What impact have you had on your clients and the tourism sector?
Community based mangroves conservation programme that integrated into ecotourism activities has created added value to the visitors and local communities. Through the FOM activities, visitors get to learn about the threatening mangroves ecosystem, participating in rehabilitation of the degraded mangroves forest and supporting the community livelihood at the same time. This is a cutting edge approach where tourism can contribute to the community livelihood and promoting sustainable use of natural resource. Participants/visitors who support the FOM activities have gained hand-on experience and take action to help the environment and support the community effort.
On-going strategic and formal training is important and is planned to enhance the skills and knowledge of the community in the mangrove rehabilitation and developing sustainable livelihood. Understanding of the importance of mangroves in protecting the coast and sustaining the fisheries industries that is crucial for fisherfolk livelihood will be stressed.
Networking and info-sharing activities are crucial to promote the community effort. The FOM website will be functions as a one-stop information centre and networking platform for organizations involved in mangrove conservation.
Although GEC has implemented Community-based projects in Kuala Gula since 2007, it is a fairly new concept in Malaysia and therefore it requires extensive effort and commitment from both the project team and the target community. To maintain the interest and long-term commitment of the local communities can be challenging and much focus and effort is needed to change their attitude and direct the communities toward unity.
Rehabilitation and Protection of the Existing Mangrove Forests
•20 ha of mangrove forest rehabilitated conducted with the involvement of local community/ students/ volunteers through ecotourism.
•50,000 mangrove seedlings raised and distributed to support other community groups in mangrove rehabilitation and conservation
•FOM patrol group established to enhance protection of mangrove forests within the State land forest.
Develop options for sustainable livelihood
•Conduct capacity building activities which incorporate awareness programme and skills development (for innovative and sustainable products).
•Implement community action programme to support the development of mangroves based products.
Improving the understanding of local communities and other stakeholders on mangrove ecosystems
•Awareness programmes organized for local villagers and other stakeholders at Kuala Gula, Perak in conjunction with environment theme days.
•Promote community based mangrove conservation programme through FOM website to support the sustainable use of mangroves.
•Sharing of information via media, public forums and other available platforms with relevant stakeholders
What will it take for your project to be successful over the next three years? Please address each year separately, if possible.
The voices of the Kuala Gula community in protecting the mangroves for their livelihood and coastal protection needs to be heard and this will only be achievable through the unity of the local community. However, individualism among members of the communities is common and much focus and effort is needed to change their attitude and direct the communities toward unity. Positive change has been observed in some individuals but there is still room for improvement. Thus, the establishment and set up of the FOM Kuala Gula needs to be strengthened and formalized to prepare the community in moving towards a much stronger institutional set up.
A community based project should be a long term project if it is to deliver good results and impact to the people. It is crucial to incorporate alternative livelihood options and an independent project targeting the stakeholders from the government agencies into the current community-based mangroves conservation programme. Thus, ongoing fund-raising for the community based mangroves rehabilitation programme in Kuala Gula is very important to ensure the sustainability of the project and to achieve the final goal of long term mangrove conservation and costal protection in Perak.
What would prevent your project from being a success?
Commitment of the stakeholders
Mangrove conservation and rehabilitation requires a change of perception, determination and a lot of hard work in order to improve the degraded site and conserve the existing mangroves. Possible risks arise from the reliance on the commitment of the local communities and willingness of the stakeholders to participate throughout the programme.
The programme required more effort and time than was anticipated in the project implementation because the FOM members still require special guidance due to a lack of confidence and commitment among some of the members. Source of funding for GEC to support the on-going capacity building of the stakeholders is limited and much work plan is pending due to fund constraints.
Political Will and Cooperation of multi-stakeholders
Coastal and riverine protection requires foresight, strong political will and technical assistance to ensure the success of the programme and it requires the joint effort of various stakeholders, including local communities.
The land status of the current rehabilitation sites is an issue of concern as some parties have previously expressed their interest to develop the area. Currently, the project site is classified as state land. Although it is a coastal buffer it may be subject to future development if community wishes and needs are neglected.