Sarawak has more than 40 sub-ethnic groups which can be broadly categorized into the following groups: Iban, Bidayuh, Orang Ulu, Melanau and Malay. Each of these ethnic groups has inherited a rich array of traditional knowledge from their ancestors, much of which have not been documented. This knowledge include centuries of practice on how to grow food and to survive in their environment. Such utilization and management of natural resources by indigenous people, perfected over a period of time is known as traditional knowledge.
While many of the older generation in these communities still retain traditional knowledge, there is a concern about the loss of knowledge as a result of changing lifestyles, priorities, the availability of modern amenities and the diminishing dependence of indigenous communities on natural resources. This has made it increasingly important that Traditional Knowledge is documented by the respective indigenous communities and retained as heritage so that it will not be lost.
With the rush for natural products development and bioprospecting from the world’s natural resources, it has become even more important to document Traditional Knowledge to ensure that the indigenous communities who have practiced such knowledge over the centuries are duly acknowledged should their knowledge be used in the development of natural products or bioprospecting.
The main objective of the Traditional Knowledge Documentation Programme carried out by the Sarawak Biodiversity Centre is to facilitate the local indigenous communities in the State in preserving their Traditional Knowledge through proper recording or documenting techniques. Such efforts are carried out through capacity building workshops that provide the local communities with necessary skills such as documentation techniques, propagation and management of useful indigenous plants.
The project also encourages local indigenous communities to cultivate useful indigenous plants for their own uses, as landscape for their surroundings and for awareness and appreciation purposes.