Landscape and livelihood changes in Sabah, Malaysia: Development in Kampung Gaman

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Key messages

  • Land is at the center of socioeconomic activities in Kampung Gaman. Customary practices and investments in land, such as paddy farming, established fallow lands, a cemetery and fruit trees convey the land rights of the community.
  • In Sabah, unless a plot of land is warranted a physical deed, the land is considered as state land. Customary lands can be confiscated if the owner does not acquire his or her right to the native title (Dayang Norwana et al. 2011).
  • Yet, the allocation of available lands tends to favor commercial development instead of acknowledging the customary rights of the communities (Sabah Lands and Surveys Department 2010; Colchester et al. 2013). Consequently, the land is often ‘developed’ without the community’s consent.
  • This study looks at multiple development interventions in Kampung Gaman (i.e. public facilities, agriculture and forest conservation) and analyzes their impact on community land ownership, landscape and land use change, and livelihoods.
  • We found that development interventions might bring ‘economic’ development, but at the same time may see the community dispossessed of its lands. Thus, an effective form of Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) is crucial in enforcing a community’s rights and encouraging a system that ensures a community’s involvement.


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