The Sabah Biodiversity Centre (SaBC) in Sabah, Malaysia, is in the process of finalizing Access and Benefit Sharing (ABS) Regulations to augment the Sabah Biodiversity Enactment 2000. As per its mandate, SaBC is exploring ways to implement the forthcoming ABS Regulations in the context of genetic resources and traditional knowledge owned by indigenous and local communities in ways that also support local governance of biodiversity and the customary sustainable uses of natural resources.

This proposal is to support Sabah, and Malaysia more generally, to develop a framework for ABS using an integrated and community-based approach. By focusing on the development and use of community protocols, it also goes beyond ABS to explore more generally how community-government relations can be improved towards greater biodiversity conservation and local livelihood generation.

The Sabah Biocultural Law Project (SBLP):-
• aims to raise awareness and build capacity among Dusun communities living around Mount Kinabalu focusing on Kampung Melangkap about ABS, customary sustainable uses of biodiversity, and the protection of traditional knowledge and
• aims to use the community protocols as a tool for improving dialogue with other stakeholders.

Indigenous peoples and many local communities in Sabah are the stewards of a great diversity of traditional knowledge and genetic resources. Strong customary resource management systems contribute to the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity and broader ecosystem resilience. As lands, resources, and knowledge are increasingly sought after as lucrative commodities, communities are engaging with external actors such as government officials, researchers, and companies. However, these interactions are often characterized by severe imbalances in power, information, and capacity to protect rights and interests. Communities are often forced to respond defensively when their livelihoods or decision-making procedures are already undermined, which can create conflicts and escalate resource degradation. Strengthening proactive and collaborative relationships between communities and the public and private sectors is thus an essential part of development and conservation in Sabah, particularly on the road towards a green economy. This project aims to enable communities to better articulate their ways of life and local plans to government and the private sector as well as to support constructive multi-stakeholder dialogue and collaboration around key issues of mutual importance.

This proposal also responds directly to the 5th Operational Phase (OP5) objective to support Indigenous and Community Conserved Areas (ICCAs).

In the Sabahan context, this project would contribute to the implementation of key provisions of a number of laws and policies concerning communities and biodiversity. In particular, SaBC is in the process of finalizing ABS Regulations to augment the Sabah Biodiversity Enactment (2000). The ABS Regulations will, among other things, regulate commercial and non-commercial activities relating to the access of Sabah’s genetic resources and/or associated traditional knowledge and sharing of benefits arising from their use. The draft Sabah ABS Regulations contain reference to community protocols as a means by which communities can engage the government and the private sector on matters related to their genetic resources and traditional knowledge. In the context of finalizing the Sabah ABS Regulations, SaBC has requested the development of a project to assist in implementing ABS with communities. That project is also supported by Sabah Parks and responds to the Sabah Forestry Department’s preferred means of engaging with communities. The project will thus assist SaBC to better understand the local opportunities and challenges faced by communities when engaging with ABS in order to ensure that the new framework is implemented in a sustainable and socially and environmentally just way.

Overall, community protocols are increasingly seen as useful means by which communities can articulate their local realities and priorities in ways that external actors can understand.

The project’s two main objectives are to raise awareness and build capacity about customary sustainable uses of biodiversity, the protection of traditional knowledge, and related legal frameworks such as access and benefit sharing.

By the end of the project all the decision making bodies within the governance system of Kg. Melangkap will be aware of:
• community level procedures, community protocols, and other participatory methodologies and support their development and use in locally appropriate ways.
• guidelines relating to traditional knowledge, innovations and practices and the conservation and customary sustainable use of biodiversity, including access and benefit sharing.
• advances in law and policy relating to indigenous peoples’ and local communities’ traditional knowledge and customary sustainable uses of biodiversity.

By the end of month twenty four of the project, all the decision making bodies within the governance system of Kg. Melangkap will be able to:

• promote inter-generational and inter-community exchanges about these issues and deepen dialogue around locally appropriate ways to conserve biodiversity in situ, protect and promote customary sustainable uses of biodiversity and associated traditional knowledge, innovations and practices, and support sustainable livelihoods and food security.
• document and articulate community related customary laws, practices, and procedures;
• informed potential users of traditional knowledge associated with genetic resources about their obligations;
• Develop and consolidate of a community protocol or protocols.

The activities of the Project fall under two broad headings: awareness raising and capacity building.

To support capacity building and raise awareness about ABS and customary sustainable uses of biodiversity, the component will explore the following overarching themes:
• How does communities’ traditional knowledge support customary sustainable uses of biodiversity, and vice versa?
• How do communities share and develop their knowledge, innovations and practices?
• How can different legal and policy frameworks be used to support communities’ traditional knowledge and customary conservation practices?

Some of the outputs from the project include;
• Series of reports at identified intervals, documenting the project’s progress to date;
• Series of training modules, including on topics such as international legal frameworks, Sabah legal frameworks, and participatory methodologies;
• At least six community facilitators from Melangkap trained in a number of skills, including legal capacity, workshop facilitation, documentation and communication methods, report writing, and awareness-raising techniques;
• Through a process of wider consultation, the development and publication of good practice guidelines and a model case study for implementing ABS in the context of community-owned genetic resources and/or traditional knowledge in Sabah. They could provide guidance to all relevant stakeholders about substantive and procedural rights, as well as good practices for engaging each other, potentially positioning Sabah as a leading model in Malaysia and Southeast Asia for community-based ABS.
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Project Snapshot

Area Of Work:
Grant Amount:
US$ 49,812.00
Co-Financing Cash:
Co-Financing in-Kind:
US$ 79,449.00
Project Number:
Satisfactorily Completed
Project Characteristics and Results
Policy Impact
Community protocols are recognized in the legal and policy framework, including the Nagoya Protocol, the draft Sabah ABS Regulations under ‘Capacity Building’, and the draft Sabah Biodiversity Strategy under ‘Improving Understanding of Biodiversity’. There is also great potential for this project to serve as the community-driven complement to state-level GEF funds prioritized for ABS in Sabah from 2013-2015. Government agencies (particularly SaBC) and NGOs alike support the community protocols approach and see it as a valuable tool for facilitating dialogue and collaboration between communities and the public and private sectors.
Notable Community Participation
In Melangkap, the project team will engage with the Homestay Association (and the youth therein involved in environmental issues) formed under the Jawatankuasa KKK and the Ketua Kampungs. The community was involved from the beginning, as the project proponents (BCI, SaBC and NJ) conducted FPIC six to eight months before the project commenced. The leaders of the community invited the project proponent to begin the work. This made the project a lot more sustainable as there was buy-in. The community set up a Bio-Budaya Committee (JBBM) which formed the decision making system for this project. The original work-plan had to be rearranged as the community wanted to make changes to it. The adaptive management style that was utilised was difficult but also encouraged the community to be more involved in the whole process. The local CSO (BCI) is still working closely post-project with the community on other matters. The community is gearing up to conduct a lessons learnt session at the district Level. In addition to that the community is planning to get the protocol endorsed by the Native Court of Kota Belud. This is to get formal recognition and buy in from the District Level. For more day-to-day project activities, the team will work closely with identified community facilitators from Melangkap. This will include, regular meetings and discussions (in-person, phone, email), group reflection and revision of the project to date, focused workshops and peer training sessions (including community reporting, monitoring, and consolidation workshops), and support for community outreach and communication tools.
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