The rainforest of Borneo is home to countless animal and plant species, some of which are unique to this island. From the hornbill, depicted on Sarawak's coat of arms, to the ace-scented Rafflesia flower or the orangutan: the world's third-largest island is home to a fascinating variety of species. The conservation and regeneration of the rainforests play a central role in the fight against climate change. Intact tropical forests not only regulate the climate and water balance, they also protect the soil from erosion. They provide timber, medicinal plants, food, and many other raw materials, thus providing the basis of life for many indigenous groups.
In the past five decades, around 90% of Sarawak's primary rainforest has been cleared - mainly for export. The Sarawak government has been licensing and supporting large-scale logging for years. However, forest conservation and the renaturation of degraded areas are progressing only very slowly, if at all. Many companies are increasingly turning to plantations with fast-growing, imported wood species or oil palms. These leach out the soil and decimate biodiversity.
Fighting the destruction of rainforests
The decline of Sarawak's forests has a devastating effect on the global climate, local ecosystems and the quality of life of the indigenous population. The Penan are fighting for the survival of their way of life and of their forest. Through years of blockades, they have managed to protect some primary forest areas. With land rights lawsuits, they demand the rights to their traditional territories. The Bruno Manser Fonds supports the blockades as well as legal action and campaigns against deforestation and the expansion of plantations. In 2019, it successfully prevented the destruction of 4,400 hectares of rainforest for an oil palm plantation near Mulu National Park. The Bruno Manser Fund also focuses on Swiss consumption and recommends that tropical timber and palm oil be avoided.
When politicians talk about reforestation, they usually mean the plantation-like planting of fast-growing, non-native useful woods (e.g. acacia). In fact, however, there is an urgent need to regenerate biodiversity and protect forests, soil, and the water cycle. In order to protect the forest effectively, we must regrow the forest in a deliberate manner with native tree species and consistently protect the intact forest areas from further deforestation. Only in this way can the rainforest fulfill its ecological function and thus guarantee the basis of life for the local population and the stabilisation of our climate.
With a new project, the Bruno Manser Fonds is directly involved in climate protection and the rainforest. With the support of the Bruno Manser Fonds, the Penan have founded a local tree nursery in the area of the planned Baram Peace Park. Seedlings and seeds will be used in Sarawak to regenerate forest areas and for reforestation. The tree nursery is also an opportunity for the Penan to earn an alternative income, so that they can be independent of the timber and palm oil industry.