Through this initiative, Nestlé Malaysia is contributing to its global pledge of moving towards net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050
By ROHANI MOHD IBRAHIM / Pic BERNAMA
NESTLÉ (M) Bhd launched its Project RELeaf last month — a reforestation initiative that aims to plant three million trees in three years across Malaysia from 2021 to 2023.
Out of the three million trees, two million will be in the Kinabatangan Wetlands and Merisuli Forest Restoration area in Sabah. The remaining one million trees will be planted in the peninsula, including areas along the central forest spine.
The central forest spine includes forest areas within the groups of forest complexes of Peninsular Malaysia.
There are four major forest complexes, namely Banjaran Titiwangsa-Banjaran Bintang-Banjaran Nakawan; Taman Negara- Banjaran Timur; southeast Pahang-Chini and Bera Wetlands; and Endau Rompin Park- Kluang Wildlife Reserves.
These forest reserves provide sanctuary for a great diversity of flora and fauna.
Through this initiative, Nestlé Malaysia is contributing to its global pledge of moving towards net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
Speaking to reporters after the launch of Project RELeaf, Nestlé Malaysia CEO Juan Aranols said through Project RELeaf, Nestlé Malaysia can make an even bigger impact to safeguard Malaysia’s environmental resources.
“Project RELeaf aims to address the loss of biodiversity and climate change by scaling up efforts in agriculture and deploying nature-based solutions to absorb more carbon,” he said.
Aranols said Project RELeaf will deliver positive value in three areas, namely reforest, restore and respect.
“Nestlé wants to reforest the fragmented forest to mitigate human-animal conflict and, at same time, provide food and sanctuary for a wide diversity of flora and fauna. This includes threatened wildlife such as the orangutan, proboscis monkey, Asian elephant, Malayan tiger and many more,” he said.
Aranols said Nestlé also wants to continue restoring the country’s riparian buffers and hope to help improve water quality by reducing the negative impact of human activities.
He said Nestlé also respects the presence of the local communities in these areas and will continue to empower and support their livelihoods by involving them in planting seedlings in the forest and in maintenance activities.
“Through win-win engagements with these local communities, we (Nestlé Malaysia) are confident we will build their awareness and participation in conservation and environmental sustainability, for their benefit and the benefit of the future generations,” he said.
He said Nestlé is embarking on the journey of project RELeaf with the support of many partners, including government ministries and many entities.
Nestlé Malaysia’s partners for project RELeaf include the Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources, Forestry Department Peninsular Malaysia, Sabah Forestry Department, Malaysian Nature Society, Kinabatangan Orangutan Conservation Project, Tropical Rainforest Conservation and Research Centre, Sime Darby Plantation Bhd, as well as local communities and planters.
On the selection of tree species for its RELeaf project, Aranols said Nestle will plant local species and will integrate them with the natural ecosystem.
“That is the only way we can maintain our forests over the years and make them sustainable,” he said, adding that 25 to 40 species will be planted depending on the area.
It is not only going to be about planting forest species as fruit trees will also be planted to provide sustenance to the wildlife.
“So it is going to be a combination of different species and also according to the environment in which the trees will be planted,” he added.
For example, in riparian zones (areas situated on the banks of a river), the focus will be on planting flood mitigation species. As for hill slopes that need to be restored, the focus will be on planting forest species.
Aranols, meanwhile, said the Nestlé Group is planning to spend approximately RM6 million per year on Project RELeaf. The first phase of the project will kick off in Sabah early next year, while work on the peninsula’s central forest spine is expected to start in the later part of 2021 or 2022.
He said one of the major areas in Peninsular Malaysia that Nestlé will be focusing on is the Ulu Muda forest area in the western part of Kedah where 400,000 to 500,000 trees are expected to be planted in partnership with the Malaysian Nature Society.
On how Nestlé will measure the impact of its project, Aranols said there will be a systematic tracking of the work carried out on the ground and added that there will also be a key performance index in terms of how many trees they are planting and the survival rate.
Another important aspect of the project’s impact is how it helps create an additional source of income for the local communities who will be involved in collecting seeds and seedlings from the forest, taking care of the plantlets and transplanting them in their natural habitat.
Aranols said Nestlé’s first step in preserving Malaysia’s biodiversity started in 2011 with its RiLEAF project — a riparian reforestation initiative to restore more than 2,500ha of forests in the lower Kinabatangan river in Sabah.
He said Project RiLEAF had created a source of income for the local communities who provided seedlings of forest species and got them planted in the areas concerned.
He said the primary aim of the reforestation efforts was to mitigate water contamination in the Kinabatangan river caused by agricultural activities.
That journey has ended. Together with our main partners, Sime Darby Foundation, the Sabah Forestry Department and many others, we crossed the one million trees planted mark in September (last month).
“With the RiLEAF project concluded, we wanted to embark on a new and even more ambitious reforestation programme as a concrete contribution to fight climate change and protect threatened ecosystems,” he said.
At the recent launch of Project RELeaf, Energy and Natural Resources Minister Datuk Dr Shamsul Anuar Nasarah applauded the initiative taken by Nestlé.
“This project will definitely complement the government’s Greening Malaysia Programme via the 100 million tree-planting campaign from 2021 to 2025,” he said.
Shamsul Anuar said Project RELeaf is an effort by Nestlé to green Malaysia and rehabilitate degraded forest areas.
“I hope more corporate and private bodies will emulate Nestlé in its efforts to preserve and restore our forests which are our nation’s invaluable treasures,” he added. — Bernama