25 November 2019
By Dr Hong-Ching Goh, Wan Nur Syazana, Dr Voon-Ching Lim, Dr Mohd Iqbal & Dr Amy Then, University of Malaya

Progressing from the 1st year socializing phase, the Blue Communities Malaysian case study team (BC MY) marks a lively and productive 2nd year focusing on the continuous research capacity building activities, stakeholder engagement efforts and publication outputs.

The activities centered on research capacity building were multi-folded and multi-leveled. BC MY hosted a regional workshop linking coastal wellbeing and marine environment in March 2019 (Project 6) and organized a training the trainers’ workshop on governance analysis (Project 2) in Kota Kinabalu tailored for Sabah Parks and WWF personnel on marine parks. Three talks and sharing of experiences of Blue Communities project were conducted in February, March and April 2019, attended by multidisciplinary audiences both researchers and administrators with a great interest in the special nature of Blue Communities project. In June 2019, two administrative personnel attended a workshop on research administration in Hanoi. At the university level, an internal workshop (Project 2) involving a team of University of Malaya’s researchers who are working with coastal communities in Bachok, in the state of Kelantan, was carried out in May 2019.

Establishing what is known as the 'BC MY Talk Series', with guest speakers to talk on specific topics, is a continuous effort for visibility of the project, networking for research and quest for future possible collaboration. A total of eight talks took place between August 2018 and April 2019. Apart from the talk series, several BC MY team members had participated in two external conferences to further showcase the Malaysian team involvement in the Blue Communities project.

Dr Goh presents Blue Communities

The first one was a two-day symposium “Cross-boundary Cooperation for Biodiversity Conservation in Asia under Global Change” held in Henan University, Kaifeng City, Henan Province, China and the second external event was the “East Asia Capacity Building Workshop on Science Advice in Biodiversity and its Research Management held in Jakarta, Indonesia.

Internally, the capacity building in research management and administration have been gradually yet significantly strengthened within the BC MY and the University of Malaya Centre for Research Monitoring through consistent and regular engagements and negotiations.

Stakeholder engagement has been a consistent effort of the BC MY in various forms of formal meetings, courtesy calls and fieldwork interviews. Our team is utilizing infographics to inform, update and engage with our stakeholders.

At the policy and decision-making level, several government agencies and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) have been engaged in the effort to grasp an overall understanding of the policies and high-level decisions related to the study site of the Tun Mustapha Park (TMP). Among the government agencies and NGOs approached were the Department of Fisheries, Sabah Parks (HQ and Kudat Office), WWF-Sabah (HQ and Kudat Office), and District Offices (Kudat, Kota Marudu, and Pitas). The NGOs namely Mercy Malaysia and Borneo Komrad were engaged to learn more on the health programs in TMP and the state of education for the undocumented children in Sabah respectively.

NetMap exercise with the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency in Tun Mustapha Park

Meanwhile, at the local level, BC MY had also engaged with local development agencies, community-based organizations (CBOs), and local communities. Among local government agencies approached were the Kudat Health Office, Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency, Kudat Welfare Department, Community Development Leaders Unit (UPPM), and Islamic Affairs Department. CBOs were engaged for relationship building and ecosystem mapping activities involving locals from the Banggi Coral Conservation Society (BCCS), Taritipan Youth Club (ANBATAR), Supirak Association, and Kudat Turtle Conservation Society (KTCS).

Ecosystem mapping with local communities in Tun Mustapha Park

Teachers at a secondary school in Kudat (St. Peter Secondary School) were also involved in the data collection stage. Several villages in the surrounding TMP area were approached for the pre-testing of household health survey including Kg. Tanjong Kapor, Kg. Sebayan, Kg. Bavang Jamal, and Kg. Marang Parang.  As a result of the engagement activities with the various stakeholders in TMP for the purpose of relationship building and data collection, BC MY team so far has 5 publications in preparation.

Earlier this year, BC MY team had initiated discussion with the Asia Foundation on possible arrangements for book distribution in Sabah for underprivileged school children in rural area,s including the coastal regions. A formal discussion meeting was set in motion on the 26th June 2019 in Kota Kinabalu attended by the Sabah State Library, University of Malaysia Sabah and Asia Foundation with a representative from BC MY present. A follow-up meeting that will involve more agencies is expected to take place later this year. The BC MY team had collected boxes of books for primary and secondary schools from the foundation and distributed them to several schools in TMP area during the fieldwork to be stored in the schools’ library.

As a spillover of the Blue Communities project, the Malaysian case study team has so far secured a Partnership grant from the University of Malaya focusing on the empowerment of women and children through community-based social marketing. The BC MY team was also recently awarded the Small Rufford Grant from The Rufford Foundation, which will be utilized to support the understanding of socio-ecological systems in TMP from the local communities’ perspectives using participatory mapping.

BC MY alongside the Partnership grant as well as Abdul Rahim Secondary School, had together co-organized an outreach event “Kudat Coastal Communities Festival” that took place between August and September 2019. The one-month long festival, designed to help raise awareness on the need for sustainable interactions between the coastal communities and marine ecosystems for the benefit of many, involved two competitions, Photovoice and AirBnB Experience. Both competitions were designed to help raise awareness and capture the coastal communities’ strengths, traditions, attractions, issues and challenges through the use of creative means, such as photography and videography. The closing ceremony was joined by the school students, teachers, BC MY team and representatives from Sabah Parks, WWF-Malaysia and Sabah Tourism Board. The photographs and narratives captured by the students were later printed into postcards. The success of the event prompted the school to invite BC MY to participate in the school’s graduation event in which BC MY team had used the opportunity to further strengthen BC MY’s relationship with the local communities in Kudat.

Another BC MY project aiming at raising awareness is the production of an educational comic targetted at school children and focusing on the issues of fish bombing. The educational comic titled “Lumba-lumba Pulanglah” (Come Home Dolphin), which was co-created with local authorities and CBOs in TMP, has been adopted as a corporate/social responsibility project by the University of Malaya’s Press Office (UM Press), with an exemption of printing cost for the first round of publication. The BC MY team will also measure the impact of the educational comic on the children’s knowledge, attitude, emotions and behavioral intentions in regards to the issue of fish bombing as portrayed in the comic.

There are many more exciting plans in store for the upcoming Year 3 from the BC MY team. In the months to come, BC MY team along with the Small Rufford Grant and Sabah Parks will be co-organizing a “Citizen Science Photovoice” workshop involving local communities in TMP. Another coastal communities festival is also set to be replicated at another school in TMP in the first quarter of year 2020. We also have several projects down the line including a video related to the findings in TMP, a coffee table book about TMP, a Photovoice exhibition and more peer-reviewed publications.

University of Malaya Blue Communities Team:

Facebook: @BlueCommunitiesMY
Twitter: @unimalaya
  • Postcards made by the Blue Communities team in Malaysia
  • Postcards made by the Blue Communities team in Malaysia
  • Postcards made by the Blue Communities team in Malaysia
  • Postcards made by the Blue Communities team in Malaysia
  • Postcards made by the Blue Communities team in Malaysia
  • Postcards made by the Blue Communities team in Malaysia
  • Postcards made by the Blue Communities team in Malaysia
  • Team Malaysia at the annual meeting in the UK
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