By Karen Bong
KUCHING, Nov 22: Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg wants more government agencies, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and the private sector to continue working together through ‘smart partnership’ in developing, promoting and marketing non-timber forest products (NTFP).
Sarawak’s forests, he pointed out, were rich in resources or materials that could be used to produce handicrafts, medicine, cosmetic products, food and others.
“NTFP can be found in different types of forest, ranging from mangrove, peat swamp, alluvial forest to mountain forest. The species of plants found in the forest are unique and beneficial to the communities living in the surrounding areas,” he said at the opening of the 3rd Non-Timber Forest Products (NTFP) Carnival 2018 at Kuching Waterfront here today.
His text-of-speech was read out by Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Amar Awang Tengah Ali Hasan.
The carnival aims to provide exposure to the rural community about the existing market for products produced as well as a platform to market their goods and get connected to potential buyers.
For example, he shared that the Malay and Melanau community living in the coastal areas could obtain palm (nipah) leaves and sugar from palm trees (apong), sago flour, ‘mulong’ and ‘ketiau’ oil produced from nyatoh trees.
Herbs and spices as well as handicrafts, he added, had the potential to be expanded to the global market by fully utilising the wealth of biodiversity resources of the state.
“Non-timber forest products can be a source of income, especially for the rural community. This sector can be expanded with good road connectivity and infrastructure so that the rural community, especially the Bumiputeras, can produce and market these products,” he said.
In line with this year’s carnival themed ‘Building Partnership to Promote NTFP’, Abang Johari pointed out that the development of the NTFP sector could be intensified through the smart partnership concept, meaning collaboration between governmental and non-governmental agencies as well as the private sector.
“This carnival can become an important platform to promote NTFP, widened collaboration network and enhance awareness among the local community, especially in urban areas, about the rich non-timber forest resources and products,” he said.
There were a few factors contributing to the success of NTFP, he emphasised, notably the sustainability of NTFP resources, promotion, marketing as well as research and development.
“In addition, a comprehensive approach and the support of government and stakeholders must be in place as it is important to ensure the success of the industry or NTFP-based enterprises.
“Various parties can assist the community in various forms such as capacity building through training, restoration of areas such as replanting rattan, karas trees and so on as well as assist in promoting and marketing non-timber products,” he added.
Among the smart partnership established and ongoing, he shared, included ‘Gaharu Agronomy in Ulu Menyang’ project between Forest Department, WWF-Malaysia, the private sector and local community and also a joint collaboration between Forest Department and Sarawak Energy Berhad to develop NTFP in the Murum hydroelectric resettlement area.
“Such initiatives were carried out due to the importance of conservation of forest resources for the sustainability of sources for NTFP. This in turn also helps generate income and improve the quality of life of the community involved,” he pointed out.
To ensure the sustainability of forest resources, he reiterated that the state government remained committed to protecting forest resources for the present generation as well as future ones by gazetting forests as permanent forest estates and totally protected areas.
“The government targets to establish one million hectares of totally protected areas by 2020. To date, 803,042.40 hectares of land have been gazetted as totally protected areas.
“The state government is also committed to implementing the Heart of Borneo initiative in an area spanning 2.7 million hectares, with the focus on sustainable development and conservation of forest resources,” he added.
Moreover, Abang Johari reiterated that the government would continue to step up efforts to eradicate illegal activities that could impact forest resources, such as illegal logging.
“The government will not issue any more new forest licence, except in areas to be developed, including for the development of NCR (Native Customary Rights) land. With the collaboration from all, I believe we can protect and ensure the sustainability of our natural resources,” he said.
Assistant Minister of Entrepreneur and Small, Medium Enterprise (SME) Development Datuk Mohd Naroden Majais, Assistant Minister of Urban Planning, Land Administration and Environment Datu Len Talif Salleh, Sarawak Forestry Department director Hamden Mohammad as well as various heads of departments and agencies were present. — DayakDaily