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A tripartite agreement was signed by APFNet, the International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO) and Forest Department of Sarawak (FDS) on March 23rd, 2015 in Miri, the second largest city in Sarawak, Malaysia, to launch the project: “Community-Based Sustainable Forest Management of Sungai Medihit Watershed, Sarawak”. Mr. Datuk Amar Awang Tengah Ali Hassan, the second Minister of Resource Planning and Environment in Sarawak, witnessed the ceremony.

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Project agreement signed by Mr. Emmanuel Ze Meka, ITTO (left), Mr. Tuan Haji Sapuan Ahmad, FDS (middle) and Mr. Qu Guilin, APFNet (right) 

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Participants of the ceremony gather to officially launch the project

This 2-year project was developed based on the findings of pre-project fieldwork and a feasibility study conducted by ITTO in 2008 and APFNet in 2013, which included biophysical and socio-economic studies of the Sungai Medihit Watershed. The remote watershed is home to the Kelabit and Penan indigenous groups, which are isolated from major public services with the exception of a primary school and clinic, and must travel at least two days to reach the closest village of Limbang for other services.

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Approximate project location (source: Google Maps)

The communities rely on subsistence farming (shifting cultivation) and forest resources for their livelihoods. However, since 1988 logging in the catchment area has severely affected the sustainability and availability of forest resources. As such, the indigenous community remains impoverished and live below the state poverty line.

In order to address the above issues, this project consists of two major components: (1) development of a watershed co-management plan using baseline surveys, forest resources mapping, sustainable forest management (SFM) demonstration, and provision of data to DFS feeding into participatory management while balancing the interests of different stakeholders; and (2) piloting of fish farming, vegetation cropping, eco-tourism, livestock raising and infrastructure improvement to generate income for communities.

The project aims to promote SFM in the area, enhance community capacity, demonstrate innovative operational models as well as establish and operate new governance mechanisms for local sustainable development.

This project is valued at USD 666,710, of which APFNet will contribute USD 460,000. It will be executed by FDS and supervised by ITTO on technical components. It builds on the cooperation framework under the memorandum of understanding (MoU) established between APFNet and ITTO, and will be an important milestone in advancing APFNet’s support of SFM development in Malaysia.