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  SOS Rhino : In the News : News From The Field : COMMUNITY OUTREACH PROGRAM
 
COMMUNITY OUTREACH PROGRAM
 

The Community Outreach Program or COP is one of the models used by non-government organization in reaching out to stakeholders, engaging with them directly so that they will benefit from their environment. In this case, the stakeholders around Tabin wildlife reserve and the areas along the lower Segama river and its estuary are three villages namely Dagat, Tidung and Parit.

The villagers are from the Muslim Tidung community who depend very much on the sea and rivers for their livelihood. Prawns and fish are the main source of income. Lately, these two resources are dwindling and the people are beginning to worry for their future. Many villagers in Tidung and Dagat are leaving for Parit, which is adjacent to the oil palm plantation. This new village has a primary school, which has attracted families to migrate over. The plantation has a clinic, which provides medical attention, and a ready market for their catches, free-roaming chickens, fruits and vegetables.

The villagers have been using the forest to hunt deer and tembadau to supplement their protein. They also use the forest to gather food. Substantial amount of materials are found in the forest for building their houses, fish traps and boats.

The concept of sustainable use of resources is not new to the villagers but practicing it is very challenging. One example is the harvesting of undersize shrimps, which led to the decline in its population. Given a diverse income sources, villagers will become more practical in their daily life. One of the potential sources of income is eco-tourism. The area has great potential as tourist destinations. This project can materialize with the assistance of non-government organizations.

SOS Rhino has been operating at Tabin Wildlife Reserve since November 2000. Having found evidence of some Sumatran rhinos in the reserve, there is a need to protect the habitat. Looking at the logistics, the Tabin reserve needs good protection from illegal encroachments. Tabin has a massive network of rivers and waterways that serve as natural entry and exit points.

The idea of moving and establishing another base camp in Tabin reserve is basically:-

i. to provide assistance to the wildlife department enforcement unit to patrol, survey, monitor and protect part of the reserve.

ii. to undertake research and surveys focusing

iii. to access into the forest reserve via the Tabin river which is much easier.

iv. to implement the community outreach program component that involves the establishment of an eco-tourism project with the villagers and promote sustainable conservation

Establishment of Eco-Tourism Project

Support from Politicians, Government Agency and Villagers

The establishment of any eco-tourism project in any area requires several ingredients. The first is the support from the politicians, government agencies and the villagers. Thus, on 31st October 2002, the Assistant Minister of Tourism, Environment, Science and Technology Honorable Datuk Haji Karim Haji Bujang visited Kg. Parit. He was accompanied by the Mr. Mahedi Andau, Director of Wildlife Department Sabah and his officers, Mr. John Lo from Carlota's Borneo Holidays. The visit and dialoque with the villagers was arranged by SOS Rhino (Borneo). Here, the villagers have opening requested the Minister that a eco-tourism project be established for their area. Later, the Minister toured the site including a boat cruise at the Segama river.

The Minister has consented to their request and asked the wildlife department and SOS Rhino to assist in this matter. With this strong support from the government, SOS Rhino gradually moved to set up base camp opposite Kg. Tidung.

Facilities

Work on establishing a base camp and facilities for volunteers and tourists began. The construction fund is from two sources. One from PPB Oil Palms Berhad for the construction of the staff quarters. Another is available for the construction of the research quarters donated by Singapore Zoological Gardens.

Four village-type chalets have been completed by end of November 2003. The other facilities available are a dining hall-cum-kitchen, a toilet, well and a 15-footer wooden boat. Staff quarters were built in December 2003. A satellite phone has been purchased to help with communication.

Staff Activities

The tasks of SOS Rhino field staff involved are:

a. to undertake survey, look for and measuring of hoof prints, plaster casting, look for, collect and preserve browsed plant samples, collect other samples such as hairs and dung, taking pictures of importance, and setting up of phototrap cameras.

b. To look after the volunteers (and tourists), bring volunteers to undertake special surveys and fauna inventory in the reserve and provide volunteers an opportunity to look for edible jungle ferns, freshwater shells or mussels and fishing.

c. To assist in completing the construction of the facilities at base camps at Tanjung Utik and Dagat.

d. To undertake patrol, monitor and surveillance by boat.

e. To assist the wildlife and forestry departments in enforcing their respective laws by providing vital information on encroachment and illegal activities within and outside the reserve.

f. To assist the villagers to construct their village chalets to be used by volunteers and tourists

Supporting activities

Boat engine

SOS Rhino has written a letter to the Director of Fisheries Sabah informing him of the fishing villages along the lower Segama river, north of Tabin Wildlife Reserve. The villagers have requested for subsidy on boat engines. In principle, four boat engines of 15HP each have been approved and to be delivered about January 2004. One of the conditions in this subsidy is that, the successful applicant will undergo a short intensive course of boat engine repair and maintenance.

Fuel store

In view of the distance between Parit and Lahad Datu, fuel for boats in Parit is very expensive and scarce. There is no regular supplier among the villagers except at the Plantation's grocery store. With the employment of of villagers by SOS Rhino as field assistant his wife is now in the fuel business. She is supplying fuel to villagers at a better price but payment is still dependent on catch. Due to her husband's steady wages, she is able to sustain debt for a month while continuing to obtain fuel supply. The supply is either via a trawler boat from Sandakan or assisted by SOS Rhino when the vehicle heads for Lahad Datu.

Boat Engine workshop

It is found that most boat engines used in these villages are of 15HP. Few of the fishermen has 30HP. Boats are mainly made of plywood and timber. They are also mainly short that is, less than eight feet long to accommodate properly in the small drain linking Parit to the Segama river or when plying in man-made drains that link them from the Segama river to the Tabin tributaries.

A small workshop will be erected to build and repair boats. It will also accept repair and maintenance of boat engines. We would like to see that village youth will manage this workshop.

Grocery

SOS Rhino will set up a grocery shop. Staff are encouraged to purchase all requirements from the store. Supply is obtained from Lahad Datu when the vehicle heads for town. Two staff members are given the opportunity to manage the grocery store. This will provide training in business enterprise. The grocery shop will also cater to villagers who want to purchase cheaper things in comparison to the plantation's store.

Employment

So far three villagers have been recruited into SOS Rhino. They must be good with boats, engine repairs, their own boats and engines, and hard working. All three have been trained in rhino tracking. SOS Rhino will assist in repairs and maintenance of their boat engines. Womenfolk have been recruited to sew Nipah palm leaves for roofing. They are paid per attap roof.

Volunteer program

All volunteers whether they are locals or foreigners will have to pay a fee to SOS Wildlife (Borneo). The payment is for land transportation, river transportation, food and lodging. Volunteers are also to pay for river cruise if they want to do sight seeing. In any case, the lodging fee will not be imposed while volunteers are out in the forest doing survey work.



Honorable Datuk Hj. Karim Hj. Bujang together with the Director of Wildlife Department Sabah Mr. Mahedi Andau and Program Officer, SOS Rhino Dr. Edwin Bosi meeting the villagers at Kg. Parit on 31st October 2002.



Dinner meeting between Honorable Datuk Hj. Karim Hj. Bujang, Dr. Nan Schaffer, President SOS Rhino and Mr. John Lo, Carlota's Borneo Holidays at Jesselton Hotel, Kota Kinabalu in November 2002.



Kg. Parit means Drain village. This is so because the village is situated along a drain that drains water from the plantation to the Segama river. The distant is about one kilometer. The boats are made from wood and plywood. They are small so that they are able to navigate the drain easily. High tides will facilitate movement of boats whereas during low tide, the boats are required to be pushed.

SOS Rhino base camp is along the Segama river. There are four village-type chalets, a dining-cum-kitchen, grocery shop, toilet and a bathing well for volunteers and tourists.



SOS Rhino engaged with the villagers directly by visiting their villages and enjoy a cup of coffee with them. These visits are important to gain trust, support and cooperation from the villagers.




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