FORMADAT: Peoples in the Heart of Borneo
The Highlands in the Heart of Borneo
A relatively isolated region averaging 1000m in elevation, the highlands are linked by logging road to the coast on the Sarawak and Sabah sides, but only linked by air to the lowlands of East Kalimantan. Traditionally, communities have practiced wet rice agriculture in the wide valleys of the highlands, and dry rice agriculture on the hill slopes. The rice agricultural system, integrally linked to animal husbandry (water buffalo), has managed to sustain the communities of the highlands and also produce agricultural surplus. Close social and economic interactions, and interdependence, remain an important aspect of the life of these communities.
Nowadays, the communities face increasing challenges in trying to develop the local economy and secure a sustainable future for the highlands. Development of infrastructure and better transportation will be essential to guarantee a market for the local agricultural products. At the same time, it is important to choose the kind of economic alternatives (like farming; ecotourism) most adapted to the local environmental and social conditions in order to maintain vital natural functions and characteristics of the highlands. The sustainability of economic alternatives needs to be assessed against both their social and economic benefits, and the preservation of the natural environment.