The annual Rainforest World Music Festival (RWMF) was extra special this year thanks to the display of indigenous culture from Central Borneo on the festival grounds.
World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Indonesia social development advisor Cristina Eghenter said a range of high quality highland products such as Adan rice, mountain salt, wild cinnamon, indigenous handicrafts and musical instruments were displayed and sold during the festival.
“Cultural performances and poster exhibitions in and around the booth captured the beautiful landscape and culture of the land of Formadat (Forum of the Indigenous Peoples of the Highlands of Borneo) as well as promote eco-tourism destinations in the highlands.
“Music and lyrics have the capacity to bind people together with a shared understanding or vision. In many ways this is exactly what Formadat represents,” she said.
Through RWMF, Formadat hoped to raise awareness of its existence within the community as well as its vision and commitment to protect and sustainably develop the common cultural heritage and land that lies within both Malaysia and Indonesia in the Heart of Borneo (HoB).
Eghenter said among the ways was through performances by the Dayak community, which portray a strong image of rainforest diversity.
The booth was set-up through collaboration between Formadat – a grassroots, cross border, organisation representing the indigenous people of the highlands, WWF-Malaysia and WWF-Indonesia.
Formadat was established by the main ethnic groups in the area — the Lun Bawang, Lun Dayeh, Sa’ban and Kelabit – who number around 25,000, 75 per cent of whom are on the Indonesian side of the border.
The Borneo Highlands, which comprise the sub-districts of Krayan Selatan and Krayan in East Kalimantan (Kaltim province, Indonesia); Bario, Ba’Kelalan and Long Semado in Sarawak; and Long Pasia in Sabah constitute one geographic, environmental and cultural land inhabited by people who share a common origin.
WWF said in a press statement that the HoB initiative aims to assist Borneo’s three governing nations (Brunei, Indonesia and Malaysia) to conserve the area through a network of protected areas and sustainably managed forests as well as through international cooperation led by the Bornean governments.
HoB is the only remaining place in South East Asia that still holds huge tracts of continuous pristine forest.
“It straddles the transboundary highlands of Brunei, Indonesia and Malaysia and reaches out through the foothills into adjacent lowlands.
“The HoB forests are some of the most biologically diverse habitats on earth possessing staggeringly high endemism levels across all groups of plants and animals,” said the press statement. One of the Formadat’s community leaders Pak Lewi Gala said he hoped that the exhibition booth would bring attention to the traditional skills and enterprise of the highland people.
“We hope that the exhibition can promote our vision for sustainable and environmentally sensitive development of their ancestral highland homes,” he said.
“We have no other homeland and we need to save the ‘patar dita’ (highland plateau) Borneo where we have lived for generations. We are one roof, one ancestor, and one tradition,” he added.
Meanwhile, WWF-Malaysia chief executive director Datuk Dr Dionysius Sharma said Formadat is an important initiative by the ethnic community because it can help catalyse the community’s interest in conservation and promote sustainable natural resource management.
He added that supporting such ideas in the highlands of HoB can be an effective strategy to ensure the community will be continuous guardians of the rich biodiversity of this extraordinary and beautiful landscape.
According to him, the Formadat booth was an opportunity to promote local products using the ‘Green and Fair Products’ branding.
He said that the branding is a new initiative supported by WWF-Indonesia and WWF-Malaysia to grant fair recognition to local products and support sustainable livelihoods.
HoB initiative team leader Adam Tomasek said the notion of ‘green economy’ driven by sustainable indigenous business in harmony with nature could be a powerful mechanism to protect the globally significant bio-diversity found within the HoB.
“Therefore, the ‘Green and Fair’ product initiative at the upcoming festival is one of the examples towards the ‘green economy approach’.
“To achieve this vision, development of infrastructure and better transportation are needed to guarantee a market for local agricultural products,” he said. Tomasek added that it is also important to choose the right kind of economic alternatives such as sustainable organic farming, eco-tourism and animal husbandry, adapted to the local environmental and social conditions in order to maintain the vital natural functions and characteristics of the highlands.