Community as Co-stewards in Natural Resource Management
It was gazetted by the Sarawak Government in 2013. Although Gunung Lesong National Park only covers an area of 595-hectare, it is home to a diverse flora – mainly hill forest - and fauna, and more importantly, the orangutans.
This national park is an isolated hill surrounded by oil palm plantations and nine villages.The park is also culturally significant to the Iban communities who live there. There are nine villages surrounding the protected area.
Realising the importance of the area, the community came together about two years ago to form an ecotourism development committee, with hopes to generate some tourism ringgit as they help to be stewards to the national park. The committee is called Gunung Lesong Community-based Ecotourism Committee (GLCBET) which comprised all community leaders from the nine villages and villagers who are able to be office bearers.
A training on tour-guiding took place at Kampung Engkaranji, near the national park recently, as a means to engage villagers as co-stewards in natural resource management and guiding. WWF-Malaysia, Institute of Biodiversity and Environmental Conservation (IBEC), Universiti Malaysia Sarawak and Gunung Lesong Community Based Ecotourism Committee jointly held the four-day (July 18-21) training for 34 participants.
WWF-Malaysia’s Protected Area Programme works together with stakeholders ranging from government agencies to communities to help Sarawak achieve her target in setting aside 1 million ha (excluding water bodies) to be gazetted as totally protected areas (TPAs) by the year 2020. Part of our work involves community co-management in selected TPAs. Gunung Lesong National Park, which is also known as Bukit Lingga, is one of the TPAs that we work in to ensure it is holistically managed inclusive of community and stakeholder co-management on the ground.
WWF-Malaysia is exploring the concept of Community Conserved Areas for the surrounding of Gunung Lesong National Park as its pilot site. The work involves multi-stakeholders engagement and we are working very closely with the Forest Department Sarawak and Sarawak Forestry Corporation to advance this approach.
Hence, a series of capacity building programmes have been lined up to enhance community’s ability and knowledge to effectively co-manage the park.
Moving forward, the community will also be invited to attend full park guiding training in Kubah National Park this September, organised by Sarawak Forestry Corporation. They will also be selected to join a trip to Bung Jagoi Heritage Centre to learn about community-based natural resource management.