Julau District, Sarikei Division, 29 October 2023 — With a heartfelt theme of “Conservation of Nature is a Shared Responsibility,” the team from the Institute of Biodiversity and Environmental Conservation (IBEC, UNIMAS) hosted a memorable three-day event from 27th to 29th October 2023. This Outreach Programme was not just about highlighting the importance of caring for our surroundings but was equally about the value of education.

The organising committee, under the expert guidance of Prof. Dr. Gabriel Tonga Noweg and co-chaired by Dr. Jongkar Grinang, had Prof. Dr. Mohd Azlan Jayasilan, the Director of IBEC, acting as the program’s advisor. The program’s backbone was formed by the dedicated students and support staff from IBEC, who played a pivotal role in its success.

The program had multiple objectives. It aimed to engage rural communities, emphasizing the importance of environmental conservation while judiciously using the natural environment’s resources. It also sought to instill awareness of the natural environment’s critical components, including economic resources, environmental health, ethno-botanical and ethno-zoological resources, along with the associated traditional knowledge. Furthermore, the event provided villagers and school students with an opportunity to engage in hands-on environmental enhancement through river cleaning and tree planting campaigns.

The program is in alignment with UNIMAS’s vision of becoming a community-driven university, dedicated to nurturing a sustainable future. Prof. Dr. Mohd Azlan Jayasilan articulated the university’s commitment, stating, “As a community-driven university for a sustainable world, we are encouraged to work with the local community to ensure our collaborations contribute positively to the betterment of all.”

The event took place at Rumah Atau Ngong, Sg Merurun, Julau and saw enthusiastic participation from around 57 school students from SMK Julau, SMK Julau No. 2, and SK Nanga Merurun. These young attendees got a chance to hear from experienced academics and students from IBEC about the value of learning and the role each one plays in preserving nature.

Anita Muli, from the Wildlife Conservation Society, and Ngumbang Juat, a Ph.D. student at IBEC, shared their personal stories. They spoke about their educational journeys, offering an inspiring perspective coming from rural Sarawak.

Adding a touch of warmth and wisdom, Dr. Jongkar Grinang spoke about how understanding and respecting our environment starts at home, in our hearts. He believes that if we do good with a pure heart, nature, in its own way, rewards us.

To make the event more interactive and fun for the kids, students from IBEC, led by Awang Khairul Ikhwan Awang Abdul Rahim, Sara Dalton Saging, and Jacqleen Mik, put together conservation-themed games. The children were all smiles, learning about nature while playing.

Parents weren’t left behind either. They joined in the river cleaning and tree planting activities, showing their kids the importance of taking action. Feedback from everyone was heartwarming. The youngsters not only enjoyed the event but also left with a renewed sense of responsibility towards education and nature. Many expressed hope for more such community events in the future.

IBEC would like to express their gratitude to their sponsors, notably Shell Chair (UNIMAS), Forest Department Sarawak, and Sarawak Fertilizer Sdn Bhd. They also thanked the leadership of UNIMAS and the local community of Rumah Atau for their warm hospitality. A nod of appreciation was also given to local leaders and dignitaries who stood by the initiative, making it a true community affair.

IBEC extends its heartfelt gratitude to the following individuals for their unwavering support and contributions to the program: Tuan Wee Teck Min (Julau District Officer); En Louis Yeo Soon Guan, (Julau Administration Officer); Tuan Andrew Ajan, (State Administration Officer); Puan Madline Jayan, the Principal of SMK Julau; En Sandak Anak Remang, the Principal of SMK Julau No. 2; En Louis Anak Nyelang, the Headmaster of SK Nanga Merurun; En Blawan Ak Grinang, the Penghulu of Sg Merurun; community leaders including En Sumang Ak Mancha, En Guntol Ak Janggu of Rantau Panjai, En Atau Ak Ngong of Lepong Ensurai, En Kendawang Ak Salleh of Batu Gerugo, En Buyong Ak Anyau, En Gesang Ak Ani of Ng Sekandis, and representatives from Sarawak Fertilizer Sdn Bhd, En George Aween and En Jeff Deji Jetif. Their collaboration was instrumental in the program’s success.

Words and photos by Fitzpatrick Ricky Guing for the Institute of Biodiversity and Environmental Conservation, UNIMAS

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