A jour­ney of his­tory, culture and na­ture

A unique ‘Eco Chal­lenge’ will delve into the tra­di­tions of high­landers and cel­e­brate the pristine pu­rity of moun­tain forests.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - Ecowatch - By ANDREW SIA star2­green@thes­tar.com.my

THIS year’s World En­vi­ron­ment Day, marked yes­ter­day, calls on peo­ple to get out­doors into na­ture, to ap­pre­ci­ate its beauty and im­por­tance.

One way to re­ally cel­e­brate this is to go deep into the moun­tain­ous in­te­rior of Sarawak, Sabah, and Krayan province in Kal­i­man­tan, Indonesia, with the sec­ond Heart of Bor­neo (HoB) High­lands Eco Chal­lenge (HEC) on July 20-29.

This of­fers par­tic­i­pants a chance not only to be closer with pristine moun­tain forests but is also an av­enue to help out in local con­ser­va­tion projects.

The bi­en­nial HEC goes far be­yond an or­di­nary tourism pack­age. Rather, it is an ad­ven­ture event, ini­ti­ated by the indige­nous peo­ple liv­ing in the Mali­gan and Ke­labit high­lands, that com­bines his­tory, culture, and ste­ward­ship of na­ture.

Par­tic­i­pants will travel by 4WD and then walk through an­cient Bornean rain­forests, and visit vil­lages and his­tor­i­cal sites. These are places the an­ces­tors of the high­landers once passed through on their mi­gra­tory routes thou­sands of years ago.

The high­lands of Sarawak, Sabah, and Krayan are lo­cated in­side the Heart of Bor­neo, which is an ini­tia­tive to con­serve the moun­tain­ous core of this great is­land that was agreed upon among the three gov­ern­ments of Brunei, Indonesia, and Malaysia in 2007.

The aim is to con­serve the bio­di­ver­sity of the Heart of Bor­neo for the ben­e­fit of the peo­ple who rely upon it through a net­work of pro­tected ar­eas, sus­tain­ably-man­aged forests, and other eco-friendly meth­ods of us­ing land – in­clud­ing eco­tourism devel­op­ment.

A trans­bound­ary grass­roots ini­tia­tive called the Al­liance of the Indige­nous Peo­ples in the High­lands of Bor­neo (For­ma­dat), is or­gan­is­ing the Heart of Bor­neo Eco Chal­lenge.

Rather than a huge trail run­ning competition, the chal­lenge is more of an eco­tourism jour­ney that delves deep into the roots of the peo­ple and the nat­u­ral sur­round­ings that have nur­tured them.

Be­sides ap­pre­ci­at­ing the beauty that the high­lands has to of­fer, par­tic­i­pants will do their part for na­ture by planting trees and bam­boo with the com­mu­nity of Long Se­madoh, a set­tle­ment in a very ulu, or up­river, part of Lawas, Sarawak, close to the rugged bor­der with Indonesia.

The ac­tiv­ity is part of a river restora­tion and con­ser­va­tion pro­gramme ini­ti­ated by the vil­lagers with WWF-Malaysia’s tech­ni­cal sup­port. The trees and bam­boo planted will help to re­duce riverbank ero­sion, which is caus­ing farm­ers to lose their padi fields.

Par­tic­i­pants will also get the chance to learn about:

> A sus­tain­able fish­ing method called tagang;

How vil­lagers make tra­di­tional soap us­ing es­sen­tial oil ex­tracted from the tenum tree;

> How a tra­di­tional type of rice called adan is grown sus­tain­ably us­ing buf­faloes in the high­lands.

Event di­rec­tor and For­ma­dat Sarawak deputy chair­man John Tarawe says the Heart of Bor­neo

The con­cept of tread­ing lightly, tak­ing noth­ing but photographs, leav­ing noth­ing but foot­prints, is core to the or­gan­is­ers


The Heart of Bor­neo HEC will take par­tic­i­pants through dif­fer­ent for­est ter­rains. — Pho­tos: Filepics

Buduk Nur village in Ba’ Ke­lalan, Sarawak, which is part of the Heart of Bor­neo ini­tia­tive.

A steep climb at Pu­long Tau Na­tional Park in the Ke­labit High­lands of Sarawak dur­ing the first Heart of Bor­neo HEC.

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