This project will save a large tract of almost untouched rainforest in northern Borneo. Beautiful streams and waterfalls flow through it, and in the mangaris trees, the tallest trees in the rainforest, giant honeybees build huge combs prized by local people.
The local indigenous people 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 resist efforts by 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 do more mapping, clarifying the boundaries of the protected area, and 3D mapping, to help people visualize the protected watershed. They plan to add two shelters, water filters, and interpretive materials to the trails, so visitors learn about the ecosystem and culture. 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 write down oral knowledge—rules for using the forest, and deep knowledge of medicinal and edible plants—for the benefit of future generations.