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Penan Peace Park

Penan Peace Park

"We have had enough of deforestation and plantations. We would like to live in our ancestors' rainforest in self-determination and at the same time open up new economic possibilities for ourselves." That is the vision that has been pursued since 2009 by 18 Penan villages in the Upper Baram (see map) in creating the "Tana’ Pengida Pengurip Penan" (Penan Peace Park). By coming together in this way, the 18 communities have strengthened their position in the struggle against deforestation and for recognition of their rights to land and forest.

The vision

The name, "Penan Peace Park", is a clear indication of the project’s peaceful intentions. The Penan want to defend their indigenous rights in a non-violent way and to live in peace on their ancestral land.

The Penan Peace Park is based on the idea of sustainable development in ecological, economic and social matters and, in that respect, corresponds to the principles of a biosphere reserve. Sustainable use of the rainforest is an elementary precondition for maintaining biodiversity. The principal concerns of the Penan communities are preservation of nature and their cultural heritage, sustainable economic development and the right to self-determination.

1. Preservation of nature

Borneo's rainforest has one of the highest degrees of biodiversity of any rainforest and is also one of the most severely threatened. Today, Sarawak has been left with only one tenth of its original cover in primeval forest. Around one half of the Penan Peace Park, which occupies a total area of 1630 km2, is covered in primary forest, one of the final uninterrupted pristine forests in Sarawak. The Penan have traditionally led a nomadic way of life and now they do not want to live without any primary rainforest at all. They are prepared to defend the remaining areas of forest with blockades if they have to. The maintenance of biodiversity as well as the recovery of the secondary forest is to be promoted through sustainable farming practices and sound management.

2. Protection of the cultural heritage

The Penan have a rich culture. It is handed down from generation to generation through their language, their stories in the oral tradition, their traditional knowledge and their beliefs. The Penan are anxious not to lose their traditions but to keep them alive and to document them through exchanges with other villages and the younger generations.

3. Economic development

In order to be able to use the rainforest in a sustainable way, alternative sources of income are being developed, such as tourism and sustainable farming. What is at stake is to offer an alternative to an economy based on deforestation and plantations and to promote sustainable projects.

4. Institutional development

It is only going to be possible to attain the aims mentioned above if an institutional basis for them also exists. In line with that, institutions that are already in existence at village level are to be reinforced. Official recognition by the government is also being sought.

Right to self-determination

The aim of the Penan’s "Peace Park" is to secure recognition of their indigenous rights to land and self-determination. The coalition of the 18 communities makes it possible for them to defend their rights together, to exchange know-how and to implement projects. It might be possible to further expand institutions already existing at village level with a view to strengthening the organisation and representation of the park and improving its chances of recognition. It is hoped to establish exchanges with environmental organisations nationally and internationally. Another important aim is to sensitise the Malaysian and international public and to win support for the aims of the Penan Peace Park. It is only if there is sufficient national and international pressure that the Sarawak government will recognise the Penan Peace Park.

Significance of the Penan Peace Park

The Penan Peace Park is of importance for the Penan but it is also a pioneering project for the Malaysian federal state of Sarawak as a whole, in that it symbolises an alternative vision for it. The reputation that Sarawak has built up for itself up until the present is one of environmental misdeeds and disregard of the rights of its indigenous population. The Penan Peace Park is setting out to prove that environmental protection, economic prospects and a strong awareness for culture and tradition are compatible with one another.

Further information

PPP Proposal 2012-2016

  • The territory of the Penan Peace Park with the striking Bateu Siman in ...
  • The decision to set up the Penan Peace Park was taken in 2009.
  • The 18 Penan communities drawing up the Penan Peace Park manifesto.
  • A vote during the Penan Peace Park meeting in 2010.
  • Meetings are held regularly to consider the further development of the ...
  • Several Penan join politicians in Kuching to campaign together for the ...
  • One of the Penan Peace Park representatives gives a lecture to ...
  • The Penan Peace Park logo, with the two long-crested hornbills, the ...
  • Protest action against deforestation in the south of the Penan Peace Park.
  • The map highlights the territory of the Penan Peace Park.
by moxi