By Peter Sibon
KUCHING, Dec 16: After six years of hard work, the local people in the Upper Baram Forest Area, also known as the Baram Peace Park are now seeing a reality after the region has been endorsed by the International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO).
SAVE Rivers chairman Peter Kallang said, the endorsement by ITTO will ensure that the logging activity in the area will be more sustainable.
“The communities welcome the Sarawak Forest Department’s initiative and the ITTO’s endorsement. The official endorsement of the Baram Peace Park/Upper Baram Forest Area by ITTO plus full participation of the indigenous and local communities will ensure there is sustainable forest management in the area.
“It will also ensure that the forest is properly managed to support the livelihood of the local community,” Peter told DayakDaily today.
He added that the dual goals of forest conservation and sustainable development for the area were developed by the Sarawak Forest Department in collaboration with local communities and civil society organizations.
“During their 56th session in November, the International Tropical Timber Council officially approved the proposal that was formally submitted by the Malaysian government.
“This is an important signal to the communities who have been waiting for the project to move forward. It shows that the government and the international community are taking the communities’ concerns and interests seriously,” he said.
Peter stressed that the Baram communities were keen to see what the protected zones will entail and welcome their new role as key decision-makers in this plan.
“They expect full transparency and the respect for free, prior and informed consent,” he said.
Peter added that several communities in the Upper Baram Area developed the idea of an Indigenous-led rainforest park in 2009.
“They expressed their will to protect their forests and their intention to work towards uniting environmental and cultural conservation with sustainable livelihoods in the Upper Baram Area. The area of concern holds some of the last intact forests of Sarawak and is of critical importance for Sarawak’s biodiversity, but also for the local communities’ cultural survival,” he said.
Peter asserted that the initiative had received support from local and international civil societies such as KERUAN, SAVE Rivers, Bruno Manser Fund, and The Borneo Project before it was taken up by the Sarawak government under the former Chief Minister the later Pehin Sri Adenan Satem in 2015.
Meanwhile, the Penan organization KERUAN chief executive officer Komeok Joe expressed the communities’ gratitude and concerns as the area is still being logged by one of the Big 6.
“Now, the International Tropical Timber Council is looking for donor countries within the ITTO to secure the financing of the project, which is officially called “Management of Upper Baram Forest Area for Conservation and Sustainable Development with Involvement of Local Communities, Upper Baram, Sarawak, Malaysia (Malaysia),” he said, adding that ITTO would raise $814,128.00 (RM 3.3 mil) to finance the project.
The Baram Peace Park is the second community-initiated project in Sarawak to promote conservation and sustainable development on such a scale, the first being the Pulong Tau National Park proposed by Kelabit communities of the Northern Highland in the early 1990s. -Dayakdaily