KUCHING: Sarawak Energy Berhad (SEB) and Forest Department Sarawak inked a memorandum of understanding (MoU) yesterday to expand sustainable livelihood opportunities for the communities in Murum and Batang Ai.
The partnership will focus on replenishing non-timber forest products (NTFP) to sustain the community’s livelihood at Murum Resettlement Area as well as the setting up of a Tagang System at Rumah Manggat in Ulu Menyang, Batang Ai. Both communities are in the vicinity of Sarawak Energy’s Murum and Batang Ai hydroelectric plants respectively.
The signatories were Sarawak Energy Group chief executive officer Sharbini Suhaili, Sarawak Energy executive vice president for Corporate Services Aisah Eden, Forest Department Sarawak director Hamden Mohammad and its deputy director for Planning and Operation Jack Liam.
The signing was witnessed by Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg at the State Legislative Assembly Complex here yesterday.
For Murum Resettlement, the areas of cooperation outline the steps to initiate, facilitate and encourage joint participation from the community in sustaining-NTFP species like the rattan commonly harvested by the Penan community in Murum for their indigenous handicraft production and the gaharu (agarwood) which is either sold raw or bartered.
This will be carried out through an enrichment planting initiative of NTFP species to ensure there is continuous supply of these resources for the community. The enrichment planting initiative will also help create awareness and instil a sense of ownership among the community in regards to the conservation of these forest resources through responsible harvesting.
SEB has all the while supported the handicraft programme by helping Murum Penan artisans enhance the commercial viability of their handicrafts, expanding their market and providing a more sustainable form of economy for the Murum Penan community. Following this, the number of artisans from resettled community has increased from about 30 in 2014 to about 170 today.
In Batang Ai, villagers of Rumah Manggat stand to benefit from communal method of fisheries management through the setting up of a Tagang System.
This would help replenish riverine stocks to provide better care to the river‘s ecosystem, given that Ulu Menyang are neighbours to the Batang Ai National Park and Sarawak’s largest wildlife sanctuary, Lanjak Entimau.
To be carried out in collaboration with the Department of Agriculture Sarawak, this Tagang System also presents the community a sustainable livelihood opportunity that can leverage on ecotourism.
Rumah Manggat is one of the earliest longhouses located upstream of Batang Ai to have 24-hour electricity supply via the Solar Home System under Sarawak Energy’s corporate social responsibility initiative that connects these settlements located away from the main power grid with alternative renewables.
Both projects will see Sarawak Energy contributing over RM300,000 in total.
Commenting on the MoU, Sharbini said: “Sarawak Energy aligns its corporate strategies towards achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals through collaboration and social innovations.
“Sustainability underpins Sarawak Energy’s business, operations and interactions with the community and this includes how we roll out our CSR initiatives.
“Our work with both these communities continues till today and we are pleased to reinforce our efforts through the new initiatives agreed upon through this partnership. Our aim is to help expand sustainable livelihood opportunities for both the Murum Penans and the villagers of Rumah Manggat so they are able to generate more income which subsequently leads to an improved standard of living for the communities and at the same time ensure biodiversity impacts arising from the project activities are managed responsibly.”
Aisah added: “This integrated partnership not only addresses the needs of the communities but also the well-being of the environment as it looks into replenishing the forests and the riverine. Our commitment towards this also sees us contributing in terms of energy and resources such
as our work in lighting up island turtle sanctuaries Pulau Talang-Taiang Besar and Pulau Talang-Talang Kechil and Tanjung Datu National Park where we provide green source of energy free from carbon emission via solar centralised system to these protected areas.”
Also present were Assistant Minister for Urban Planning, Land Administration and Environment Datu Len Talif Salleh and Ministry of Urban Development and Natural Resources permanent secretary Dr Wan Lizosman Wan Omar.