First steering committee meeting held for collaborative SFM projects in Sarawak’s Upper Baram forest

5 October 2023

A group photo of “Meet and greet” session at Long Semiyang, Sarawak. Photo: Forest Department Sarawak

5 October 2023: The first meeting of the project steering committee (PSC) for two ITTO projects to promote collaborative forest management and community empowerment in the Upper Baram Forest Area (UBFA) in Sarawak, Malaysia, was held on 25 September 2023 in the Sarawak town of Miri. The two projects encompass an area of 283 500 hectares in the northeast of the state.

The PSC meeting for brought together all key stakeholders, including representatives of the donors, being the Government of Japan, the City of Basel (Switzerland) and Bruno Manser Fonds; government agencies; non-governmental organizations (NGOs); and nearly 30 community representatives from the UBFA. The collective spirit during the meeting highlighted the significance of the shared mission of stakeholders, and their diversity underscored the complex nature of advancing sustainable forest management in tropical countries. 

“We are committed to working together with the government and stakeholders in the Upper Baram Forest Area to ensure the successful implementation of these important projects,” said ITTO Executive Director Sheam Satkuru during the meeting. “The projects are poised to contribute to the Government of Sarawak’s commitment to promoting integrated sustainable management by conserving biodiversity in the UBFA and empowering local communities to improve their livelihoods, while adhering to international guidance such as the ITTO Voluntary Guidelines for SFM and the Kunming–Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework.”

Also speaking during the meeting, Sarawak Director of Forests YBhg. Datu Haji Hamden bin Haji Mohammad emphasized the importance of achieving a win–win situation for all UBFA stakeholders and establishing a platform that works for everyone while adhering to existing Sarawak policies and regulations.

The communities of the UBFA have a long history of advocating for transparency and balancing environmental protection and socioeconomic development. Datu Haji Hamden said that, under the leadership of YAB Premier of Sarawak, the state has undergone significant forest policy reform, with a greater emphasis on environmental protection and the sustainability of forest resources. He hoped that the two ITTO projects (PD 902/19 Rev.3 (F) and PP-A-59-352) would help bridge communication gaps between the government, local communities and other stakeholders.

Following the PSC meeting, a meet-and-greet consultation session was held with local communities on the evening of 26 September at Long Semiyang, a nine-hour drive from Miri. This gathering was attended by nearly 60 enthusiastic community members, all eagerly awaiting the implementation of the projects.

“We have high hopes for the project’s success,” said Johannes Njok Langgat, the Long Semiyang village head, representing Kenyah villages in the UBFA. Komeok Joe of KERUAN, an NGO that advocates for Penan communities, said they look forward to working with the government through the implementation of the ITTO projects to complement various activities being carried out by KERUAN to improve the livelihoods of Penan communities in the area.

“This is a very exciting moment for the Upper Baram Forest Area,” said Ms Satkuru. “The participating communities, with support of the Sarawak Forest Department and various partners including ITTO, need to have a better understanding of the objectives and expected outcomes of the two ITTO projects, which will benefit all the communities within. Together, we embark on a journey towards integrated sustainable forest management, enhancing the spirit of cooperation, strong community leadership and shared successes in the Upper Baram Forest Area.”

Sheam Satkuru, Director of Forests, Datu Hamden Haji Mohammad, and Dato’ Zailani bin Haji Hashim, Deputy Secretary General (Plantation and Commodities) of Ministry of Plantation Commodities at the ITTO Project Steering Committee Meeting. Photo: Forest Department Sarawak 


A mountainous landscape of Upper Baram Forest Area and Batu Sinman, Sarawak. Photo: Forest Department Sarawak


Related SDGs

Alternative livelihoods linked to biodiversity conservation will enhance local socioeconomic development.

Forest landscape restoration and sustainable forest management will enhance the capacity of the Upper Baram Forest Area to sequester carbon, thus contributing to climate action.

The projects will demonstrate that biodiversity conservation and sustainable forest management can co-exist for the benefit of people and the environment.

The projects promote collaborative forest management and community empowerment, across a diverse spectrum of stakeholders.