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