This cycle of NRM training saw participants head to Kampung Bakong-Bakong, a small village in the Telupid region of Sabah. Though surrounded by palm oil plantations, all of the participants saw the value in protecting the natural resources of Sabah. Many were keen to take new skills and apply them in their own villages – and with phase two of SALY-B training focussing on green, sustainable business, they’ll soon be fully empowered to take their ideas forwards.
But what does NRM training cover? From conservation to mapping and exploring biodiversity, SALY-B’s training guides participants on how to preserve the natural environment around them. Training was fully interactive and delivered by subject experts, with group work, presentations, and plenty of practical exercises.
Sessions were hugely diverse. Participants learnt how to test water quality; they headed to the Bakong-Bakong waterfall and looked at water pH, turbidity, dissolved oxygen and more. They also learnt about river ecosystems, discovering how to identify fish and other water creatures. A particular interest was dragonflies; in Community Science sessions, participants discovered what they can learn from dragonfly populations, including how they can be an indicator for clean water. It wasn’t just water creatures either; in sessions with the Borneo Sun Bear Conservation Centre, they learnt all about the threats to this native Bornean species, and how efforts are being made to protect them.
We caught up with Kris and Pat, who were looking forward to their training at the SALY-B opening ceremony. Both 16 and at school near Kota Marudu, they absolutely loved learning about Natural Resource Management: “There are no words to describe how much we enjoyed it, it’s an experience that can’t be bought”, says Kris. Pat agrees; “It’s been awesome. I can’t wait to get back to school and make my friends jealous about what we’ve learnt!” Not only that, they’re going to spread the word about SALY-B and about conservation in general; they plan to speak to their principal to see how they can engage the wider school.
Learning about ecotourism was a particularly popular part of the training. Pat and Kris already have an idea to revitalise Kinumawali waterfall near Pat’s village of Kampung Nolotan, encouraging ecotourism and hopefully bringing some jobs to the village. Pat says that ‘even though we’re young, we hope the community will work with us to benefit the village and our environment.’
Eric, a pharmacy student, says; ‘The community of Bakong-Bakong has been really welcoming, and couldn’t do enough to accommodate us as visitors. They’ve been so warm and friendly, and we’ll be sad to leave!’ Eric particularly enjoyed sharing knowledge – everyone on the programme came from different backgrounds, and so he learnt a lot while getting to know them.
Local Bakong-Bakong resident Mimi also took part in the training. She’s studying tourism, so for her learning about ecotourism was a big highlight. Mimi says; ‘It’s been amazing having everyone here for this training, and we’ve learnt so much from each other. I’m really happy to be part of this programme and look forward to using what I’ve learnt – ecotourism will be really useful for me, but I also liked learning about the dragonflies and clean water, as well as becoming more aware of conservation in general.’
The next phase of SALY-B continues in January with enterprise training. Participants will learn how to build their own green business, with training that covers finance, marketing, sustainability, management and more. They’ll be empowered to use this knowledge to create an alternative source of income that benefits not only their community but their environment as well.
Adam, the Project Officer for the SALY-B programme, is especially excited by the new cohort of participants: “This is a bold and ambitious project, it’s no mean feat to help preserve this unique habitat and prevent wildlife trafficking when unsustainable practices offer an economic incentive. However, meeting the young people on SALY-B and experiencing their passion for the rainforest and its inhabitants, and hearing their innovative concepts for new green enterprises, has reaffirmed my belief that the future of this area may well be very bright after all.”
Words by Emily
Photos by Kirstey