Meeting the challenge of successfully protecting and sustainably managing biodiversity takes place in a vast and complex policy landscape where debate and decision-making must be informed by a robust and independent science base. SEARRP’s Assistant Director Dr Agnes Agama, draws on over three decades of exceptional rainforest research and the vibrant scientific community behind SEARRP, is working to connect local policy-makers with this evidence base. Her work synthesises and translates scientific insights that enable Sabah’s policy framework to balance conservation priorities against economic development agendas.
Agnes is able to build on SEARRP’s long history of collaboration with government partners in Sabah. In the 1990s, SEARRP supported numerous research projects which aimed to understand the impacts of timber harvesting on rainforest ecosystems. This resulted, in the design of Reduced Impact Logging (RIL) techniques, now an industry standard and is mandatory across Sabah. More recently, SEARRP’s research on the impacts of climate warming on range shifting species of Mt. Kinabalu has directly contributed to Malaysia’s National Policy on Biological Diversity 2016-2020 – which is setting the imperative for country-level climate-focussed biodiversity research. Agnes was also part of the multidisciplinary consortium engaged to develop a policy formulation process, spanning two years, to interpret the international Aichi Biodiversity Targets and set country-level targets for biodiversity conservation across Malaysia.
As Sabah’s state government has jurisdiction over land and natural resources, national policies such as the one on biological diversity serve to set broad directives that enable state-driven regulation. The Sabah Government bears the responsibility for developing policies and regulations that determine the status and management of Sabah’s biodiversity, protected areas and water courses, as well as the state’s forestry, agriculture and other land-use sectors. Sabah’s policy framework is both extensive and dynamic. There is an ongoing revision to update the Sabah Biodiversity Strategy 2012-2022 and a forthcoming Sabah State Policy on the Environment. Enabling an independent evidence base to contribute towards the formulation of policy and implementation of prescribed actions forms much of the task ahead – to which SEARRP is well placed to make a major contribution.
At recent conferences in both the UK and Sabah, Agnes organised delegations of SEARRP scientists to present and discuss findings to an audience of national and local policy-makers, researchers and students. In Sabah, this included civil society organisations and indigenous representatives. Conference deliberations resulted in calls for science-policy working groups on enhancing the design of riparian buffers, and on land-use planning for conservation. By leveraging partnerships with key government agencies to establish these working groups, Agnes leads on the coordination of science-policy advice and the provision of key strategic platforms for engaging the scientific community, local policy-makers and practitioners. Working together with colleagues from SEARRP, Agnes aims to better understand science-policy constraints, learn how to effectively communicate scientific insights, foster relevant and timely collaboration to and to place SEARRP firmly at the intersection between science, policy and environmental best practice.