KUCHING: A symposium to showcase best practices on community livelihood and sustainable development by highlanders from Sarawak and Sabah was held at Hilton Hotel yesterday.
Organised by the Alliance of the Indigenous Peoples in the Highlands of Borneo (Formadat), the half-day symposium was also held to commemorate the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Equator Prize Award 2015 which was awarded in Paris on Dec 7 last year.
Formadat received the prestigious award under the Eco Agriculture and Food Security category for their outstanding works in empowering the livelihood of their community.
“It is not an easy task for leaders in the highlands to come together to share the same voice and adopt a common vision to maintain and strengthen the cultural traditions and languages of our people in our ancestral lands,” said Formadat Malaysia national chief Penghulu George Sigar Sultan during the opening ceremony.
He also revealed that Formadat was mooted in 2013 and officially formed in 2004 by former Ba Kelalan assemblyman, the late Dr Judson Sakai Tagal.
Formadat, he further mentioned, is a trans-border community forum established by the main ethnic groups in the highlands of Borneo comprising the sub-districts of Bario, Ba Kelalan and Long Semadoh in Sarawak; Long Pa’ Sia’ in Sabah and; Krayan Selatan and Krayan in North Kalimantan.
Among the main roles of Formadat, he added, is to encourage sustainable economic activities such as organic agriculture and eco-tourism.
“We promote conservation and sustainable development of the highlands by preserving areas that includes water sources, forests and historical sites,” he pointed out.
On sustainable economic activities, more than 100 farmers in Ba Kelalan have applied for good agricultural practises for rice farming under the Malaysia Good Agricultural Practices (MyGAP).
The village of Long Rusu, Ba Kelalan, he revealed, is collaborating with an agriculture research centre in using the System of Rice Intensification (SRI) – a method to improve their yield of ‘adan’ rice which is considered by many people in Malaysia as the best rice.
“The sale of this rice is an important source of income for some families,” said George, adding that Formadat is also working with the Malaysian Global Innovation and Creative Centre (MaGIC) to train the highlanders on social entrepreneurship.
On conservation, he said seven villages in Long Semadoh have adopted 71 rivers and streams that feed into the rice fields. The community, he added, has put up signage at the headwaters of these rivers to inform the public, especially timber companies, of their importance and adoption.
“It is a way, a warning not to alter the landscape of these rivers. The idea behind the adoption of rivers and streams is two pronged, which is to ensure clean water for domestic use and for the rice fields as well as for the integrity and health of the forest,” he added.
Apart from environmental related activities, he said Formadat is also involved in festivals such as The Bario Food and Cultural Festival that aims to increase awareness of traditional food.
He added that this year, Formadat participated in the first Pineapple Festival in the highlands which was held on Aug 6.
“These are just some of the activities that members of Formadat are undertaking at different locations. All members of the community are involved in one way or another,” he elaborated.
He hoped that more communities from the highlands residing in the villages or living in the cities will be inspired to join forces with Formadat towards a better tomorrow.
On another note, he said Formadat was thankful for the support and advice from the Sarawak Forest Department, WWF-Malaysia and WWF Indonesia who had been supportive of their cause.
“This consistent support has been and will probably remain an essential contributor to our success,” he added.
~ Borneo Post