KOTA KINABALU: Fifty-three per cent of Sabah’s land mass are permanent forest reserves and protected areas, surpassing the 1989 Langkawi Declaration to maintain at least 50 per cent of the country’s land mass under natural forests. 

Chief Minister Datuk Seri Panglima Haji Hajiji Haji Noor said Malaysia especially Sabah is home to a diverse biodiversity and an ecosystem of global importance, making conservation crucial. 

“Even as nations were negotiating at the Earth Summit in 1992, Sabah was already charting her conservation road map. 

“We had a headstart in drawing up recommendations and actions for implementation with strategies to promote, protect and sustainably manage natural resources, inline with the outcome of the Earth Summit and other conventions and treaties,” he said at the opening and welcoming dinner of the 4th International Conference In Agroforestry (ICAF 2022) at the Promenade Hotel here. 

His speech was delivered by Datuk Frederick Kugan, Chief Conservator of Forests, Sabah. 

The Chief Minister said agroforestry can increase biodiversity, as trees in agroforestry systems provide a habitat for multiple species, provide a “buffer zone” against deforestation and act as a “green corridor”, allowing species to migrate across landscapes which is important for their survival. 

“Agroforestry as a land use system can contribute to achieving at least nine out of the 17 sustainable development goals (SDG). 

“They are no poverty, zero hunger, good health and well-being, gender equality, clean water and sanitation, affordable and clean energy, responsible consumption and production, climate action, and life on land,” he said. 

He said the Covid-19 pandemic has been a wake-up call especially in Malaysia’s food security.

Agroforestry fights poverty and hunger, as the approach can contribute to higher yields and a more diverse livelihood, which means a multitude of ways to make ends meet for smallholder farmers living in poverty, he said. 

“If done right, Agroforestry can lead to less reliance on one crop while improving soil fertility, which are important aspects for increasing food security,” he said. 

Nonetheless, Hajiji said the implementation of agroforestry is not without its challenges. 

“There must be education initiatives, research and education on new technologies that can increase productivity in an environmentally friendly manner. 

“Increase knowledge and cooperation among key stakeholders by sharing lessons learnt from agroforestry projects and practices and showing how the approach can be feasibly scaled up.” 

In this respect, he hoped participants of the ICAF 2022 will make full use of this conference with the theme “Agroforestry for Sustainable and Resilient Communities”not only to share their research findings but enhance the research network locally and abroad for making agroforestry in the region successful and sustainable. 

“I am heartened to know that much knowledge and ideas on agroforestry will be shared at this conference by experts in the field. We are honoured by your presence but more importantly I believe the discussions and recommendations would be important for all of us to take note,” he said.