourism activities if they are keen to be involved in these fields.
He said the Germans through its Ministry of Food and Agriculture, German Forestry Council and WWF are always on the community’s side and would help support their needs such as capacity building in environmental conservation, agriculture and eco-tourism activities.
Caesar said the delegation commended Sarawak government’s conservation efforts authorities, adding that the German government is keen to do its part for the environment in this part of the state as well.
German Forestry Council president George Schirmbeck thanked state authorities and WWF for working in the area and with the Penan community in creating a balance between development and conservation.
Kubaan-Puak FMU is located 17km away from the eastern boundary of Mulu National Park, Miri Division. It covers an area of 32,023ha. It is a timber licensed area forming part of the 6 million hectare network of Permanent Forest Estates (PFE) of Sarawak.
Although only comprising a mere 0.53% of the PFE network, Kubaan-Puak is the first FMU to undertake the High Conservation Value Forest (HCVF) assessment using the WWF-Malaysia Toolkit for HCVF Assessment.
The assessment indicates that all six HCV attributes – biodiversity values, landscape-level forest, ecosystems, services of nature, basic needs of communities and cultural identity of local communities – found in the area, suggests the FMU is of high bio-diversity and ecosystem value.