RSIS Distinguished Public Lecture by Datuk Sam Mannan, RSIS Distinguished Visitor; and Director, Sabah Forestry Department, Malaysia
Forest Governance and Conservation in Sabah, Malaysian Borneo: The Tasks Ahead and Challenges for Full Redemption
From its inception as a nation state in 1881, Sabah – earlier known as North Borneo – has had its fair share of trials and tribulations in attempting to achieve good forest governance and sustainable development, while conserving a major expanse of her varied ecosystems. Some scientists have argued that certain forest ecosystems in Sabah have the richest plant life diversity on earth and thus, despite her relatively small terrestrial land area, is of global significance.
The history of logging and land conversion for agricultural development in Sabah does not paint a proud picture. Much has been lost but much still remains. The reform programmes initiated in 1997 and accelerated in the last ten years, promise a trajectory for good forest governance and the conservation of the remaining “must save” forest ecosystems based on international standards. However, the transformation policies and actions on the ground bring with them a high price in the opportunity cost of conservation and potential lost incomes. This is especially so where tropical timber prices and the much-promoted environmental benefits and values from ecosystem services are not necessarily reflected in the market prices derived so far. Alternative land uses, particularly oil palm, continue to outbid and outperform forest management and conservation in terms of socio-economic benefits.
To increase the value of rainforests in market terms, a number of innovative measures have been introduced including: carbon forestry, trading in conservation certificates, and charging for environmental benefits, amongst others. However, it is early days yet to gauge their success. Conservation thrives in an atmosphere of security of tenure, continuity of policies, and political stability. Conservation shall fail otherwise. As an added measure to re-inforce and protect the reform programmes, they must be institutionalised, whereby ownership of the concept and its success, is shared over a large cross section of society, nationally and internationally. Therein, lies the challenge.
About the Speaker:
Datuk Sam Mannan, 58, was born in Sandakan, Sabah. He graduated from Canterbury University, Christchurch, New Zealand, in 1979 with a 2nd Class Honours, Division One, in Bachelor of Forestry Science. He has been with the Sabah Forestry Department since 1980 and had served in various positions over the years. He was appointed as the Director of Forestry since 2004 and some of his key conservation achievements amongst others, include the launch of the Sustainable Forest Management (SFM) Concept in 1997, the certification of the first tropical forest in Sabah under the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), i.e., Deramakot Forest Reserve, the launch of Ulu Segama-Malua (USM) for Orang Utan Conservation in 2006, and the implementation of Reduced Impact Logging (RIL).
Datuk Sam Mannan was awarded a “Datukship” by the Sabah State Government in 2006, and subsequently the “Johan Setia Mahkota” from the Yang DiPertuan Agong in 2009 and WWF Award for Conservation Merit in 2010.