A Sow-A-Seed Project


Front page photo



Front photo





Forest degradation by logging and wild forest fire is a common phenomenon in the Tropical Rainforest.  The recovery of the burned forest is slow and to some extends impossible in situation where most mother trees were killed. This happened in some part of the forests within the Yayasan Sabah Group’s (YSG) Forest Management Area. Forest fires during the prolonged drought induced by the El Niño-Southern Oscillation in 1982-1983 have destroyed part of the forest in the Kalabakan Forest Reserve near Tawau, Sabah in the island of Borneo. YSG and IKEA have subsequently collaborated in a project to restore the said degraded forest.



Pioneer Macaranga spp. dominating the burnt forest (before rehabilitation)




Forest under rehabilitation possess different tree species



Innoprise-IKEA Tropical Forest Rehabilitation Project (INIKEA)

A Memorandum of Agreement was signed in June 1998 between Innoprise Corporation Sdn Bhd (ICSB) and the Sow-A-Seed Foundation (Insamlingsstiftelsen Så ett Frö) to collaborate in a tropical forest rehabilitation project.  ICSB is wholly-owned by Yayasan Sabah Group and the Sow-A-Seed Foundation is a foundation established by IKEA of Sweden. ICSB manages the project on a day to day basis. Both Yayasan Sabah and the Sow-A-Seed Foundation contributed to the total costs of the project.  The Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SUAS) provides research and technical assistances.


The objective of INIKEA Project is to improve biodiversity and to assist the recovery of degraded forests. The INIKEA project area, a consolidated block of 18,500 ha, is located in the southern part of Yayasan Sabah’s Forest Management Area.  INIKEA is now part of the 2012-gazetted Sungai Tiagau Class I Forest Reserve (Protection).


Development area of INIKEA


The five-year development phases of INIKEA have been extended for the fourth time and by the end of the Phase 4 in 2020, not less than 14,000 ha of degraded forest shall be rehabilitated with enrichment planting of indigenous species and liberation activity.



Development phases of INIKEA have been extended for fourth time




The preparation of planting materials is done at INIKEA Nursery, located at Luasong Forestry Centre, Tawau.  There are two plant production methods; propagation by seeds and collection of wildings.  Seeds are collected during fruiting seasons, germinated and selectively transplanted into plastic bags for growing.  As forest trees do not fruit regularly, we produce planting material by wildings to ensure continuous supply of good planting materials.  In order to have a good proportion of species in the nursery, we maintain a composition of Dipterocarps (70%), non-Dipterocarps (25%) and wild fruit trees (5%) in the stocking.  A total of 60 – 70 species is normally available at any one time.


Sorting out Dipterocarps fruits for germination




Growing seedlings in the nursery bed



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Collecting wilding from forest floor




Wildings in the acclimatization chamber




The fully grown seedlings are sent to the field for planting at ages between 8 to 24 months.  There are two planting methods namely, the line and the gap-cluster plantings.  In line planting, seedlings are planted at a distance of 3 m to each other along a 2 m wide planting line.  The planting lines are created every 10 m interval in the forest.


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Line planting


In gap-cluster planting, a gap is located at the most suitable spot in every sub-quadrate of 10 m by 10 m.  Four of the sub-quadrates make up a quadrate of 20 m by 20 m.  During Phases 1 and 2, three seedlings of different species are planted in each gap.  The number of seedling per gap is increased to four in the subsequent phases to compensate for mortality.  For both planting methods at least 25 different species are planted per block to secure the biodiversity requirement of the project.


Gap-cluster planting



Site preparation is performed several months before planting.  The common site preparation activities are surveying for planting block demarcation, climber cutting, ring-girdled of selected Macaranga spp. (if necessary) and removing undergrowth to allow more light reaching the forest floor.  The staffs are trained to identify natural regenerations during the site preparation works.  Tending with shade adjustments is required up to 10 years after planting. Field censuses are conducted three months after planting and subsequently three years later to determine the survival status of the planted seedlings.  100% resupply is conducted if the survival at 3 months after planting is less than 90%.  Resupply 3 years after planting is also done if the survival is less than 65%.


Planting a seedling in a line-planting area



22 years old planted Shorea leprosula at a gap-cluster planting block (Dbh = 64 cm, Height = 40 m)





SUAS is active in providing technical and research supports to INIKEA. To date more than 30 graduates and post-graduates studies have been completed by local and foreign students at INIKEA covering different aspect of sciences. Other local students of University Malaysia Sabah (UMS) also conduct their research in INIKEA.


Dr. Jan Falck from SUAS, supervising a nursery trial.  Dr. Jan is the “father” of INIKEA Project



Dr. Ulrik Ilstedt, the principal researcher from SUAS is actively pursuing research activities at INIKEA




UMS researchers conducting field assessment at INIKEA



The INIKEA’s Research Unit is conducting applied research to support the development programmes.  Common experiments include comparison of line and gap-cluster planting methods, nursery media trials, fertilizer trials, seedling vs. wilding stocks, size of seedlings, opened-area planting, etc.  Our Research Assistants are experienced in providing research supports to scientists and researchers at INIKEA.



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Nursery experiment: Effect of drought on seedlings


There are three 3-rooms fully-furnished researcher quarters in Luasong.  This facility can be rented to researchers or visitors for short- or long-term stays.  INIKEA also owns two lodges within its project area, i.e. Maris River Lodge (Maris) and Marimba Lodge (Marimba).  Maris River Lodge (MRL) is a fully equipped 20 pax hostel beds with a good kitchen and meeting facilities. MRL is located about 40 minutes drive from Luasong. Marimba Lodge which is another 40 minutes drive from Maris is a 6 pax hostel beds at the edge of Kalabakan River.  Sighting of wild animals such as Elephants, Banteng, Deer, Mouse Deer, Wild boar, Civet, Monkey, Flying squirrel, etc. are common around the lodges. Callings by Bornean gibbons and Hornbills can be heard at almost every visit to Marimba.





Maris River Lodge (Maris)



Marimba Lodge (Marimba)





About 700 locals from nearby villages have been working with INIKEA since its inception in 1998.  The actual active staffing at any one time is around 80 people depending on actual workload. The staff are camping in both Kem Maris & Kem Marimba. Basic facilities such as electricity, piped water system, radio communication, sundry shop, in-and out-door games, satellite TV, and good restrooms are provided in both camps. All staff and their families are allocated with free accommodation in one of the thirteen blocks of 4-house quarters sponsored by the Sow-A-Seed Foundation in Luasong.  The families enjoyed free basic necessities including electricity, water, clinic and primary school at Luasong.



Staff quarters at Luasong



INIKEA staff are encouraged to participate in various in-house training programmes such as first-aid, tree identification, survey, etc. New experience such as survival and working in the forest are also incorporated as on-the-job trainings.


First aid training for INIKEA staff


Final assessment during a Tree Identification Course



Social gathering during annual BBQ Dinner participated by INIKEA Steering Committee Members and INIKEA staff



For further information, please contact:


INIKEA Project

Yayasan Sabah Group

Luasong Forestry Centre

P.O. Box 60793

91017 Tawau.

Tel          : (6 089) 937002

Fax         : (6 089) 937003

Email      :