Community-based Conservation of Biodiversity and Rivers in Kampung Skiat Baru, Bau.
Persatuan Wanita Desa Sarawak (WADESA) was formed in 2005 that specifically work on capacity-building programmes tailored to the interest, concerned and need of the rural indigenous women in Sarawak.

Project Location

The project site is at Kampung Skiat Baru in Bau District of Kuching Division, Sarawak. It is about 6KM away from small town Bau which is the urban centre of Bau District, whereas the capital city, Kuching is about 45KM by road. The village is connected with electricity supply and accessible by good road system. However, the village is deprived of clean treated water facility. They depend heavily on water from the gravity-fed pipeline and the nearby rivers for daily consumption and use.

Generally, the geographical features of the project area mainly consist of limestone hills where there are lowland alluvial soils at the base of limestone hills and ravines between hills; slopes of limestone hills; limestone cliffs; scree slopes on limestone hills at low elevation; sub montane forest and secondary vegetation. The villagers mostly carried out their farming and agricultural activities on the lowland, ravines and around the foothills area. There are two important small rivers, namely Siboyuh and Jobung that flow to the Kampung Skiat Baru. The river cuts its way through limestone, creating rather rocky banks. The rivers are muddy partly because of the agricultural and human activities in the area.

Target community

The target group for the project is the Bidayuh-Brois, residents of Kampung Skiat Baru. There are 135 families with an estimated of 800 people in the village. Kampung Skiat Baru is an extended village from their old settlement, Kampung Skiat. In 1956, when the village population increased, they decided to divide into two parts for secure livelihoods and wellbeing as there were abundant of lands for farming as well as forest resources and games that support their daily survival. The status of Kampung Skiat Baru is officially recognized by the Sarawak government.

According to their histories, they are one of the original peoples of Borneo. In early 1800s, the Bidayuh migrated from the lower region of West Kalimantan (in the lower basin of the Kapuas River) to the upper region of what was known as the original area of Sarawak in northwest sector of Borneo Island, which is now known as Sarawak Divisions of Kuching.

In Sarawak, Bidayuh population is an estimated 200,000 or 8% of the Sarawak state’s 2.5 million population. There are over thirties (30) different Bidayuh groups. They differentiate themselves from each other based on their geographic origin, native territories and language. The Bidayuh of Skiat village is known as Brois people. The Brois of Kampung Skiat Baru inhabited the upper stream of Sibuyoh and Jobung River area, concentrated on the lowland around the foothills of the limestone range and outcrops of Gunung Sabua, Gunung Totag, Gunung Riak, Gunung Tupak and Gunung Beramu.

The Brois people are subsistence farmers. They are mostly involved in planting of hill and wet padi, rubber and oil palm in small scale as well as vegetables gardening. The main occupations of women are farming, vegetables gardening and planting maize for its baby corns and rearing live stocks. Seasonally, some of the villagers are involved in collecting and marketing of swift-let bird nests. Some of them work as daily paid labourers at construction sites, industrial mills and factories in Kuching.

For the Brois, as it is for other Bidayuh and Dayak Indigenous groups, land is a source of sustenance and life, providing not only farm lands but forests that are a source of timber, herbs, medicines and material for daily use. The villagers carry out fishing and hunting within their traditional land territory area. The jungle produces and agricultural products are sold in the market at Bau town, where they also got their daily provisions and supplies.

The project would not only benefit the members of Kampung Skiat Baru community but also the nearby villages, local NGOs, CBOs, government agencies and other stakeholders as well.
Problem statement

The following are the main problems and challenges in the project area.

1) Forest loss and habitat degradation

Forest loss and habitat degradation is primarily due to human activities such as mining, logging and agricultural land development in the area. This directly destroys biodiversity, increase erosion and siltation of the river systems affecting domestic water supply and survival of both terrestrial wildlife and fisheries resources.
At the proposed project site, certain parts of the area had been degraded and impacted by gold mining activities in the past. There are pits and severed land degradation due to excavation, soil erosion and loss of fertility. Since the past 50 years, the villagers have carried out various farming activities on the mining land site but agricultural productivity had been poor.

Over the past decades, the forest cover in Kampung Skiat Baru as in other areas in Bau district has significantly reduced as result of conversion of forest area into farming land, rubber and oil palm estates. Accordingly, the people reported that many parts of their area had extensive natural forest and tree cover but now most of the forest area has shrunk. Another form of pressures to forest areas is that unsustainable method of farming activity by the community. All these activities have resulted in loss of biodiversity (including medicinal plants, wild animals and aquatic species) and jungle produces.

2) River pollution and unsustainable fishing practices

The rivers and streams which were once crystal clear had turned to murky and greyish due to human activities which cause pollution, soil erosion and siltation that eventually destroyed habitat of fish and aquatic life. The width and depth of the rivers had also shrunk to a great degree due to sedimentation process. Catching fishes has become a lot more challenging and taking a dip in the river is also not possible.

The Jobung River is no longer productive, faced with depletion of fish, partly due to pollution, over-fishing and destructive methods. These fishing activities used by the villagers had deprived the rivers/streams of their natural inhabitants. The worst was of course fish poisoning, first with the use of illegal cyanides and then pesticide. As a result, the fish populations are declining very rapidly in the area. Before, the women used to collect jungle resources and go out fishing using “sokuop” or scoop net. They would wade in the shallow parts of a stream, and with their hands, scooped in the inner banks into their sokuop. They then lifted the sokuop, and there were the fishes, prawns, and crabs for the day’s lunch or dinner. This activity is gradually lost or reduced because fishes had depleted in the streams and rivers.

3) Poverty

Poverty level among the local community in the area is relatively high and the villagers depend directly on the forest and the river for as source water, foods, traditional medicines and herbs and raw materials for handicraft makings. Degradation of the forest and the river ecosystem directly affects their family’s socio-economy, health and livelihood.

In the community, the women livelihoods are severely affected with the loss of natural source for their subsistence needs and their families. Consequently, these have contributed to low productivity and incidence of poverty increased among the indigenous communities in the rural areas. Majority of the households and women in the project area are considered poor and below the national poverty line income index.



Rationale/ Justification

Concerned with the problem, the Bidayuh-Brois people of Kampung Skiat Baru, particularly the women have met WADESA. They want to take initiative to promote conservation of biodiversity and rivers by setting up Community-based Conservation Area (CCA) to ensure sustainable use of the resources and ecological asset in their area.

Enhancing Conservation of Biodiversity
The project intends to establish a Community-based Conservation Area (CCA) that encompasses the watershed, rivers and forest within the limestone range of Gunung Souang, Gunung Sabua and Gunung Beramu by maintaining the existing natural environment, plants and biodiversity in area. The community aim to have a Community-based Conservation Area (CCA) that will be managed by them. This conservation site is within their native customary rights land area which is just a walking distance or about 1km from their village.
Conservation of rivers and fish resources

The immediate strategy towards a long term solution to stop further degradation of biodiversity in the Kampung Skiat Baru area is to promote the restoration, protection and conservation of rivers as well as adopting customary management practices of “tagal system”. Likewise, the tagal has been successfully used by indigenous peoples throughout Sabah to manage fish resources and the river systems using customary laws and practices.

Objectives
To support the active participation of the Indigenous Bidayuh-Brois of Kampung Skiat Baru in the conservation and management of the natural resources.
1.0 Strengthen community-based natural resource management (CBNRM) and conservation of biodiversity
1.1 Hold 1 Training on community-based mapping and land resource use zoning
1.2 Field survey and zoning of land use and the CCA boundary area
1.3 Infrastructure building & biodiversity enrichment activities within the CCA & project site
1.4 Hold one (1) workshop on CBNRM & Biodiversity
1.5 Set up forest conservation site and Plot for traditional medicinal plants, herbals and other indigenous plant species

2.0 Promote community stewardship in river conservation through the customary management practices of ‘tagal system’
2.1 Setting-up ‘Tagal System’ within the Jobung River and Siboyuh River
2.2 Capacity building on Community River Stewardship and sustainable utilization river resources

3.0 Raise awareness among local community and the public on forest and biodiversity conservation.
3.1 Environmental education programme targeting the youths in the community
3.2 Organise community seminar on importance of forest & biodiversity conservation
3.3 Conduct public talks cum exhibition on forest biological diversity and community conservation actions.
 

Project Snapshot

Grantee: Persatuan Wanita Desa Sarawak
Country: Malaysia
Area Of Work: Biodiversity
Operational Phase: Phase 5
Grant Amount: US$ 49,900.00
Co-Financing Cash: US$ 16,667.00
Co-Financing in-Kind: US$ 22,573.00
Project Number: MAL/SGP/OP5/Y3/STAR/BD/14/02
Start Date: 5/2014
End Date: 6/2016
Status: Satisfactorily Completed
Project Characteristics and Results
Project sustainability
1. Enhancements of forest resources Forest enhancement activities at the CCA will be continued by the community. This activity can be done through community self-help. The community plan to carry out replanting of trees at least once a year. They also plan to do the tree stand improvement like ring weeding and liberation cutting twice a year. 2.River Conservation and Rehabilitation in Jobung and Siboyuh river With the tagal system in place it will continue to be maintained by the community. River cleaning will be done twice a year. The Committee Nature Rangers Committee would patrol on regular basis based on plan schedule in the project area. WADESA will continue to monitor the post project development progress and activity with regards to biodiversity conservation and the Rivers tagal system initiative. This would be through visits and meeting up with the villagers and the village project committee to ensure continues commitment of the community in conserving biodiversity and their rivers. In line with this, WADESA Chapter has been formed as taskforce unit in Kampong Skiat Baru to lead and manage the project area. 3. Establishment of recreational sites and facilities within community conservation area (CCA) to enhance eco-tourism, adventure and nature activity. There are certain sites within the CCA that can be improved for recreational purposes like jungle tracking, mountain climbing, birds watching and picnic. The area has great potential for eco-tourism, recreational camping and nature education programmes. This activity can sustain the project in the conservation and protection of forest in the area.
Policy Influence
The Limestone hills surrounding the project site has been proposed by the Sarawak State Government as National Park. The indigenous community conserved areas estimated to be 170 acres (70 ha). The delineation and survey works have been carried out by Forestry Department. Once it is gazetted the limestone hills in the area would be declared as National Park. The Community-based Conservation Area (CCA) would be continuously preserved by the community as their rights have not being affected by the establishment of the proposed National Park. With the CCA being encircled by the national park would make the community to be able to participate meaningfully in any future policy pertaining to the development and management of the National Park area.
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