Since the beginning of this 2012, community researchers from Ulu Papar in Sabah, Malaysian Borneo, have been visiting government and non-government agencies and individuals in the State’s capital, Kota Kinabalu, holding dialogues and raising awareness about the issues facing the Ulu Papar community. Taking with them 8-years' worth of data on resource use and cultural values of landscapes, they delivered presentations about the biocultural values of Ulu Papar, research and training conducted as part of a Darwin Initiative-funded collaboration between Sabah Parks, GDF and the Ulu Papar community.
Discussions following the presentations were lively, covering issues (and threats) facing Ulu Papar, including the potential for development (in particular, a road link and prospects for solar powered electricity supply), prospects for the conservation of watersheds and water catchments in Ulu Papar, upcoming establishment of a community use zone inside the Crocker Range Park that would enable community access and use of resources and landscapes for subsistence livelihoods, and the establishment of buffer and transition zones for the proposed Crocker Range Biosphere Reserve.
To date, sessions have been held with Pacos Trust, Department of Irrigation and Drainage, Sabah Parks headquarters and their team at the Crocker Range Park, Environment Protection Department, Sabah Biodiversity Centre, New Straits Times columnist Eleanor Chen, Borneo Images, Sabah Museum Department, Penampang Member of Parliament Datuk Donald Mojuntin (who is MP for the Ulu Papar area), Penampang District Office, and the Paddy Unit of the Department of Agriculture. All visits were successful, contributing towards raised awareness as voluntarily admitted by agencies, and resulting in new collaborations with selected agencies. One highly positive outcome in response to the community researchers' presentations was when Sabah Museum Director, Mdm. Joanna Kitingan, announced plans to invite relevant departments on an expedition to be held next January to further study the historical sites and medicinal plants of Ulu Papar.
These dialogues are part of the Ulu Papar Community & Conservation Campaign, a 2 year campaign that began in 2011 directed at highlighting the importance and uniqueness of Ulu Papar’s biocultural values. Talks have also been delivered by Regional Coordinator, Dr. Agnes Agama, to various groups including Rotary Club Luyang, The Sabah Society and Malaysian Association of Architects Sabah Chapter, and at an event entitled Arts for Grabs – Human Rights Day organised in conjunction with World Human Rights Day (‘Drowning the Ancestors’ talk), and, by Field Coordinator, Adam Murphy, to Transparency International (Malaysia). Other activities carried out under the Campaign include a series of community road shows to Ulu Papar villages, and the Ulu Papar Biocultural Heritage Congress held in April this year.