IN THE light of the need for aggressive economic activities to achieve a desired economic growth, where natural resources are increasingly scarce and depleting to feed the industrialization process, the Heart of Borneo (HoB) Initiative is developing resource management tools in enhancing the socio-economic and environmental value of natural resources such as the Bornean forests and ecosystem services.
Amidst global warming and a new economy approach, the vital role of nature has been appreciated and rewarded as a service provider with a limited holding capacity where responsible socio-economic activities are fully dependent on.
The economic excitement tends to result in the unsustainable use of natural resources, which is assessed as the production beyond the optimum limit of nature and excludes the payment to nature’s recovery more than the cost of consumption – making unnecessary investments for a limited capacity of resource productivity.
Bringing the agenda of natural resources to the attention of politics, the HoB Initiative is providing a platform for well-coordinated actions between Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia and Malaysia to recognize and act upon the value of natural resources and thus, outlining bold steps to be undertaken collectively to enhance the recognition and appreciation of forest resources and its biodiversity contents.
At the same time, it also addresses the resources’ economic challenges for the sustainable management and ensuring of its wise commercial use based on the green economy principle of approach such as investing in natural capital where economic activities should value the natural capital within the designated HoB area; investing in people, where the environmental benefit and cost provides an equitable society; the greening of high impact sectors, where green industries should be eco-friendly and provide better employment prospects; the driving investment and financial flows, where the healthy ecosystem should be driven by the investment and financial flows for a better quality of life for all residents and the improving of governance and measurement, where the progress should incorporate the social and environmental needs to make social well-being and environmental health more valuable and appreciate good practices (Building in a Green Economy for Borneo, 2014).
Green economy in the context of the HoB Initiative considers the cost to business, investors and consumers to be reduced as to increase revenue from biodiversity-based and green industries where crop yield is to be increased and domestic energy consumption lowered.
This will ensure a long term viability of the economic activities emphasising on the innovative productivity without compromising on the need to protect the healthy ecosystem services.
The economic model developed in a green economy that promotes bio-economy values the natural resources by increasing the well-being and social equity while reducing the environmental risk and ecological scarcities, delivering inclusive growth while sustaining the other benefits such as food, water, climate, and soils, securing the stock in the long term and enhancing its revenue without making substantive cost to damaged ecosystems, and delivering development priorities for the societal benefits (socio-economic and environment).
The present designated HoB area is meant to collaboratively protect a continuous corridor of Bornean ecological infrastructures rich in natural resources for multi-levels of investment in new multi-sectoral economic potentials under the green economy approach as to enhance understanding on the economic role of the HoB’s ecosystems across the Island of Borneo.
A bio-economy has a better prospect as well as the transboundary ecotourism taking the advantage of a highly diverse continuous biological landscape.
Taking advantage of the HoB area situated within the world’s megadiverse hotspot, the proposed bio-economy should encompass the production of renewable biological resources and their conversion into food, feed, chemicals, energy and healthcare wellness products (medicinal plants and herbs) along the advancement of innovative and efficient biotechnologies.
Agroforestry-based bio-economy is always dealing with eco-friendly and biodegradable products which are not harmful to the environment.
As forest land sustains more than 50 per cent biodiversity global content, one of the priorities of Brunei’s HoB Initiative is to intensify foreign collaborations as its strategic efforts in achieving the commercialisation of biodiversity-based biotechnology in the future, therefore helping to expedite the development of industrial biotechnology in the country.
Relevant centres have been established within the organisational structure of the Ministry of Industry and Primary Resources and more importantly, the upcoming Biodiversity Order meant to capitalise and coordinate the R&D activities that will trigger the development of industrial biotechnology in Brunei Darussalam.
The established centres will provide the scientific platform and opportunities for interested private sectors from all sectors to grab commercial opportunities in biotechnology by benefiting the application of bio-based technological advancement that are worth billions of dollars based on the regional market forecasts.
Looking at these vast economic potentials based on biological resources, the HoB Initiative is not only of global environmental importance but a biological depository of the economic resources including trillions dollar-worth forest ecosystems. (Courtesy of Mahmud Yussof, CEO of HoB Centre & Head of Biodiversity Research and Innovation Centre, Ministry of Industry and Primary Resources)