Interest in traditional knowledge (TK) or traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) or local knowledge – often used interchangeably – is driven by multiple needs and desires aimed at seeking change through alternative development approaches to the modernist one. The modernist approach is seen by many as having ushered economic improvement but often at the expense of significant ecological degradation that causes social trauma for some, especially for those whose livelihoods are directly dependent on natural resources. Social trauma caused by resettlement to make way for the creation of forest reserves, infrastructure development (dam construction, road building, new housing settlement) or because of large scale agricultural development plantations, as well as indiscriminate logging are some such examples. By contrast, in alternative development approaches, the link between social health and the health of ecosystems is clearly understood. Consequently, an important source of support for TEK is the coupling of issues concerning biodiversity conservation with those of social justice. Alternative approaches have been given many names including eco-development, ecologically sustainable development or sustainable development. In this paper the process of acknowledging TEK and of promoting its strength is referred as the TEK process.
The paper begins by providing the context for the interest in TEK, tracing the reasons for the development of such interest by the Sabah State and different sectors of society, namely, non-government organizations, the indigenous communities themselves and industry. The Section then proceeds with a review of existing policies in Sabah that affect TEK and the potential for supporting the TEK process. It ends by providing a discussion of the policy implications for engaging in the TEK process.
Several sections are covered in this paper which are:
- Background to the interest of TEK
- TEK and its practical contribution
- TEK in Sabah: Building Upon State Policies, Plans and Blueprints
- Natural Resources Legislations and TEK
- Discussion and Conclusion
The paper further benefits from additional interviews held with individuals from government agencies and non-government organizations on the potential ways in which policy support can be provided to advance the TEK process within the existing policy framework.