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KUCHING, Nov 20: World Wide Fund for Nature Malaysia (WWF-Malaysia) has signed a Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) with two grassroots organizations to help improve community well-being and the environment in Sarawak’s northern region.
The grassroots organizations are Forum Masyarakat Adat Dataran Tinggi Borneo (FORMADAT) and People’s Association for Development and Education of Penan Sarawak (PADE).
For a number of years, WWF-Malaysia in Sarawak has been working with rural communities on projects that fulfill the two-pronged aim of bringing benefits to people while ensuring conservation of nature.
The MoA was signed by FORMADAT Malaysia deputy national chief John Trawe Kuda, PADE chairman Ezra Uda and WWF-Malaysia chief executive officer Sophia Lim last month to seal the three-year collaboration with effect Oct 31, 2020.
FORMADAT which represents local communities in the Kelabit-Maligan Highlands was formed by and for the community clusters of Sarawak’s highlands.
PADE aims to empower and bring benefits to the Penan people of the state who live in the forest area known as Kuba’an-Puak in Ulu Baram.
The project called “Sustainable Forest Management and Income Generation from Natural Resources for Indigenous Communities in the Heart of Borneo (HoB)” is funded by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development through an advisory body called Beratungsstelle für private Träger (BENGO).
Local communities in the remotest parts of Sarawak often face challenges that urban communities take for granted, from inadequate sanitation infrastructure to conveniences such as electricity and even means of consistent livelihood. In addition to these challenges, their livelihoods and well-being often depend on natural resources that are fast disappearing or are already degraded.
In consultation with participating communities from the Kelabit-Maligan highlands and Kuba’an-Puak, the project encompasses activities that include: sustainable farming for subsistence, exploring additional livelihoods, riverbank restoration, sustainable rice production, building green infrastructure for sanitation, solar energy and localised micro-hydro systems and more.
WWF-Malaysia CEO Sophia Lim said the partnership with FORMADAT and PADE leads to strengthening engagement on the ground and transparency with the communities. The joint efforts will work toward ensuring the sustainability of our natural resources for the present and future generations.
“We look forward to building a synergy and ongoing partnership with FORMADAT and PADE that will last for a long time to bring benefits to people’s livelihood while driving better protection and conservation of our natural resources and heritage,” she added.
FORMADAT Malaysia deputy national chief John Trawe Kuda said the smart partnership between WWF and the alliance started over 20 years ago, initially working with WWF-Indonesia on community empowerment, and then with WWF-Malaysia, about 10 years ago.
“The partnership was apt as both organizations work in preservation and conservation of traditional cultures and ecosystems. FORMADAT and WWF-Malaysia formalized their collaboration with a Memorandum of Understanding in 2014 and with this renewed collaboration, there would be more success in bringing awareness and implementing sustainable practices such as organic farming and riverbank protection in the Kelabit-Maligan highlands,” he added.
PADE chairman Ezra Uda said the association is honoured to sign its first MoA since it was set up nine years ago.
“PADE chose to work with WWF-Malaysia as the later has a clear goal in ensuring sustainable development is carried out while working with communities.
“In 2018, WWF-Malaysia approached PADE to collaborate with a conservation and community empowerment project involving seven villages in Kuba’an-Puak. We took this opportunity to work with WWF because it is in line with PADE’s commitment in developing the Penan community,” he said.
Ezra added that WWF-Malaysia has a good track record in working with indigenous communities in the country, and the organization is concerned about the Penan’s well-being.
One of the MoA scopes covers sustainable rice farming in Ba’ Kelalan highlands. Photo © Mckenzie Augustine / WWF-Malaysia