Sunday, October 12, 2014

Community service schemes prove successful at Lanjak Entimau Wildlife Sanctuary

IN the past, there was so much misconception and protest over the gazettement of Lanjak Entimau Wildlife Sanctuary (LEWS).

When the government gazetted the forests as national parks, the local people said the area would be given away for logging.

Now, they realise the gazettement is a government effort to conserve the environment and they are helping to stop unscrupulous people entering the area to catch their fish or hunt the protected animals.

The mindset of the people living near LEWS has changed. They no longer depend solely on the forests for their livelihood.

Fish rearing and fruit farming have not only helped solve their food supply problems but also brought additional income to families and longhouses surrounding the Sanctuary.

As headman of Rumah Anthony Bau confessed: “We’re very grateful to the International Tropical Timber Organisation (ITTO), for sponsoring the community development project (CDP) in our longhouse.

“We also thank the Sarawak Forest Department for implementing the project which has helped improve our livelihood.

“Besides, the initiatives undertaken by the two agencies have also raised awareness among us not to be too dependent on the natural resources found in LEWS for our livelihood.”

The CDP was implemented by the Forest Department’s Community Service Initiatives (CSI).

Anthony recalled at one time the relationship between the local communities, including those from his longhouse, and Sarawak Forestry was a bit strained.

This, he noted, was due to the community’s own fault, as they had blindly protested the setting up of LEWS.

“We protested because we weren’t aware of Sanctuary’s importance to us, especially when we relied solely on the forest and its resources for a living.

“Now, I thank the two agencies for their community projects which have made it easier for us to earn a living from other sources,” he said at the launch of the tagang system at his longhouse.

The headman said families at his longhouse were learning to become more enterprising and had been earning additional income from the indigenous fruits they planted and fish they reared in valley ponds.

He said aside from that, the relationship between the local community and Sarawak Forestry had become more cordial, adding that they always fully supported any development involving the local community in his longhouse.

The 19-door Rumah Anthony Bau is one of the longhouses located near LEWS. It’s  about 40km from Sibu and between three and four hours boatride from Nanga Entabai in Jalau.

LEWS, covering 193,039 hectares of relatively undisturbed primary forest, is located in southwestern Sarawak.

The area includes patches of rugged terrains and hills, and Bukit Lanjak forms the highest peak which stands 1,285 metres above sea level.

Formerly constituted as a protected forest, the area was reconstituted as a Wildlife Sanctuary in February 1983 due to large presence of orangutans and hornbills.

It is believed there are over 30 Iban longhouses in the area, located along Sungei Engkari, Katibas, Ngemah, Kanowit and Mujok.

When the Sanctuary was set up, the longhouses were granted rights to collect forest produce in three designated areas. The activities, however, impacted negatively on the Sanctuary.

Cooperation from the local communities was also lacking in the past as they did not understand the purpose of conservation and felt the government was depriving them of the use of the forest in LEWS that provided their many daily needs.