Sarawak: New plantations alarm villagers


A increasing number of natives in Sarawak state in north Borneo are alarmed at encroaching forest and oil palm plantations, which are taking over their native customary land and destroying their traditional lifestyles and biodiversity.

In Long Berawan, a village in the north of the state, a community of a thousand Berawan and Tering indigenous people who live in longhouses is worried about plans by a reforestation and plantation group to take over 80,000 hectares of native land. And there are other villages and communities similarly affected.

“The land is being given to the big companies to do the plantations in our area,” says Dennis Along, a villager who comes from a traditional farming family. “In future, it will be very hard for the longhouse people to do farming. There is no free land for us to do farming anymore, because the company is taking over the land.”

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The larger report says the ‘reforestation’ is with acacia mangium. Wikipedia says the tree is used for ‘environmental management’ and wood: Are those really positive aspects of this non-native tree, or is the planting simply a way of temporarily ‘hiding’ the scale of jungle clearance and preventing the soil washing away, while ensuring the area is much easier to clear again at a later date? I can see the attraction of using such a tree on ex-industrial sites (the wp article says the tress are used on mining spoil), but ‘reforestation’ seems an uncomfortably optimistic description for replanting jungle… Read more »