Background Of Forest Plantation Development In Sarawak
Interest in forest plantations started in early 1920s when efforts were made to test both indigenous and exotic species in Sarawak. The forests plantation started the Engkabang group which are important producers of the illipenut where 19 ha were planted in the Semengoh Forest Reserve. Fruit trees like durian were also tested.
In 1965, Reforestation Research Programme was initiated to test the fast growing exotic tree species especially conifers. A total of 200 plots of various provenances of tropical conifers such as Pinus caribaea, P. insularis, Agathis macrophylla, Araucaria cunninghamii and A. hunsteinii were tested. The results were poor and the conclusion drawn was that the fast-growing tropical conifers were not suitable for Sarawak conditions.
Thus,in the early 1970s, as an alternative the Forestry Department began experimenting with some of the fast growing exotic tropical hardwoods like Acacia mangium, Gmelina arborea and Paraserianthes falcataria. Species with somewhat longer rotations like Swietenia macrophylla, Durio zibethinus and Shorea macrophylla were also added to the list. All these species were considered for reforestation of lands that underwent shifting cultivation.
By 1985, there was about 1,770 ha planted. The area planted in the next five years was double that in 1985. The pace increased and during the period from 1991 to 1995 about 7,500 ha were planted. As of late 1995, nearly 13,000 ha have been planted up with various timber species.
In September 1996, the Chief Minister stated that the state had reached its peak in producing timber from natural forests and needed to find better ways to sustain timber resources and that the State’s timber industry will be better off if it embarked on reforestation with fast growing species to supplement timber production.
The same year, the Forests Ordinance was amended to include section 65B in the Forests Ordinance,1958 (Cap 126)on the licence for establishment of planted forests. This was followed by the adoption of the Forests (Planted Forests) Rules 1997 made under section 95(1)(w)and (x) providing the regulations and procedures in the establishment of planted forests.
In 1998, an International Conference was held in Kuching to get the experience of people who have developed planted forests elsewhere that can give an insight on how best it can be done in Sarawak. The government hopes that this would put the timber industry’s next move on a proper footing. In this conference, the government made it into a policy that it has tentatively set one million hectares as the target for the development of planted forest for the next 15 to 20 years.