Volvo Trucks continues to drive progress for a safer and more sustainable future with a corporate social responsibility contribution via the Volvo Group Seasonal Gift programme to the Kelabit community of Bario in Sarawak.
The programme’s objective is to help create prosperity for the communities where Volvo Trucks operates. Malaysia was one of the countries selected, with Bario chosen as the recipient of the Volvo Trucks-funded RM500,000 Seasonal Gift contribution for improving the lives of the Kelabit community.
It includes the construction of a fire-fighting system with a water tank and eight hose reels for the Bario Asal Lembaa longhouse settlement, the oldest longhouse in the area dating to 1958.
The second effort entails the construction of five eco-shelters, where all materials were carried on the backs of porters and shelters built by hands, along the 25km Bario ancestral trail. The estimated distance between each shelter is five kilometres. The eco-shelters are equipped with working toilets via a sustainable water harvesting system. It takes about five to six days of trekking to reach the last eco-shelter. The eco-shelters help make the trekking journey through thick jungle terrain more manageable as well as encourage more tourists and generate more income for the locals.
The Bario project commenced in mid-2017 and was completed in December 2017. A handover event to mark the completion of both the fire-fighting system and five eco-shelters was held recently at the Bario Asal Lembaa longhouse settlement. It was attended and launched by Dag Juhlin-Dannfelt, Ambassador of Sweden to Malaysia, Mats Nilsson, Managing Director, Volvo Malaysia, Penghulu Robertson Bala, and Laju Balang @ Aren Lemulun, Headman of Bario Asal Lembaa longhouse.
Nilsson said: “The primary objective of our Seasonal Gift contribution and other corporate social responsibility initiatives is to give back to various stakeholders in the society. This initiative for Bario is one of 14 projects being carried out in different countries globally under our Seasonal Gift programme, which was first announced in December 2016. In addition, Malaysia is one of only two countries in Asia that was chosen.”
Laju Balang said: “We are incredibly grateful for all of the work Volvo Trucks has put in for these two projects. To have a partner who shares our vision for heritage and the environment has been a dream come true. Our community has humble beginnings. This longhouse, Bario Asal Lembaa, is the oldest in Bario as our forefathers are the first settlers here. It is a living piece of history that must be protected and preserved. We enjoy modern amenities now but we remain very traditional in our communal way of life.”
He added: “There are six to seven longhouses fires every year in Sarawak. The trauma of losing such a place of history and heritage is devastating. Therefore, the decision of Volvo Trucks Malaysia to partner with us in building this fire-fighting system has given us the tools to overcome the worst, should it happen.”
Bario is made up of a vast highland plateau that lies more than 1,000 metres above sea level to the northeast of Sarawak. The indigenous community living there for more than 4,000 years are known as Kelabit. Over the years, about 65 per cent of the younger population had migrated due to the lack of facilities and jobs. Today, slightly more than 1,000 Kelabit people are still living in Bario.
Under the Economic Transformation Programme, the Government aims to establish Bario as the world-class hub destination for AgroBiodiversity and to obtain UNESCO World Heritage Status.