Community ecotourism zoning workshop

Community ecotourism zoning workshop


Sabah: Twenty-four year old Nenddy Balang from a rural settlement in the Heart of Borneo, called Long Pa’ Sia’, has never used a hand-held GPS. But being a Generation Y, he is a fast learner.
During a recent crash course which introduced the usage of GPS, basic Geographical Information System (GIS) and mapping, the unemployed youth hopes that he will have the opportunity to learn more about GPS usage and how community ecotourism zoning can be carried out to produce a comprehensive map for his village.

“It has been an interesting workshop and I am glad I took part in it as I’ve learned a lot in just two days. The practical session helped my friends and I understand the theory part that was presented earlier by our facilitator from WWF-Malaysia,” said Nenddy.

The youth who holds a diploma in mechanical engineering hoped that there would be follow-up workshops to further build up his capacity in community zoning so that he could contribute towards his village’s sustainable development.

WWF-Malaysia and Forum Masyarakat Adat Dataran Tinggi Borneo (FORMADAT) Long Pa’ Sia’ Region held the workshop for over 20 villagers from Long Pa’ Sia and Long Mio on 30 and 31 March.  The workshop was also attended by senior officers from Sabah Forest Industries, Sabah Biodiversity Centre and Sabah Museum as observers.

The workshop aimed at introducing the local community on GPS, GIS and usage and basic mapping exercise and performing the first session of ecotourism site zoning in Long Pa’ Sia’ by hand drawn map. It is hoped that the workshop will help better identify  important areas for the people culturally and  socio-economically.

Long Pa’ Sia’, home to the Lundayeh highland communities, about three hours on logging road from Sipitang, is an important for conservation as the area sits at the headwaters of the Padas River.

The area has two villages, Long Pa’ Sia and Long Mio, and they  have  much to offer in terms of ecotourism and conservation activities.

Equipped with the knowledge, the community would now be given three months until end of this June to  tag waypoints consisting of places of interests such as cultural sites comprising old cemeteries, earth crocodile mounds, megaliths and waterfalls; perimeter of Long Pa’ Sia’ villages; paddy fields; hunting ground and rest points; salt licks; water catchment; and bridges.

FORMADAT Long Pa’ Sia’ Region chief Pangiran Salutan said the community area zoning is pivotal in identifying, improving and promoting ecotourism activities in the area, as well as areas important such as water catchment area.

“Ecotourism development and environmental conservation is one of FORMADAT’s objectives.  This is why FORMADAT and WWF-Malaysia are working together to develop a sustainable ecotourism plan in the highlands of Sarawak and Sabah.”

“Ecotourism is pivotal in ensuring sustainable forest management because a proper ecotourism plan and implementation will ensure forests are conserved and at the same time local communities will benefit from healthy forests,” he explained.

Pangiran said having a balance between economic development and conservation is important for the community and their surrounding.

“If ecotourism activities are not carried out properly, our forests will degrade and cause river pollution, decrease in visitor arrivals and income to ourselves,” he said.

He added that community mapping and area zoning for conservation, ecotourism and cultural sites is one of the activities proposed by FORMADAT Long Pa’ Sia to be carried out in the next few years to ensure a sustainable future.

WWF-Malaysia is a key partner in FORMADAT which is a transboundary grassroots initiative in Ba’ Kelalan, Long Semadoh and Bario in Sarawak, Long Pa’ Sia’ in Sabah. FORMADAT also has branches in South and Central Krayan, Kalimantan, Indonesia.

FORMADAT and WWF-Malaysia have held the first community area zoning workshop for highlands communities in Ba’ Kelalan over a year ago and followed by ground work of tagging waypoints by local communities. Last month, similar workshop was carried out in Long Semadoh.