Tuesday, 28 October 2014

A wonder of Nature

HUMBLE as it may seem, a Nature Centre at SK Ba Kelalan is truly a wonder of nature.

Many medicinal plants or herbs offering compounds known to ward off ailments and illnesses, ranging from skin disease to heart failure, are found growing along the SK Ba Kelalan trail.

These plants have been growing at the Centre for centuries — some easy to grow or maintain, yummy to eat or drink and offer medicinal benefits..

Since the dawn of history, humans and animals have sought healing from plants. Although many of today’s most popular curatives are compounded in laboratories, there are still vast numbers of commercial remedies whose major medicinal ingredients are derived from green herbs, trees and shrubs.

And some of the most common and effective healing plants are still growing at the SK Ba Kelalan Nature Centre. In fact, a few of the plants can even be grown in your own backyard.

There are hundreds, perhaps even hundreds of thousands of plants with medicinal values in Sarawak. What grow at Centre are just a fraction of them.

Before the Centre was set up, an education awareness programme was conducted in 2009.

Organised in conjunction with the International Tropical Timber Organisation’s (ITTO)-funded project in Pulong Tau, the programme introduced to students Sarawak’s rainforests and the importance of nature conservation.

This led to the idea of developing a nature study centre in 2010 by Forest Department and ITTO to encourage students to learn more about plants and animals and their uses and functions.

The Centre is located in an old secondary forest, a short distance from behind the school.

Initial surveys involved identification of the forest and habitats for plants and animals. A small stream with crystal clear water running through the middle is flanked by a variety of herbs.
Neprolepsis bisserata

Nature’s study

One main circular jungle trail was built to enable students and visitors to study the plants, insects and birds at different parts of the Centre.

ITTO project leader Dr Paul Chai said some 30 plants species with local uses, including food and traditional medicines, had been identified along the trail.

“When the ITTO project ended in 2011, the State Forest Department took over and further improved the facilities as part of its community service initiative (CSI),” he added.

Second Resource Panning and Environment Minister Datuk Amar Awang Tengah Ali Hasan recently launched the Nature Centre at SK Ba Kelalan.

Speaking at the function, Tengah said the Environmental Education Awareness programme carried out at SK Ba Kelalan was one of the conservation projects aimed at raising awareness of school students and nearby communities about the importance of preserving the forest as a source of their livelihood.

“To develop a pilot project such as this, we hope to foster and inspire students to love and appreciate Nature.

“In the future, we hope it will serve as a permanent reference not just for the students in the school but also those from the higher learning institutions,” he said.

A tour to the Nature Centre was organised after the launch.
Parkia speciosa

Berito medicinal plant

As we walked along the trail, the first medicinal plant spotted was the ficus species or known among the locals as berito.

The information available suggests this plant has many uses. When made into herbs, the plant is traditionally used for healing such as correcting nerve damage and treating pneumonia, diabetes, hemorrhoids, high blood pressure, heart failure and diarrhea.

The herbs help remove toxins and improve blood circulation while the plant itself is also useful in helping women maintain their health, beauty and youth.

The herbs are often used as a tonic to help the uterus return to its original position or shrink the uterus after childbirth. It is also traditionally used to overcome the problem of whiteness and help boost energy.

About three metres away was another medicinal plant called stachytarpheta dichotoma or known as daun birin in Malay and tingining in Badayuh.
Homalomena sp

Traditional uses

Among the Malays, this plant is traditionally used to treat skin diseases like ringworm.

To use it, wash the leaves and rub them between the palms with a little quick lime (kapur) and apply on the skin.

To alleviate pains in the body and joints, boil the root in water to make a drink.

Among the Bidayuh, the plant is traditionally used to relieve headaches.

Pound the leaves in a dollop of water and poultice on the forehead.

Farther into the trail, I spotted the homalomena propinqua species called kemuyang in Iban, tingon adud in Bidayuh and keladi jerenang in Kedayan.

Among the Bidayuh, the paste of the tuber is a poultice for treating wounds and mitigating bruises and pains cause by injuries.

The Iban use the plant to produce a pleasant fragrance in the room while the Kedayan consume a tea made from the dry tuber to treat vomiting of blood, bleeding nose or blood in stool.
Stenochlaena palustris

Aside from that, the Bidayuh and Iban traditionally use this plant to prevent padi stored in the barn “from being stolen by malevolent spirits.”

The plant is inserted in the barn while a prayer is being chanted.

Also planted along the trail is asplenium nidus or rajang, tandoh in Iban, tuban in Kayan or bird’s nest in English.

This plant is used by the Kayan to mitigate blood in stools. A handful of the rhizome is boiled in two to three cups of water and drunk regularly until the symptom disappears.

The Iban normally pound the leaves and poultice on the forehead to relieve headaches.

Stenochlaena palustris, known as lemiding, rambai in Iban, pauh ira in Kelabit and midin in Malay, is found aplenty at the Centre.

Midin is good for the eye, and apart from preventing night blindness, is also used to treat diarrhea.

The Centre also has parkia speciosa or petai, traditionally used to treat high blood pressure and diabetes.

Normally, the young shoots are boiled to make a tea while the seeds are consumed raw or cooked.

Neprolepsis biserrata is equally abundant at the Centre.

Known as paku kubok in Iban, paku bura in Kayan and langkubuk in Kedayan, this plant is traditionally used among the Iban to stimulate milk production in the mother after childbirth.

When the body itches after bathing in the river, rub the young leaves on the body.

The piper species or sirih hutan also grows in the area.

Sirih hutan is traditionally used to boost the central nervous and immune systems, reduce snoring and muscle cramp and treat diarrhea.

Then, there is moultonianthus-laembruggianus known as cengkih hutan in Malay.

This plant acts as an antioxidant and traditionally used to control blood cholesterol level, reduce menstrual pain and solve pimple problems.
The bird-watch tower.

A holistic approach

The setting up of SK Ba Kelalan Nature Centre is among the holistic approaches to conservation taken by the state government whereby the health of the local ecosystems supports the residents’ well-being while the residents’ use of the natural resources maintains and probably enhances critical biodiversity and ecosystems.

In Sarawak, rural communities co-exist for centuries in relative harmony with the environment and the wildlife that surround them.

But economic straits, rapid population growth, political and cultural changes, and external demands for resources can disrupt the balance of this relationship in some areas.

In the face of industrial resource extraction and global trade, traditional laws are more often than not toothless.

As a result, the communities may lose access to their land, water, traditional cures and wildlife resources.

To prevent this, conservation-based community programmes have been initiated in some places, especially near the totally protected areas (TPAs) such as Lanjak Entimau Wildlife Sanctuary (LEWS) and Pulong Taun National Park.

Through its Community Service Initiatives (CSI) division, the State Forest Department works with the local people in managing their natural resources, and trains them to become more effective stewards of their environment.

Education awareness programmes have been organised not only for adults but also for school children.

Through community and school-based programmes in the areas near the TPAs, the Forest Department seeks to develop a conservation outlook among community members together with a sense of community responsibility for environmental protection and sustainable development.

Educational programmes for children and adults raise awareness of the importance of protecting their biodiversity, the environmental impact of current practices of unsustainable harvesting of plant and animal resources and the key role of sustainable productive activities in improving community livelihoods.

These programmes also train community members to participate in the planning and implementing sustainable development activities.

If birding is your passion and you want the birding experience, the SK Ba Kelalan Nature Centre is one of the places you should try to visit.

A bird watching tower has been erected somewhere in the middle of park.

Read more: http://www.theborneopost.com/2014/10/19/a-wonder-of-nature/#ixzz3HRYSCwu9



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