Sus­tain­ing ru­ral Sabah

How to use tra­di­tional knowl­edge to pro­tect na­ture and build up the com­mu­nity.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - Ecowatch - By WONG LI ZA star2­green@thes­

THE VOICES of young chil­dren in class waft through the air as we en­ter Ki­vatu Na­ture Farm in Pe­nam­pang, just out­side Kota Kinabalu, Sabah.

The kids are a lucky lot; they get to see stin­g­less bees, play with “mud”, and en­joy farm-to-ta­ble or­ganic food daily.

The pre-school is part of Pa­cos Trust, a com­mu­nity-based vol­un­tary or­gan­i­sa­tion founded in 1987. Pa­cos, an acro­nym for Part­ners of Com­mu­nity Or­gan­i­sa­tions in Sabah, aims to “em­power indige­nous com­mu­ni­ties through sys­tem­atic build­ing of com­mu­nity or­gan­i­sa­tions”.

The school is lo­cated within the farm (see “How to use fish in­testines”), which shares the same space with Pa­cos’ head­quar­ters in Pe­nam­pang.

Mem­bers of the me­dia were in­vited by multi­na­tional oil and gas com­pany Shell re­cently to visit the or­gan­i­sa­tion to un­der­stand more about its work (Pa­cos is one of Shell’s Sus­tain­able Devel­op­ment Grant re­cip­i­ents).

Key projects in­clude the re­vival of tra­di­tional sys­tems such as river fish con­ser­va­tion (Ta­gal Sun­gai) and for­est con­ser­va­tion (Ta­gal Hu­tan) through com­mu­nity map­ping – where the peo­ple them­selves iden­tify, and mark down on maps, those ar­eas which they have used in age-old cus­toms. Nowa­days, modern tech­nol­ogy such as GPS and GIS help sup­ple­ment this com­mu­nity work.

The most crit­i­cal is­sue faced by the indige­nous peo­ples in Malaysia is the lack of con­trol over their tra­di­tional lands, which have of­ten been taken over by pow­er­ful com­pa­nies. But these lands are of­ten not recog­nised on “of­fi­cial” maps, thus they need to be mapped out so that the com­mu­nity can bet­ter pro­tect them.

“Ta­gal hu­tan” and ‘Ta­gal sun­gai” are ba­si­cally com­mu­nity-based sys­tems of do’s and don’ts to con­serve

Anne Lasim­bang, ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor of Pa­cos Trust, says farm­ers have been grad­u­ally con­vinced to stop us­ing strong weed­killers.

Pa­cos Trust works with indige­nous groups via com­mu­nity build­ing — WONG LI ZA/The Star

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