The Sabah Land Development Board (SLDB) was established in 1969, it is one of the numerous statutory bodies under the Chief Minister’s Department developed to implement Sabah’s rural land development programme. From it's inception it has been one of the major governmental agencies entrusted with the development of the stateland through re-settlement schemes, but in the last 15 years brought back to the people to implement in-situ land development projects.
Original tasked to implement crop diversification to decrease the state's dependency on rubber, currently the board is known for its instrumental role in the rapid development of community oil palm. At it's peak of operations in early 1990s, SLDB had established and managed some 66000 hectares of commercial oil palm plantation and eight palm oil mills state wide. In 1996, the State Government corporatized SLDB, which left SLDB with a bit more than 11000 ha of settlers area and 1181 ha of a commercial estate mostly located in the East Coast of Sabah. The settlers area is comprised of 2765 settlers involving 12 land development schemes. SLDB’s settler areas are mainly located in the East Coast, but after being reformed by the State in 2001, most SLDB’s new rural land development projects are located in the West Coast focusing in the Interior division of Sabah or Keningau District.
The SLDB is spearheading rural land development to improve the living standard of the rural communities and income opportunities at the same time to improve unproductive and degraded land areas in Sabah through four socio economic development concepts.
i. Settlers Land Rehabilitation Programme or Program Pemulihan Tanah Peneroka
ii. Smallholders Planning Project or Projek Pekebun Kecil Terancang
iii.Smallholders Decentralized Project or Projek Pekebun Kecil Berkelompok
iv. Communal Land Development or Geran Komunal
Currently, the SLDB is also active in developing community land mostly in the Keningau District on a commercial basis. Despite the SLDB’s diverse business model on upstream oil palm production, the SLDB is also focusing on midstream or processing of fruit bunches or FFB such the Keningau Palm Oil Mill (KPOM) which has been in operation since 2002. In addition to KPOM, a second palm oil (CPO) mill is expected soon at Pandewan, Nabawan which is in full operation by the end of 2015.
In 2014, SLDB has announced dividend payment amounting to RM3.6 million for the first quarter. The dividend is to benefit more than 1000 settlers in Sabah involved in agricultural projects mainly on community oil palm cultivation. Of a total 3.6 million Ringgit dividend approximately RM2.3 million was disbursed to 874 settlers in oil palm scheme in the Eastern region where each beneficiary receives an average of RM2631, and approximately RM1.2 million for 911 settlers in the rural areas.
So far, a total of 8867 settlers and participants are participating in agricultural development projects carried out by the SLDB in Sabah. In this case, the participants are considered the as the stakeholders through the programmes mentioned above. The agreement is based on between 25 and 30-year lease or one generation of oil palm cultivation. After the 30-year period is completed, the SLDB will give the participants options: either to continue to manage their land under SLDB supervision or to become independent smallholders.