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Title: Mukah’s peat soil forest has many perpetual benefits
Date: 19-Aug-2016
Category: Malaysia
Source/Author: The Borneo Post
Description: KUCHING: The peat soil forest in Mukah has brought many benefits to the local community over the past 50 years and will remain important for their socio-economic growth.

KUCHING: The peat soil forest in Mukah has brought many benefits to the local community over the past 50 years and will remain important for their socio-economic growth.

Chief executive officer of Land Custody and Development Authority (LCDA), Dato Dr Sulaiman Husaini said apart from the economic benefit, the natural peat swamp forest played an important part in the ecological system. The sago industry had big prospects in supporting the socio-economic development of the people.

Not only that, the natural peat swamp forests in the area provided raw materials for sago, fish and other wildlife sources which were in abundance.

In 2013, the division exported 47,946 metric tonnes of sago products (starch), generating up to RM81 million in revenue.

A total of 50,726 metric tonnes were exported in 2011, with income close to RM91 million. This was a big improvement from 2009 when the product generated RM60 million from 41,484 metric tonnes in total export.

Apart from food products, sago grubs could fetch up to RM40 per kg while sago starch also had its usage.

Sulaiman said the average price of sago trunk sections in Mukah and Dalat districts this year was RM7.50 and RM11.50 each respectively.

Sulaiman, who has carried out a study with a team of researchers from Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM), mentioned that numerous species of freshwater fish could be found at the peat swamp forest, including prawns and catfish. The price of these fishes ranged from RM10 to RM30 per kg.

“The economic activities of the local community have greatly improved amidst the booming sago industry since the 1960s. This is proven by the improved standard of living among the locals of today.

“The peat swamp forest is the main source of socio-economic development of the local people. It also plays an important role in environmental protection,” he said when presenting his paper ‘Economic Values of Peat Forest to Local Communities in Mukah, Sarawak’ at the 15th International Peat Congress here yesterday.

His census of 728 households from six villages in Mukah – Petanak, Tellian Hulu, Penakup Hulu, Sau, Sesok and Teh Labak – revealed that 90.6 per cent of the people had benefited from the collection of peat swamp products.

The study revealed an excellent score among villagers on the importance of peat swamp forest in providing economic opportunities as well as maintaining a balanced ecosystem. Most are also willing to play a role in the conservation efforts while smallholders involved in sago-planting are also increasing.

UPM senior lecturer from the Department of Recreation and Ecotourism (Faculty of Forestry) Dr Shazali Johari, in his

paper titled ‘Socio-Cultural-Economic Impacts of Peat Soil Ecosystem in Mukah’, said peat swamp played an important role in water catchment and reservoir, conservation of biodiversity, genetic resources and as carbon sinks.

Development of peat land for agricultural purposes must take into account the ecological make-up of forests and maintenance of the land.

On tourism, he believed the commercialisation of culture must represent the local identity and cultural celebration, depending highly on ethnicity, heritage and festivals.

His study found that the local community strongly favoured the promotion of ‘lamin dala’ (traditional house) as a unique cultural product, traditional attire such as ‘baban’ and ‘terendak’, delicacies such as ‘tebaloi’ and ‘kuih sepit’, ‘tibou’ (traditional giant swing) and ‘alu alu’ dance as cultural attractions.

“In a nut shell, the Melanau community in Mukah believes that cultural resources they have are unique and can be portrayed to outsiders for tourism purpose. Culture is a tool not only to create economic benefit, but also to sustain local traditions, beliefs, practices and rituals.”

Fellow researcher Dr Puvaneswaran Kumasekaran, when presenting a paper on ‘Eco-Tourism Potentials of Peat Soil Forest in Mukah’, said the government, tourism players and the local community could promote aquaculture village, deep-sea and recreational fishing as potential tourism activities.

He also recommended nature expedition to peat land forests and sago farms, as well as a tour of the sago industry. With the booming homestay industry in the state, Puvaneswaran suggested that the promotion of villages be complimented with local festivals and other recreational events.

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