Luasong tree replanting project a success

KOTA KINABALU: Over three million trees have been replanted to restore 18,000 hectares of severely degraded rainforest at Luasong, Tawau under a collaboration project between Yayasan Sabah, Ikea and Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences that began in 1998.

Ulf Johansson, Global Wood Supply and Forestry Manager, Ikea of Sweden AB, said the 20-year project was successful with the replantation and enrichment of the area completed.

He said wildlife such as orang utans and elephants have returned to the rehabilitated rainforest.

“Now that the restoration phase is over, we would like to see this area get eternal life so it can be further protected and used as an area for research.”

He said the rehabilitated rainforest also had the potential to be used as a meeting venue for people interested in eco-tourism, which not only would create jobs for locals, but also ensured the area would be protected from exploitation.

Johansson said that in an interview after a courtesy call to Chief Minister Datuk Seri Panglima Shafie Apdal here yesterday.

He said the purpose of the meeting was to discuss with Shafie on continuation of the Luasong rainforest rehabilitation project, as well as other areas of development and cooperation together.

“We started producing wood furniture in the rural areas of Sweden 60 years ago and wood is still an important raw material to us.

“Here we see big opportunity in Sabah to further develop all the degraded land that can be used for producing food and create raw material for the furniture industry.”

Johansson said his team would be headed for Maliau Basin last night and attend the 17th steering committee meeting today with the stakeholders, including representatives from universities, government, Yayasan Sabah and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) like WWF.

He said part of the agenda was to discuss how the area would be both protected and utilized in the most efficient way in the future, and to share the learning and knowledge the project has accumulated over the years.

He also said the Chief Minister and Ikea shared a lot of common goals and ambitions to work on.

“We have agreed on a number of actions we can work together in coming years.”
Meanwhile, Jam Falck, a sivilculture lecturer at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, said the founder of Ikea had approached him with the intention to help Sabah start the rehabilitation project at the severely degraded forest in Luasong after a big fire in 1983.

“He (the founder) decided to invest money for engaging 150 men over the 20 years to rehabilitate the forest. And he wanted no revenue back.

“This is a gift to the people of Sabah.”

On the other hand, Ikea Project Manager of Wood Supply and Forestry Annie Sandgran said there had been ongoing research and education at the rehabilitation centre in Luasong, as well as collaboration between Swedish university, University Malaysia Sabah (UMS) and other Malaysian universities.

She added that the rehabilitation project had a team equipped with unique capability and experience in rainforest restoration, and focused heavily on biodiversity.

“As the forest is recovering now, it will create more value and opportunities for further research.”

Also present was Lena Pripp Kovak, Head of Sustainability at Inter Ikea Group.

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