Sabah – which is home to critically endangered local species – has lost half its tropical forest, mostly to the industrial agriculture of oil palms. To protect against further losses, the government has committed to setting aside half of the state as forested land and meeting the highest standards for responsible palm oil production by 2025.
That means all producers will be required to achieve RSPO certification which, according to the WWF, will also reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 17 million tonnes by 2030.
The WWF Sabah Landscapes programme supports the RSPO certification of 60,000 hectares of oil palm plantations, most of which is farmed by ‘outgrowers’ – these are larger than smallholders but not as big as commercial estates with palm oil mills. By doing so, it plans to supply the market with some 1.1 million tonnes of sustainably grown oil palm fruit bunches annually.
It also supports work to replant two wildlife corridors, which will restore forest habitats and improve the connectivity between fragmented forest blocks. These physical connections allow for migration, colonisation and interbreeding of plants and wildlife.
In this case, the corridors link the Ulu Kalumpang Forest Reserve and Tawau Hills Park to the Ulu Segama Forest, which is part of the larger central forest complex covering almost 250,000 hectares – an area more than three times the size of Singapore.
This helps facilitate the movement of elephants between the two. It also manages human–elephant co-existence, both to reduce crop damage from elephants and to reduce the risk of elephant and human deaths.
Two riparian (riverside) reserves in Sugut and Kinabatangan will also be restored to improve water quality.
“We welcome this opportunity to work with WWF and other partners in the Tawau, Lower Sugut and Kinabatangan landscapes to protect wildlife, produce sustainable palm oil and restore important natural habitats,” says Rauf Prasodjo, Unilever Sustainable Sourcing Manager. “It’s a positive step towards stopping deforestation and protecting vital forest landscapes.”
This video highlights the work and progress of the WWF Sabah Landscapes programme.