Project lists

Community-based sustainable forest management of Sungai Medihit Watershed Sarawak, Malaysia
25 Feb 2020     


Project title: Community Based Sustainable Forest Management of Sungai Medihit Watershed, Sarawak, MALAYSIA [2015P4-MAS]

Supervisory agency: International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO)

Executing agency: Sarawak Forest Department, Malaysia

Budget in USD (total / APFNet grant) 666,710 / 460,000

Kick-off date & Duration: July 2015, 07/2015 – 06/2018

Target economy: Malaysia


To promote the sustainable forest management in Sungai Medihit watershed area by building the capacity of the community, demonstrating innovative operational model and establishing new governance mechanism on community development.

Expected outputs:

- Sustainable forest management will be improved through setting rational forest management plans, applying innovative forest management techniques and establishing effective forest management mechanism;

- The capacity of communities on sustainable forest management and livelihood development will be enhanced;

- The living conditions will be improved by renovating the community service infrastructure.





The Sungai Medihit Watershed (covering about 35,400ha) is located in the UIuLimbang division in northern Sarawak, Malaysia, where it is home to two ethnic communities, named Kelabit and Penan. The Kelabits were the first inhabitants living in this watershed since the early 1890s. They live in a village made up of longhouses and have been practicing a form of shifting agriculture for generations. The Penans, in contrast, were formerly nomadic indigenous people living in the deep forests of Sarawak and Brunei and in 1972 were settled in the Sungai Medihit Watershed by the Sarawak state government.


Fig. 1 The Kelabit community in Long Napir, Sungai Medihit Watershed


Both communities live traditionally, and they used to mainly depend on the forest for their livelihood. The Kelabits, who have practiced shifting cultivation ever since they settled in the present area, found that forests with sufficient amounts of game for hunting are disappearing and rivers for fishing get polluted due their own shifting cultivation, as well as logging operations by large companies. The Penans depend more heavily on forests and rivers for hunting and fishing, while facing similar environmental challenges. Additionally, compared to the Kelabits, they are fairly inexperienced in agricultural practices. Take the large-scale hill paddy cultivation they have learned and grown accustomed to: It is actually rather unsuitable in many areas due to the steepness of the hills and their lack of experience in terracing, but as they have little knowledge of other options, they continue to practice this form of agriculture. As the catchment's ability to provide environmental services for the two communities at large is compromised, low agricultural yields and the depletion of forest resources trap both in severe poverty.


In order to restore the forest and help the communities improve their living conditions, in 2015 APFNet, together with the Sarawak Forest Department of Malaysia and the International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO), signed a tripartite agreement to launch the project “Community-Based Sustainable Forest Management of Sungai Medihit Watershed”. This project aims to restore degraded forests and promote sustainable forest management in Sungai Medihit Watershed, as well as build the capacity of the local communities, demonstrate innovative models on alternative livelihood activities and establish a new co-management mechanism on community-based forest resource management.


Improving community forest management

In order to improve the forest management of the two communities, the project firstly carried out a couple of surveys, done by independent consultants with help from the two communities. The surveys enabled the researchers to collect data on both forest resources and the socio-economic circumstances of both communities, based on which the Community Forest Management Plans (CFMPs) were developed.

With support from the Sarawak Forest Department, the 5-year CFMPs (2018 - 2023) for the Kelabit and Penan communities, respectively, were developed with key priorities and strategies identified for the further management of the forest resources. Two sustainable forest management demonstration sites were officially established by the Sarawak Forest Department, one at Long San for the Kelabit community (753ha) and one at Ulu Sg Terasak for the Penan community (678ha), have been established and earmarked to be reserved for community use, where APFNet supported forest management activities in parts of these areas. The management objectives of the CFMPs include: 1) Engage local stakeholders; 2) Empower communities to manage community conservation areas; 3) Develop further resources that can be traded to earn money or make saleable products; and 4)  Enforce laws & regulations pertaining to the catchment.

To support the implementation of such CFMPs, a co-management agreement between Sarawak Forest Department and the two target communities, which will support the joint management of forest resources in Sungai Medihit Watershed, has been developed. Through this agreement, the communities were given opportunities to provide input regarding the management of their local forests, in particular, their SFM Demonstration Sites. This was the first time the Sarawak Forest Department was a party to the development of CFMPs, and it is keen to see these plans work in practice, and possibly develop CFMPs elsewhere in Sarawak. Finally, the Sarawak Forest Department was supporting the communities in every step of rehabilitating the forests through implementing the co-management agreement.

Better communities’ living condition

The project also contributed to improve livelihoods of the local Kelabit and Penan communities within the area. Four alternative livelihood activities were introduced. One of these is the establishment of the Tagang System at the Sungai Medihit River, which encourages sustainable fishing practices to preserve and protect the fish stocks for long-term benefit of the communities. The system empowered the villagers to manage a stretch of water close to them, and the villagers helped protecting the river from overfishing or pollution. The fish can be caught in a year or two, and all small fish as well as those of breeding size would be released back into the water to ensure the survival of the fish. The system created a sense of empowerment in preventing pollution and managing the rivers to preserve the natural environment for future generations, and benefit the communities in a sustainable way. Furthermore, locals were also trained in chicken rearing, vegetable farming and selected homestay sites were upgraded to be tourist-ready. All of these activities equip them with new skills and increase their household income without depending too much on timber and NTFPs.











Fig. 2-3 Two households, one each from the Kelabit and Penan communities were identified to demonstrate chicken farming.

Of significant importance to the local community in the Sungai Medihit Watershed area is the improvement of infrastructure, something that had been directly requested by the community at multiple points during the project design phase. This includes the construction of a road from Long Napir to Kampung Bahagia to which land owners in the area have agreed. The installation of a solar energy power system allows for access to green electricity for the households in Long Napir and Kampung Bahagia. The renovation of a guest house for the community school allows Penan parents to use while settling their children in at school.


The project was successfully completed by the end of 2018, for key achievements please click to see the documentary film.  




1. project document_final.pdf

2. Soc-Eco Study of the community living with in Sungai Medihit Watershed.pdf

3. Project Progress presentation.pptx


4. Project Completion Report.pdf


5Project Terminal Evaluation Report.pdf


     6.Project Documentary Film