Simunjan, 26 November 2023 - Sime Darby Plantation Berhad (SDP) has dedicated a 400-hectare peatland in its operation in Sarawak, East Malaysia, for reforestation, opting not to replant oil palm but restore it into a functional peat ecosystem. The initial 50-hectare phase of this restoration work, starting in January 2024, will involve planting of 30,000 seedlings over a year period in SDP’s Lavang Estate.
Forest Department Sarawak (FDS) is collaborating with SDP on this important project by providing the seedlings and technical expertise.
The project at Lavang Estate is an integral part of SDP’s peatland rehabilitation initiative, co-funded by the Malaysian Palm Oil Green Conservation Foundation (MPOGCF). Through a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) signed in March 2023, MPOGCF has agreed to contribute RM1.48 million for SDP to rehabilitate and restore the 50-ha peatland. RM300,000 will be used to pay for the seedlings and FDS’ technical expertise whilst the balance will be used for biodiversity assessments, planting and maintenance of the area, community engagement and other related activities of the project.
SDP’s Group Managing Director, Datuk Mohamad Helmy Othman Basha said restoring and rehabilitating peatland areas cultivated with oil palms is a critical part of the company’s commitment to have net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. By restoring peatlands, SDP will be able to sequester carbon, enhance biodiversity, and reduce its overall environmental impact.
“The reforestation and rehabilitation of less productive agriculture land is a vital naturebased solution, especially in ecologically sensitive landscapes. However, it takes experience and expertise to implement land use transformation initiatives successfully and bring forests back to life, especially in challenging landscapes such as peatlands,” said Mohamad Helmy during the Trek Komoditi Industri Perkayuan (Ladang Hutan) Sarawak event organised by the Ministry of Plantations and Commodities. SDP handed over the cheque for RM300,000 to FDS at the event.
The main challenge of the project is the availability of suitable plant species, given that peat areas have high-water tables and are susceptible to flooding. FDS has thus far supplied 10 species of peatland related trees such as Ramin, Gelam, Pulai, Nyatuh and Medang, which were obtained from its Sibu branch.
“Our approach has always been to work with as many like-minded partners as possible in all our tree-planting and reforestation projects. We have found that this is the best way of harnessing the relevant expertise needed. We are delighted that the Forest Department Sarawak has decided to come on board with us,” he added.
Mohamad Helmy said SDP is also working closely with other partners in Sarawak for its reforestation and tree-planting initiatives, including Yayasan Sime Darby, Bintulu Campus of Universiti Putra Malaysia, (UPMKB) and Tropical Peat Research Institute, Sarawak (STROPI). In collaboration with various partners, SDP has to date, planted nearly 1.9 million forest trees throughout its operations over the last 14 years, including various endangered, rare and threatened species.
Besides serving as a test case for the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil’s peatland management practices, SDP's peatland rehabilitation model project will benefit the ecosystem, biodiversity, water and fire management, and act as a research platform. The project will further raise awareness, share knowledge with communities, and create job opportunities through forest tree nurseries and planting programmes.