Malaysia Bagus News
Malaysia Bagus News
KOTA KINABALU: For decades, villagers at Bundu Tuhan have been keeping watch on a tract of forested highlands near Mount Kinabalu.
They have maintained the pristine jungle covering some 700ha. – about the size of Petaling Jaya – in a community conservation initiative to preserve their source of water and the “open supermarket” where they could harvest everything from kodop mushrooms to wild fruits like durians.
“Our forefathers realised that the forest is like a tataba – a magical wand – which is the source of our water supply and bountiful produce and thus something we must look after,” said village elder Johnny Ghani.
Although they began preserving the area decades ago, it was only in 2003 the villagers formalised the conservation initiative in what is known in their Kadazandusun language as bombon or tagal.
They have installed signboards at the fringes of their forest warning outsiders against any illegal activities such as trespassing with offenders liable to penalties under the community’s adat or customary laws. These include sogit or compensation involving a buffalo or a head of cattle.
Though many other kampungs in Sabah had initiated similar tagal, these usually covered only rivers to preserve waterways and the fish and other marine life in them.
“I don’t know of any other kampung or village in Sabah where they have done a bombon for a jungle. I believe we are the pioneers in this,” said Johnny, who heads the Bundu Tuhan Committee of Trustees which oversees the management of the forest.
The Bundu Tuhan bombon or tagal of that pristine tract of forest has paid off – there’s a steady flow of crystal clear water through a gravity fed pipe system for the 3,000 village folk.
And wildlife abounds around the village.
“The squirrels now come and share with my grandchildren the fruits of our dwarf mata kucing (longan) tree. We occasionally get to hear the calls of the kijang (mousedeer),” said Bundu Tuhan native Sualim Gopog.
But the villagers worry whether they are on the verge of facing an end to having a say in the conservation of that forest.
Early last year, they learnt that the Sabah Forestry Department had begun steps to change the status of that tract of jungle from a community reserve to that of a forest reserve.
Village folk like Johnny are bewildered and worry about the long term future of the forest they had been conserving for generations.
Once it is gazetted as a forest reserve, there is nothing to stop state authorities from further altering the status of that forest. “Will this be a protected area, a Class 1 forest reserve in perpetuity? Once it is out of our hands, anything can happen and we can lose this precious resource,” added Johnny.
Forestry officers had told the villagers “they don’t believe that we can continue with the conservation of this forest in the long run”, Johnny said. “That does not make sense, this is the source of our water,” he added.
The villagers have raised their concerns with the state government’s Office of Natural Resources. “Our hope is that common sense will prevail,” said Johnny in noting that Kundasang state assemblyman Dr Joachim Gunsalam, a deputy chief minister, has voiced his agreement and so has the Ranau District Office.
For Bundu Tuhan villagers like Johnny and Sualim, it is out of the question to let the magic wand that is their protected forest be wrested from their hands.
There is too much at stake for them.
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