One of the MoA scopes covers sustainable rice farming in the Ba’ Kelalan highlands. Photo: Mckenzie Augustine, WWF-Malaysia

KUCHING: World Wide Fund for Nature Malaysia (WWF-Malaysia) has signed a Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) with two grassroots organisations to help improve community wellbeing and the environment in Sarawak’s northern region.

The grassroots organisations are Forum Masyarakat Adat Dataran Tinggi Borneo (Formadat) and People’s Association for Development and Education of Penan Sarawak (Pade).

The MoA was signed by Formadat Malaysia deputy national chief John Trawe Kuda, Pade chairman Ezra Uda, and WWF-Malaysia chief executive officer Sophia Lim last month to seal the collaboration. This three-year MoA took effect on Oct 31 this year.

For years, WWF-Malaysia in Sarawak has been working with rural communities on projects that fulfil the two-pronged aim of bringing benefits to people while ensuring conservation of nature.

Formadat, which represents local communities in the Kelabit-Maligan highlands, was formed by and for the community clusters of Sarawak’s highlands.

Meanwhile, Pade aims to empower and bring benefits to the Penan people of the state who live in the forest area known as Kuba’an-Puak in Ulu Baram.

The project, called “Sustainable Forest Management and Income Generation from Natural Resources for Indigenous Communities in the Heart of Borneo (HoB)”, is funded by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development through the advisory body Beratungsstelle für private Träger (Bengo).

In short, this project is nicknamed The Bengo Project.

Local communities in the most remote parts of Sarawak often face challenges from inadequate sanitation infrastructure, electricity, and even means of consistent livelihood. Their livelihoods are often dependent on natural resources which are depleting or already degraded.

In consultation with participating communities from the Kelabit-Maligan highlands and Kuba’an-Puak, the project encompasses activities including sustainable farming for subsistence, exploring additional livelihoods, riverbank restoration, sustainable rice production, building green infrastructure for sanitation, solar energy and localised micro-hydro systems, and more.

Lim said the partnership with Formadat and Pade would lead to strengthening engagement on the ground and transparency with the communities, adding that the joint efforts will work toward ensuring the sustainability of natural resources for present and future generations.

Kuda said with this renewed collaboration, there would be more success in bringing awareness and implementing sustainable practices such as organic farming and riverbank protection in the Kelabit-Maligan highlands.

Meanwhile, Uda said his association was honoured to sign its first MoA since it was set up nine years ago. He said Pade chose to work with WWF-Malaysia as the latter had a clear goal in ensuring that sustainable development is carried out while working with communities.

“We believe that this MoA will benefit Pade and the Penan community,” he said.