Help Communities in Borneo Protect their Heritage

by Global Diversity Foundation
Oct 14, 2012

Jenny, a Community Researcher from Ulu Papar

Uploading GPS points
Uploading GPS points

My name is Jenny Sanem. I am an  indigenous Dusun from Buayan village.

In 2007, I started working as a community researcher. At the time, I was only 21 years old, and was working as a shop attendant in Donggongon town. Although I was born in Buayan, I did not know much about Buayan except that is one of the nine villages that, together, is known as Ulu Papar. It is located in a remote part of the island of Borneo.

As a community researcher, I started to learn about my village and gained skills I had never even heard of before. Alongside other community researchers from Ulu Papar (we are called the Community Researchers Team), I learned how to create maps by collecting GPS readings, use different research techniques to understand the relationships that exist between my community and the environment we live in, monitor how my community use and manage the resources found in the forest, and share the story of our lives through photography and community filmmaking.

There are so many things about Ulu Papar that I was not aware of until I became a community researcher. The last few years has been challenging, and at times, scary. For example, in August last year, I delivered a presentation entitled “A Biocultural Perspective for Heritage Conservation in Ulu Papar, Sabah” to an audience of around 300 during the Asian Wetlands Symposium. Earlier this year, we had dialogues with high-level government officers to deliver the results of our research. As a group, we have stood up to defend our land. It has definitely been challenging, and through it all, I have learned to appreciate all that Ulu Papar has to offer.

I hope these photos give you an idea of my journey so far as a community researcher. 

  1. Uploading GPS points: Community mapping is a participatory method whereby communities are involved in creating maps of the area we live in. Here, I am showing community researchers from Bundu Tuhan how to upload GPS points on the computer. 
  2. Developing a Community Protocol: The Ulu Papar Biocultural Community Protocol was produced after 18 months of dialogues and workshops with the Ulu Papar community. As part of the process, we took the draft protocol back to the community to explain its contents and to get feedback.
  3. Conducting household interviews: We conducted interviews in all the villages in Ulu Papar to learn about how  households interact with the plants, animals and landscapes around them. 
  4. Zoning workshop discussions: A zoning workshop was held in Buayan in August 2008 to discuss how Community Use Zones in the Crocker Range could be established. Here I am presenting the results of a group discussion held during the workshop.
  5. Community filmmaking: Participatory video is a technique where communities are taught skills in filmmaking so they can use this to share the stories of their lives and the issues they face. We shared the skills we learned with the community from Terian village, another village in Ulu Papar.
  6. Taking GPS readings: Our team spent a lot of time in the field taking GPS readings of important sites. This included  forest types, farms, resource harvesting sites, historical sites and graveyards.
  7. Creating a Participatory 3D Model: This is a group photo taken with the 3D Model of Buayan-Kionop. We worked together with other community members and partners to create this scaled model.
  8. Having dialogues with the Government: Early this year, we started having dialogues with government and non-government agencies to share our findings and promote the unique values of Ulu Papar.

* story told by Jenny in Bahasa Malaysia, the national language of Malaysia.

Developing a Community Protocol
Developing a Community Protocol
Conducting household interviews
Conducting household interviews
Zoning workshop discussions
Zoning workshop discussions
Community filmmaking
Community filmmaking
Taking GPS readings
Taking GPS readings
Creating a Participatory 3D Model
Creating a Participatory 3D Model
Having dialogues with the Government
Having dialogues with the Government



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Global Diversity Foundation

Location: Bristol, VT - USA
Website: http:/​/​
Project Leader:
Susannah McCandless
GDF International Program Director
Bristol, Vermont United States
$9,715 raised of $10,000 goal
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