This is the fourth project in Seacology’s seven-village Sabah Regional Watershed Protection Project, which will protect more than 5,000 acres of forest watershed.
Borneo is famous for its biodiversity. There are at least 15,000 kinds of plants (6,000 found nowhere else); 10 primate species; hundreds of other mammal, bird, and fish species; 150 reptile and amphibian species; and countless insects. Culture also runs deep. The world’s oldest known figurative painting was daubed on the wall of a Borneo cave 40,000 years ago.
But development threatens Borneo’s vibrant ecosystems and cultures. Huge oil palm plantations already cover an estimated 25% of Sabah’s beautiful rainforest, and villagers are under constant economic pressure to convert forests into fields.
This project will protect forest near Malapi, a remote settlement of 350 people. Community members have a strong connection to place; they take very good care of the forest because it is not only their home, but also their drugstore and their grocery. Most of Malapi’s residents, members of the indigenous Dusun Sugud group, are subsistence farmers who grow rice, vegetables, and fruit. The only accessible jobs are on oil palm plantations or construction projects, and about 30% of the men work as laborers, returning to the village on weekends. The closest towns are more than a two-hour drive away, and the nearest secondary school is almost 40 miles away. There is no electricity.
Working with PACOS Trust, the community will use a Seacology grant to install a gravity-fed water system to provide clean running water, which in turn creates a powerful incentive to actively protect the watershed. Villagers now must collect and boil rainwater for drinking water. Water for washing comes from the Sugud River, which for decades has been heavily polluted by an upstream copper mine.