History & Background
MESCOT Initiative, Kinabatangan, Sabah, Malaysian Borneo
For a millennia the indigenous Orang Sungai people of the Lower Kinabatangan have been living off the
rainforest for food, medicine, household commodities and products of trade. This world changed dramatically
from the 1960's onwards, with the advent of mechanised extraction of the forests timber resources. The ensuing
rapid reduction of traditional forest resources forced many local people into a spiralling trap of dependence on
timber as the only remaining viable source of trade. With the final conversion of large tracts of lowland forests of
the Lower Kinabatangan throughout the 1980s into permanent agricultural crops, many local people were then
forced to poach timber and other forest products to eke out an existence.
The MESCOT Initiative was started in 1996 be a group of about 30 visionary and dedicated individuals from the
different villages of Batu Puteh to create an alternative medium of
income generation for the people of the area, while in the process
of protecting the last remaining vestige of rainforest and traditional
indigenous cultural heritage.
The key objectives of the MESCOT Initiative are to develop an
alternative path of co-existence with the remaining rainforest
resources and generate a sustainable long-term economic path for income generation for the indigenous local people
of the area. The core and catalyst activity chosen by the MESCOT group was Eco-Tourism. It was hoped that this
activity would be the key to raising income in this poor and remote rural community, increase the economic value of a
depleted forest resource, and, in the process, raise funds to support the protection and restoration of the last
remaining wetland forests and wildlife of the area.
MESCOT's scope was broadened in 1998 when drought induced forest fires ravaged parts of the remaining natural
forests surrounding the villages of Batu Puteh. The MESCOT group voluntarily engaged to fight these fires and in the
aftermath decided it critical to rehabilitate the degraded wetland forests and critical wildlife habitats and corridors. At
the time, these steps were ground-breaking, as previously little was known about the complex floodplain forest
tapestry and the different rainforest types of the area. With the support of kind global citizens the forest restoration
work has since developed to be a core activity of MESCOT driving the future of the village run co-operative set up to
manage these activities.
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