Project Title




AS FRESHWATER safety, security and the hydrologic cycle are practically complex and cannot be dealt with in isolation, it affects every level of social and economic interaction in Sabah. So, how do we bring people together for freshwater habitat conservation? And how can our work be relevant for the future?

These are the burning questions that drive our work. We are based in Sabah, Malaysia, Borneo island, and this website provides information and the approaches we take to enrich the Freshwater For Future (FFF) initiative to create resilience for freshwater ecosystems, safety and security. We focus on acquiring the most accurate data to inform our work and we collaborate with the local indigenous communities to deploy pragmatic best practices.

Freshwater for Future (FFF) is one of Forever Sabah‘s (FS) Stand-alone Projects.


WE TAKE A WHOLESOME approach in our work where species, their habitats and the overall fluvial ecosystem are covered in FFF’s scope. We make no distinction between big or small and common or rare species as all species are equally important. FFF scope also includes habitats such as torrent rivers, lowland rivers, wetland, peat swamp, brackish swamp, paddy fields and urban drainage.

FFF work is coupled with a strong engagement component with the local indigenous communities and regulatory government agencies to ensure value and resilience is built from bottom-up.

Our community-based projects are aimed to strengthen:

  • traditional ecological knowledge

  • citizen science skills and competencies

  • informed decision making

  • issues awareness

We work with the indigenous communities to:

  • measure and monitor changes

  • identify causes of change

  • devise actionable solutions

  • map critical areas for prioritization

  • carry out “no net loss” management plans

  • deploy green economy initiatives


1. Rare and endemic fish species inventory

Since Inger and Chin (1962) first enumerated a fish species masterlist for Sabah, there was no attempt to update and continuously validate the masterlist in accordance to taxonomic changes and new discoveries. Moreover, some species may have been extinct due to current anthropogenic pressures. As such it is near impossible to identify and prioritize which species are endangered and which habitat locations should be protected. This project was completed in early 2017 and a paper was published in an open journal to make the masterlist available to the public and the scientific community. The list will set the foundation for subsequent conservation work at species level and it is carried out in collaboration with Fishery Research Center (Likas) and other NGOs.

Click for
news media coverage
Study to conserve Sabah's freshwater fish species - The Borneo Post

2. Assessment and capacity building of HCV components.

FFF has been engaged by the Forest Research Center (FRC) of Sabah to lead High Conservation Value (HCV) components pertaining to freshwater ecosystem to support Sabah’s RSPO statewide jurisdiction certification and CBD Aichi Biodiversity Target capacity building. This involves preparing Sabah to safeguard its freshwater species (HCV1), watershed landscape (HCV2), endangered aquatic ecosystem (HCV3) and watershed ecosystem services function (HCV4) in all regions within Sabah Forestry Department’s management. This is a game-changing project and we see these as good opportunities to put in place safeguards and precautionary measures to ensure Sabah enjoys clean, safe and secure freshwater supply in the next 20 years. The activities are expected to become more intense in 2017-2018 and they are carried out in collaboration with Forestry Research Center (Sepilok).

Rivers and hydrogeography of Sabah for H

Rivers and hydrogeography of Sabah for HCV assessment

3. Wastewater and river conservation CEPA*

FFF has co-facilitated and assisted seven village tagal committees from the Moyog River watershed to participate in the International River Day 2016 held in Mahandoi Village, Penampang, which was aimed at creating public awareness for river conservation. FFF also sponsored and coordinated the participation of seven Sabahan youths to attend the Powershift Workshop held in UMS. The workshop’s objective was to train the new generation with hands-on skills and knowledge to lead freshwater-based conservation projects. FFF hopes to build a pool of talent and potential field volunteers for its projects. One of them was sent to attend the 2nd International Wetland Symposium for exposure.

* Communication, education and public awareness

4. Citizen science to inform fish refugia conservation

A field study based on the citizen-science approach was carried out in Kg Kibunut and Notoruss in 2016 for 4 months to determine the fish population and species characteristics for river quality monitoring purposes. The method and findings was shared with other villages located along upper Moyog River. To spread the knowledge, a report was submitted to Universiti Malaysia Sabah and it was accepted for open publication on October 2016. A presentation was also given during the International Heart of Borneo Conference in November 2016 to share our “lessons-learned” experiences.

View media coverage of this project by Mongabay.com – How citizen science is transforming river management in Malaysian Borneo (commentary)

5. Payment for Ecosystem (PES) in Babagon watershed

Forever Sabah has been appointed by the Natural Resource Office (NRO) and Sabah Forestry Dept (SFD) to spearhead a Payment for Ecosystem Services (PES) pilot project in Babagon watershed which supplies 57% potable water to the Kota Kinabalu city population. The project is funded by Yayasan Hasanah and it aims to prepare three villages, named Tampasak, Babagon-Toki and Kolosunan, for Babagon watershed designation under the Water Resources Enactment (1998). Indigenous communities in these villages will be regarded as the watershed guardians and FFF has been entrusted to build communal competencies in monitoring aquatic biological, water chemical and fluvial physical quality. The project has a duration of 3 years and upon completion Babagon would become the first watershed in Malaysia to be fully managed and conserved under the PES concept.

FFF’s community project site in Kg Notoruss, Penampang


The FFF initiative internship program offers opportunities for students and young professionals to gain soft and hard skills in;

  • Aquatic fauna taxonomy

  • Hydrogeography and GIS

  • Water physico-chemistry

  • Monsoonal meteorology

  • Green-infrastructure engineering

  • Watershed ecosystem services

  • Ethnography and social studies

  • Community-based conservation projects

  • Graphic design and education material content development


We welcome application from the science and art faculties because both are crucial in creating and operating cutting edge projects.


Kindly apply by sending us your CV and a cover letter highlighting area(s) of interest. If you have a skill set that is not listed above but you feel it would by useful to FFF, sure, we are keen to explore.

You do not need high academic grades to seek internship with FFF because we think the ability to work with communities and being resourceful is more important.







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