What would you like to search for?

Our News

Ulu Kalumpang Community River Riparian Restoration: Empowering Smallholders Through Innovative Agroforestry

Tawau: Smallholders of the Ulu Kalumpang Agricultural Scheme (UKAS) will enjoy more fruits from their oil palm land as they embark on a groundbreaking pilot project aimed at improving the production of their oil palm fields through an agroforestry system. A collaborative endeavour between UKAS community farmers, the Sabah Forestry Department, the Department of Agriculture, Universiti Malaysia Sabah, and local NGOs, Forever Sabah and WWF-Malaysia, the Ulu Kalumpang Community River Riparian Restoration Project adopts a comprehensive approach to revitalising smallholder oil palm practices through innovative agroforestry. Other stakeholders include industry players such as Unilever, Sawit Kinabalu Sdn Bhd., and Integrated Wood Processing Sdn. Bhd.

The project's primary focuses include enhancing crop diversification on oil palm smallholder farms, improving basic practices like the use of organic fertiliser, restoring riparian areas by establishing permanent tree covers, bolstering the stability and health of riverbank areas to improve water and soil health and quality, and fostering improved connectivity throughout the landscape. This initiative begins with a pilot project to restore 10 hectares of mixed oil palm area and degraded area of  Sg. Mantri, a tributary to the major river Sg. Kalumpang. The project kickstarted on Monday (28 August 2023), aligns with Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil’s (RSPO) riparian zone buffer requirements, ensuring ecological protection along water bodies. The Ulu Kalumpang Forest Reserve plays a crucial role as a water catchment for the Tawau, Kunak and Semporna districts.

Dr Faisal Mohd Noor, WWF-Malaysia, Sabah Landscapes Programme Restore Lead, emphasised that agroforestry has immense potential in aligning agriculture and environmental preservation including creating resilient communities and landscapes towards climate change. "This project showcases our joint dedication to inclusive conservation and human well-being. By pooling our strengths, we can truly make a positive impact on the environment and people’s lives." Agroforestry is part of the activity implemented by the WWF-Malaysia’s Sabah Landscapes Programme to support restoration and improve landscape diversity. 

Dr. Faisal emphasised the need for policies incentivising agriculture that conserves biodiversity and provides equitable, safe food. He suggested shifting from monocropping to diverse agroforestry, combining crops, livestock, and trees. By setting land targets, this approach reduces chemical dependency and maintains natural processes. Agroforestry, mimicking forests, combines agriculture and forestry practices to enhance landscapes, encompassing timber trees, plant diversity, indigenous fruits, and livestock. This approach extends to forest edges and riverbanks, bolstering conservation and landscape variety.

This endeavour extends beyond ecological restoration and has the community at its core. The project aims to build their capacity in best agriculture practices, awareness of conservation, and facilitating resource sharing. A significant step in this direction is encouraging the establishment of community tree seedling nurseries to support the long-term effort of forest restoration within the Tawau-Kunak landscape. This not only offers an extra source of income but also fosters a feeling of ownership and dedication towards the ongoing restoration project. Moreover, it supports state timber production through community engagement on farms rather than relying heavily on reserve forests.

"We understand the vital role of the community in every step of this initiative," commented Hamka Kasma, UKAS smallholder. "We are eager to see to the project's success, ensuring a comprehensive approach that benefits both the environment and the community's livelihood." UKAS currently has over 150 members consisting of local smallholders. A target of  9000 - 10,000 tree seedlings will be planted along Sg. Mantri and Sg. Melati by the end of 2023. Smallholders can anticipate non-timber forest products (NTFP)  harvests within a span of 3 to 5 years, establishing a lasting tree cover along the river. This includes indigenous fruit tree species such as durian dalit, durian sukang, tarap, nangka, chempedak, duku, mangga wani and belunu.

Made possible by funding and support from Unilever, a consumer goods company, the Ulu Kalumpang Community River Riparian Restoration Project exemplifies the potential of multi-stakeholder collaboration. This collective endeavour shapes a promising future for the Ulu Kalumpang community, where flourishing ecosystems and prosperous livelihoods harmoniously coexist. This is also part of a Unilever-funded habitat restoration project covering 521.25  ha in the Tawau-Kunak and Lower Sugut landscapes. 

The project's execution is also in line with the objectives of the agroforestry working group, established in Tawau in July 2022. The group's concerted efforts, bringing together diverse agencies including the Sabah Forestry Department and Forest Research Center, Department of Agriculture, Sawit Kinabalu Sdn Bhd., Universiti Malaysia Sabah, UKAS community, and WWF-Malaysia, are dedicated to improving forest tree cover not only within the protected areas, but also in agricultural land. 


(L-R) Charis Saliun (Sawit Kinabalu Sdn Bhd), Dr Faisal Mohd Noor (WWF-Malaysia), Adrian Rawless (Kunak District Forestry Officer, Sabah Forestry Department), Hamka Kasma (UKAS smallholder).

Representatives from WWF-Malaysia, Sabah Forestry Department, Sawit Kinabalu Group, and UKAS smallholder after tree planting ceremony to kickstart the Ulu Kalumpang Community River Riparian Restoration Project.

Hamka Kasma, UKAS smallholder

Share This!

Help us spread the message