| Mahmud Yussof |
THERE has been a paradigm shift in the forestry sector in response to the globalisation of the forestry agenda. Forest resources are no longer seen as just a source of round timber nationwide.
Its uses have been expanded for other uses such as a source of biodiversity, habitats for wildlife, and ecosystem services within the scope to maximise its socio-economic and environmental contribution to the global communities.
Institutional setup, legal and policy framework have been aligned for this transformational change in priorities of forest management and responsibilities.
An emphasis has been given to the need for even stronger multi-stakeholders’ commitment on the sustainable forest management to cater the versatility of the forests.
There is a positive development trend in the total areas of global forests that have been certified for global recognition reflecting forest managers’ tremendous efforts in ensuring the forest code of practices is in accordance with not only the sustainable forest management but enhanced wise utilisation of the biological resources as a whole approach.
Much of these areas have been designated as a core conservation of biodiversity and wildlife habitats.
Corrective efforts have been and continue to be undertaken to improve the ecosystem services associated with the existence of forests such as restoration riparian, mangrove forest and more importantly hill and montane forests. Removal of these forests will expose the affected sites to severe prevalent climatic disasters.
In all circumstances, the newly emerging forest policy directives intensify the general public awareness on forest protection and conservation and increase the number of local professional foresters to execute effectively the new priority areas of responsibilities and Research and Development (R&D).
On the economic benefits of the forests, the development plantation forest is meant to support the need for round timber as raw materials for timber-based industries, to uphold the viability of socio-economic development as timber production is still contributing significantly to the world’s economic development.
But for the sake of the environment and ecosystem protections, on limited land use for a small country such as Brunei Darussalam, such upstream (primary) industries have a very limited GDP contribution and thus, it observes the principle of a balanced economic development.
However, with the innovative technologies more and more forest-based industries have been contributing to the manufacturing industries to produce high value-added timber products including biodiversity-based products of highly economic potentials worldwide.
This applies to all economic activities which are based on natural resources (natural capital). In Brunei, the optimum and sustainable GDP contribution is maintained around one per cent. Increasing this sustainable amount will sacrifice the ability of the country to sustain its ecosystem associated with environmental stability.
However, with the advancement of forestry R&D and innovative technology, other non-timber forest products (NTFP) will provide tremendous economic potentials such as green economy activities as stipulated within the Heart of Borneo (HoB) initiative plan of actions.
The Green Economy booklet has been launched at the 8th HoB Trilateral Meeting held in Palangka Raya, Kalimantan on December 5. The vast biological landscape within the designated HoB area as the HoB’s natural capital is instrumental in supporting the productivity of multiple economic sectors.
The two-day 17th Malaysian Forestry Conference titled, ‘A Century of Forest Management: Lessons learnt and the Way Forward’ held on November 11 – 12 in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, not only provided a venue for Malaysian foresters to share information on the exchange of administration, management and development of Malaysian forest resources, but attract the attention of global foresters on the lessons learnt from Malaysian experiences.
The conference was officiated by Datuk Seri Panglima Musa Haji Aman, Chief Minister of Sabah and was attended by about 700 foresters from Malaysia, Brunei and other global forestry related organisations/institutions.
Among the objectives explored were to provide a platform for discussing and resolving problems collectively pertaining to the aspects of forest development, to coordinate the planned management of the forest resources and their utilisation, as well as coordinating research.
Establishing a closer working relationship and understanding among foresters from all over Malaysia and generating public consciousness on the importance of an integral element in nation building, were also part of the objectives. Various papers have been presented and discussed, ranging from topics such as Forest Management: Technology, Innovation and Practices to Forest Ecosystem Services: Food, Water, Energy, Climate and Recreation.
As forest technology is getting better, much of the conventional methods have been replaced and the ground operations are much easier and less time consuming.
Because of this it is timely that foresters and forest professionals should make a change to ensure the forestry sector is nationally and internationally relevant that can contribute significantly to the global agenda and relevant multi-environmental agreements (MEA’s).
The national gazetted permanent forest estate which amounts to 41 per cent of the total land showcases a well-managed forest in the Heart of Borneo Initiative. With the new policy directives by the Ministry of Industry and Primary Resources, the forest area has been declared as a primary forest for conservation.
Under the Peatland National Action Plan of the Ministry of Development, administratively the conservation prospect has been extended to the pristine Peat Swamp Forest of the Belait District that will serve as the world class site for R&D and eco-tourism activities.
On the flip side, ‘forest certification’ is compelling for these forest areas to demonstrate management practices that meet the requirements for the world-class practices in forest management, which covers enhancement and maintenance of Biodiversity and range of forest ecosystems and its services.
These are auditable criteria for the forest certification apart from the effectiveness of policy and legal framework controlling the forest operations. (The writer is the CEO of Heart of Borneo Centre & Head of Biodiversity Research and Innovation Centre, Ministry of Industry and Primary Resources)