Sustainable forest management in East Malaysia
About a week ago, Charles Victor Barber wrote ’25 Years of So-Called “Sustainable Forest Management (SFM)” in Sarawak’ on the World Resources Institute’s website.
Barber, the director of Forest Legality Alliance and Government Relations, Forests Program said although International Tropical Timber Organisation (ITTO) had spent more than USD14 million on SFM in Sarawak between 1992 and 2014, the result was still “disastrous” for indigenous peoples and biodiversity in the state.
Barber cited never-before-released maps of logging concessions published by Global Forest Watch which reveal that timber license concessions cover 6,542,852 hectares (more than 16 million acres), over half (53 per cent) of Sarawak’s total land area and demonstrate that Malaysia had one of the highest rates of degradation of Intact Forest Landscapes in the world in both absolute terms (area) and relative terms (percentage).
He added, “While the new chief minister of Sarawak, who took office in 2014, has promised to institute reforms, it is too little, too late: Sarawak is running out of forests.
“Other countries that still possess tropical forests can hopefully learn from the sad story of Sarawak and choose a different path that conserves biodiversity, recognises indigenous rights, and rejects corruption and cronyism.”
Barber said that our tropical forests were not a renewable resource and they could not restored or rehabilitated within any time frame meaningful to human beings following logging, particularly of the intensive type seen in Sarawak.
Whether the Sarawak government has succeeded in sustainably managing our forest, is a never-ending debate, but efforts in trying to save whatever we are left with (big or small depending on who is talking) are of course still ongoing.
One of the efforts includes a project called ‘Sustainable Forest Management in East Malaysia: Kubaan-Puak Forest Management Unit in Sarawak and Forest Management Unit (FMU) 5 in Sabah.
The project’s main goal is to develop a model for sustainable forest management in a tropical forest landscape which is environmentally friendly, economically successful and socially appropriate.
This pilot project carried out since early 2015 spans about 360,000 hectares covering multiple forest management units between Mulu and Pulong Tai National Parks in Sarawak and FMU 5 in the Trus Madi Forest Reserve in Sabah.
On Nov 16, almost a year from when it first started, a two-day workshop discussed the results of desktop analyses and preliminary field assessments for the Kubaan-Puak Area in Sarawak and FMU 5 in Sabah, followed by a second day of workshops for pilot projects that could be implemented in the year 2016-2017.
“Today, this workshop aims to come up with ideas on identification and how to develop pilot project support to the actual implementation of community-based activities leading to SFM in this project site,” said Sapuan Ahmad, director of Sarawak Forest Department during the launching ceremony of the workshop at Grand Margherita Hotel.
He said in line with the government’s efforts of promoting SFM, the Forest Department of Sarawak acknowledges that as much as the Permanent Forest Estates such as the Forest Management Units (FMUs) are important for economic activities such as logging, the forest are also equally important for the forest dependent communities.
“At the same time, the Forest Department of Sarawak would also want timber companies to strike a balance in their operations and to find amicable solutions when dealing with the community’s needs to co-share forest resources, minimise or prevent degradation of forest that will affect the provisions of ecosystem services such as clean water, food resources, medicinal plants and so on.”
Sapuan said that the department wanted to see how and where logging operations could or could be done, taking into consideration the needs of the local communities.
“This is why we promote SFM in Sarawak, hopefully this will lead to forest management certification. We want to be consistent with the principles of SFM which emphasise on the sustainability of environment, social and economic.”
Meanwhile Jason Hon, programme leader for Sarawak WWF said the workshop was going to be an intensive two-day deliberation of sharing and discussions, hoping that it would be beneficial for all stakeholders.
“We are trying to move forward in terms of our SFM so it is a marriage between many stakeholders.”
The SFM initiative in East Malaysia was conceived to help address a myriad of problems.
On a landscape perspective, it is important to form connectivity between protected areas in Sarawak and Sabah, and in Borneo as a whole.
Different land uses, such as logging concessions, plantations, hydropower dams, urban and community use areas, have resulted in fragmentation of the landscape, which in turn have restricted the movements of wildlife populations to protected areas.
For local communities, these different land uses pose external stress on their traditional forms of land use and dependency on natural resources.
The Sustainable Forest Management in East Malaysia project is supported by German Federal Ministry for Food and Agriculture and managed by WWF Germany and WWF Malaysia.
Their key partners are Forest Department Sarawak, Sarawak Forestry Corporation, Sabah Forest Department, FMU 5 Management, Kubaan-Puak FMUs, Non-Timber Forest Product (NTFP), Kyoto University, Curtin University and Community Information and Communications Centre (CICOM).