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Rungus Nahaba Village


Conservation benefit: Conservation of 950 acres of community forest watershed for 15 years

Community benefit: Trails and shelters for ecotourism; documentation of traditional knowledge

Date Approved: 06.2020


This project supports a local conservation-based tourism initiative.


This project protects forest, preventing the release of greenhouse gases and reducing erosion that damages coastal and ocean ecosystems.

This project will save a large tract of almost untouched rainforest in northern Borneo. Beautiful streams and waterfalls flow through it. In the mangaris trees–the tallest trees in the forest–giant honeybees build huge combs prized by local people.
The indigenous people here have managed the forest communally for as long as anyone can remember. But a growing population and economic pressures make the future uncertain.

The village of Rungus Nahaba came up with a plan to protect the forest, keep the indigenous community in control, and generate sustainable income. The village is one of the most remote in its district. Most residents grow pineapples or tap rubber, and incomes are low. But the community is rich in traditional knowledge about the forest, and it has a strong collective mindset. These strengths underlie this project, which will:

Protect the forest. A written agreement to preserve the forest will formalize the understanding among community members. It will also make it easier to stop outsiders who apply to the government for what are essentially land grabs. Villagers hope to inspire neighboring communities to protect their forests, too.

Develop ecotourism. The village is well situated for tourism, about 56 miles from the coastal city of Kota Kinabalu. The drive up to the village offers a perfect view of Borneo’s highest peak, 13,435-foot Mount Kinabalu. Last year, young villagers began improving hiking trails. With a Seacology grant, they will continue to map the area and clarify the boundaries of the protected area. They will also do some 3D mapping, which will help people visualize the protected watershed. To enhance visitors’ experience, they plan to add two shelters, water filters, and interpretive materials to the trails. Residents will earn income as guides and porters, and by selling pineapples and other food.

Document oral knowledge. A grant will also let our nonprofit partner, the Research Institute for Culture and Environment, write down elders’ oral knowledge for future generations. This will record, for example, rules for using the forest and valuable knowledge of medicinal and edible plants.

Project Updates

February 2021

After thoughtful discussions, the Rungus Nahaba community came up with a project timeline and signed a conservation agreement. In the meantime, the community has conducted site surveys, done some conservation monitoring and identified a number of endangered or endemic species in the protected area, including pitcher plants and orchids protected by Malaysian law. They have also seen Borneo pangolins, barking deer, mouse deer, Malayan civets, and Bornean slow lorises.

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