Borneo Programme

The Crocker Range, particularly around Kinabalu Park and Crocker Range Park, is home to many Indigenous communities who have managed their landscapes for centuries. They are subsistence farming communities that cultivate the land, fish and hunt, and harvest forest resources. The national parks, famous for their spectacular flora and unique biodiversity, were established to conserve Sabah’s biodiversity. At the same time, the livelihoods of communities on the periphery of the parks became increasingly at risk due to encroaching global market trends, commercial enterprise and decreasing resource base.

GDF supported Dusin communities to document their knowledge and management of cultural landscapes in order to advocate for their rights in protected areas.

Borneo Programme


Participatory approaches to nominating the Crocker Range Biosphere Reserve (2009-2012)

Responding to community requests, August 2009 began helping strengthen community institutions and build grassroots capacity to engage meaningfully in the conservation agenda of Sabah Parks (the authority responsible for protected areas), including in the nomination of the Crocker Range as a Biosphere Reserve. A team of community researchers, formed for consensus building and community organising, developed the Ulu Papar Biocultural Community Protocol. They also coordinated the Ulu Papar Congress, a culmination of campaign activities designed to raise awareness on community-based conservation initiatives and to highlight Ulu Papar as an important biocultural heritage site.

Building capacity in Community Filmmaking in Sabah (2011)

In 2011 we hosted the SUARA community filmmaking programme at the inaugural Borneo Eco Film Festival. The festival is an annual event celebrating Borneo’s biocultural diversity by showcasing environmental films and nurturing local community filmmaking efforts. SUARA, which means ‘voice’ in Bahasa Melayu, evolved into a year-round training programme that encourages Indigenous and local communities from all over Sabah to express their own voices through film.

Studying ecological linkages to enhance connectivity between Kinabalu Park and Crocker Range Park (2010-2012)

GDF was appointed to carry out community research and consultations during a 15-month study commissioned to ERE Consulting Group in 2010 by the Sabah Government. This contributed to the recommendation for the Kinabalu Eco-Linc, a proposed ecological connectivity project aiming to conserve landscapes while empowering Indigenous land custodians.

Traditional Ecological Knowledge in Sabah: Consolidation of issues and experiences related to biodiversity conservation and sustainable resource management (2009-2010)

GDF collaborated with the Bornean Biodiversity and Ecosystems Conservation programme to carry out research on traditional ecological knowledge in Sabah. We delivered a series of workshops and seminars to broaden the understanding of traditional ecological knowledge. We also conducted a state-wide review to assess the status of, and identify measures to recognise and support, community conservation in Sabah, with a particular focus on ICCAs. These exchanges strengthened the capacity of local actors to address issues of equality in benefit-sharing from natural resources in Sabah.

Participatory resource monitoring of the Community Use Zones in the Crocker Range Park (2007-2009)

We helped establish a multi-stakeholder team to plan, design and implement participatory resource monitoring of subsistence activities in the Buayan-Kionop Community Use Zone (CUZ) in the Crocker Range Park. The team studied the opening of new agricultural fields, hunting of specific animals and gathering of non-timber forest products. We developed a versatile and accessible monitoring tool for use by community members and conservationists. Monitoring results informed the CUZ management plan to ensure it accommodated community subsistence needs ranging from hill and wet rice agriculture, subsistence hunting and freshwater fishing, and the gathering of key forest products.

Ethnobiology of proposed Community Use Zones of Crocker Range Park, Sabah (2004-2007)

We launched our Borneo programme in 2004 by carrying out ethnobiological assessment of key resources and anthropogenic landscapes important to Dusun communities living in and around the Crocker Range Park. We carried out participatory research on local knowledge of plants and animals, agricultural patterns, subsistence hunting and freshwater fishing strategies. Findings contributed to the creation of the Ulu Papar Community Use Zone, an area set aside for continued local community use within a co-management arrangement between Sabah Parks and the communities. This was a landmark development for protected area management in Sabah.