LAWAS: Long Semadoh, a village in the northern highlands, recently completed a community ecotourism area zoning workshop that train the villagers to identify their culturally and socio-economically important areas
Alliance of the Indigenous Peoples of the Highlands of Borneo (Formadat) Long Semadoh Region and WWF-Malaysia held the workshop for about 20 villagers from the region on Feb 18 and 19.
The workshop introduced GPS, its usage, and basic mapping exercise, and also helped the villagers with their first session of ecotourism site zoning in Long Semadoh by hand-drawn map.
With the knowledge, they are given until end of June to tag waypoints that consist of places of interests such as cultural sites like old cemeteries, earth crocodile mounds, megaliths and old settlements, perimeter of Long Semadoh villages, paddy fields, hunting ground, rest points, salt licks, water catchment areas, and bridges.
The workshop was also attended by eight participants from Forest Department Sarawak and Malaysia Tourism and Culture Ministry including its state director Suriya Charles Buas.
In his welcoming speech at the workshop, Formadat Long Semadoh Region chief and village head Takgo Gugkang urged participants to take the community area zoning exercise seriously as it would come in handy for promoting ecotourism activities in the 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.
This will bring more visitors to the highlands and motivate locals to improve their guiding skills and services, and also improve their homestay facilities and encourage them to make handicrafts to supplement their income, he added.
On the need to strike a balance between economic development and conservation, Takgo said: “If ecotourism activities are not carried out properly, our forests will degrade and eventually result in river pollution, and that will decrease visitor arrivals and thus reduce income as well”.
Meanwhile, a similar workshop will be held in the highlands of Long Pa’ Sia’, Sabah soon in collaboration with WWF-Malaysia.
WWF-Malaysia is a key partner in Formadat which is a trans-boundary grassroots initiative in Ba’ Kelalan, Long Semadoh and Bario in Sarawak, Long Pa’ Sia in Sabah. It has branches in South and Central Krayan, Kalimantan, Indonesia.
Formadat and WWF-Malaysia held the first community area zoning workshop for the highlands communities in Ba’ Kelalan about a year ago and followed by ground work of tagging waypoints by local communities.
Last month, a meeting was called to share initial findings of the area zoning map exercise that was carried out last year by communities in Ba’ Kelalan.
The findings showed that water source and conservation areas and areas for communities’ use and hunting ground have been identified. A follow-up workshop or meeting will be carried out to fine-tune the map and share the findings with other highland communities, and see how these identified sites can be incorporated into the highlands’ ecotourism plan.