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The Sabah Forestry Department team has carried out the social baseline survey in five (5) villages located adjacent to the Ulu Segama-Malua (USM) Project area. These villages are Kg. Bumiputera, Kg. Era Baru, Kg. Lamag, Kg. Tawaiyari and Kg. Opak.

On the other hand, Ms Patricia Regis conducted an indepth cultural study of the Segama Dusun in four villages, namely Kg. Bukit Belacon, Kg. Lituk Pulau, Kg. Tawaiyari and Kg. Opak, the heartland of the SegamaDusun community.

Kg. Tawaiyari and Kg. Opak were established more than 50 years ago, while Kg. Era Baru and Kg. Lamag came into existence around 30 to 40 years ago. Kg. Bumiputera, on the other hand, is inhabited mainly by the Bugis community about 30 years ago following the construction of the Lahad Datu – Sandakan highway. Most of the villagers in Kg. Tawayari and Kg. Opak have settled down more than 30 years. On the other hand, about 40% of the communities in Kg. Bumiputera (mainly Bugis) came in 5 years ago while 50% of the communities in Kg. Era Baru came in and settled down 6 to 10 years ago

The Segama Bridge linking the Sandakan-Lahad Datu Highway serves as an important demarcation landmark in the demographic distribution of the riverine communities along the Segama River. It basically divides the inhabitants occupying the areas along the banks of the river on both sides of the bridge in two distinct clusters. The people living in several downstream villages comprise a mixed population of Idahans, Suluks, Bajaus, Segama Dusuns, Cocos and settlers of other ethnic origin. The more sparsely populated areas on the upstream side of the bridge are, however, regarded as being almost exclusively the traditional and cultural domain of the Segama Dusuns who are also the predominant and original indigenous population of this area, while in Kg. Bumiputera, they are basically all Bugis.

About 68% of the communities surveyed are farmers while the rest (32%) are working as labourers in oil palm estates, fishermen, etc. About 96% of the communities in Kg. Opah and 92% in Kg. Tawaiyari own between 0.1-15 ha of land while 75% of Kg. Era Baru and almost all in Kg. Bumiputera have no land ownership. A majority of the communities have income above RM500.00 per month.

Summary of the socio-economic status of the communities from the seven (7) kampungs surveyed Click to view summary

A small but quite distinct minority indigenous group the Segama Dusun, or “Dusun Segamo” take their name after the river which flows through the valley where they traditionally inhabit. Topographical referencing is widely used by indigenous people in Sabah for a more definitive ethnic identification which is based on the location they traditionally reside. According to current population estimates (2006) they total less than 5,000 people. A largely farming community, the Segama Dusun population, is concentrated in the four main villages which constitute the mukim of Ulu Segama, which is located in the middle reaches of the river valley, adjacent to Ulu Segama and Malua FRs. The four villages – Bukit Belacon, Kg Lituk Pulau, Kg Tawaiyari and Kg Opak – include small subsidiary villages and scattered settlements of individual dwelling houses distributed on both banks of the Segama River. This area can be considered as the heartland of the Segama Dusun.

The Segama Dusun occupied but probably never settled permanently in the forest in what is now known as DVCA, and neither have they made any claims or rights to the area. Their semi nomadic existence (by virtue of their swidden agriculture practices, subsistence hunting and fishing), brought them up downstream and sporadically inhabiting the banks of the upper Segama and its tributaries as far as Danum Valley. Some of these settlements were temporary to escape from disease downstream, and conflicts with headhunters and others in the past.

They are very much aware of the legal restrictions that have now placed the forests near their villages as out of bounds for their traditional hunting and harvesting of various forest products. They are no longer free to venture into the forests as they did before, although fishing along the banks continues for home consumption. Hunting and collection of timber and non-timber forest products (such as damar) have become rare due to the forest reserve restrictions and regulations governing hunting of animals on the protected lists. JKKK Baginda 2007 recalled collecting damar with his father in the jungle near his village at Kg Opak and selling the resin for $5 per pikul. A few in Kg Opak planted hill padi as a subsistence crop until 2005 when it was substituted with oil palm. In the past right up to the recent present, both the forest and the Segama River and its tributaries played a central role in their lives.

The Segama Dusun today, have generally settled for more sedentary agriculture tending to their oil palm small holdings and fruit crops, and enjoying other supplementary sources of income from other economic opportunities. They have become a respectable farming community, many with small-holdings of oil palm and fruit orchards. KK Aman Sirub and a few others from the Segama Dusun community sit on the FELCRA committees for the state. A number have joined the regular work force, and have found employment with government and the private sector. They are members of the local Bumiputra parties of the Barisan National (National Alliance) and are represented in the local political committees. Through their continued links with the Segama River and their unique living tradition in the cave burials, they continue to maintain their cultural and mythical contacts with the forest.

The blocks of alienated land arrayed along the Segama River from Kuala Bole downstream to Merisuli are now almost exclusively planted with oilpalm and owned by companies. It is likely that the purpose of excluding these lands from Ulu Segama FR was to allow Dusun Segama communities to maintain and own their traditional lands. If so, that intention never materialized, and the existing plantations now represent potential sources of encroachment, fire and hunting by non-indigenous communities.

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