Sarawak Energy partners Forestry Dept to assist Murum, Batang Ai folk

Sharbini (second from right) and Hamden exchange the MoU documents, witnessed by Abang Johari (fourth from left).

KUCHING, July 11: Sarawak Energy Berhad (SEB) inked a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Sarawak Forestry Department (SFD) today to expand sustainable livelihood opportunities for the communities in Murum and Batang Ai.

The partnership will focus on replenishing non-timber forest products (NTFP) to sustain the community’s livelihood at Murum Resettlement Area as well as the setting up of a Tagang System at Rumang Manggat in Ulu Menyang, Batang Ai.

Both communities are in the vicinity of the SEB’s Murum and Batang Ai hydroelectric plants respectively.

The signatories were SEB Group chief executive officer Sharbini Suhaili, SEB executive vice-president (corporate services) Aisah Eden, SFD director Hamden Mohammad and SFD deputy director (planning and operation) Jack Liam.

Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg witnessed the signing ceremony at his office in the State Legislative Assembly (DUN) complex here.

In a statement, SEB said for the Murum resettlement, the areas of cooperation outlined the steps to initiate, facilitate and encourage joint participation from the community in sustaining NTFP species like the rattan, commonly harvested by the Penan community in Murum for their indigenous handicraft production, and the gaharu (agarwood), which is either sold raw or bartered.

This, it explained, would be carried out through an enrichment planting initiative of NTFP species to ensure there is continuous supply of these resources for the community.

The enrichment planting initiative will also help create awareness and instil a sense of ownership among the community with regards to the conservation of this forest resource through responsible harvesting.

“SEB has all the while supported the handicraft programme by helping Murum Penan artisans enhance the commercial viability of their handicrafts, expanding their market and providing a more sustainable form of economy for the Murum Penan community.

“Following this, the number of artisans from the resettled community increased from about 30 in 2014 to about 170 today,” said SEB.

As for Batang Ai, Rumah Manggat villagers stand to benefit from communal method of fisheries management through the setting up of a Tagang System. This would help replenish riverine stocks to provide better care of the river ecosystem, given that Ulu Menyang are neighbours to the Batang Ai National Park and the state’s largest wildlife sanctuary, Lanjak Entimau.

To be carried out in collaboration with the Sarawak Department of Agriculture, this Tagang System also presents the community a sustainable livelihood opportunity that can leverage on ecotourism, said the statement.

SEB said Rumah Manggat was one of the earliest longhouses located upstream of Batang Ai to have 24-hour electricity supply via the Solar Home System under SEB’s corporate social responsibility initiative that connects these settlements located away from the main power grid with alternative renewables.

Both projects would see SEB contributing over RM300,000.

Commenting on the MoU, Sharbini said SEB aligned its corporate strategies towards achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals through collaboration and social innovations.

He said sustainability underpinned SEB’s business, operations and interactions with the community, and this included how SEB rolled out its CSR initiatives.

“Our work with both these communities continues till today, and we are pleased to reinforce our efforts through the new initiatives agreed upon through this partnership.

“Our aim is to help expand sustainable livelihood opportunities for both the Murum Penans and the villagers of Rumah Manggat so they are able to generate more income, which subsequently leads to an improved standard of living for the community and at the same time ensure biodiversity impacts arising from the project activities are managed responsibly,” said Sharbini.

Meanwhile, Aisah said this integrated partnership would not only address the needs of the communities but also the well-being of the environment as it looked into replenishing the forests and the riverine.

“Our commitment towards this also sees us contributing in terms of energy and resources such as our work in lighting up island turtle sanctuaries Pulau Talang-Talang Besar and Pulau Talang-Talang Kechil and Tanjung Datu National Park, where we provide green sources of energy free from carbon emissions via solar centralised systems to these protected areas,” she said. — DayakDaily