01 July 2020
By Wan Nur Syazana Wan Mohamad Ariffin, University of Malaya

​The 3rd year of Blue Communities Programme sees the Malaysian case study team (BC MY) further enhancing its research capacity building activities, through continuous and widening of its engagement web with existing and new stakeholders, at the community and decision-making levels.

The first half of the 3rd year had seen fruitful progress in empirical data collection for Projects 2, 3, and 6 as well as planned capacity building activities with stakeholders for Project 12 and the University of Malaya (UM) Partnership Grant.

Project 2 had completed the actor network mapping activities with the stakeholders in Tun Mustapha Park (TMP) in February 2020. The actor network mapping, which was exercised through stakeholders’ interview, was completed covering the districts of Kota Marudu and Pitas in Year 3 continued from Kudat in Year 2. State government representatives based in Kota Marudu and Pitas were interviewed, which included the Department of Fisheries, Department of Ports and Harbours, Forest Department, District Offices, and Department of Irrigation and Drainage while the interviewed local representatives were Taritipan Youth Club (ANBATAR), Pitas and Kota Marudu Fishermen Associations, women’s fisher group (KUNITA), Supirak Tourism, community leaders, school teachers and local business operators.

Small Rufford Grant Conference 2020The Small Rufford Grant received from the Rufford Foundation was used to support BC MY’s Projects 3, 7 and 8 ecosystem mapping activities with the local stakeholders in TMP. The ecosystem mapping activities completed in the 2nd year of the program and the local ecological knowledge maps generated from the participatory ecosystem mapping activities were presented to the local communities involved with the activities in October 2019. In January 2020, the progress of the project was presented at the Rufford Small Grant Malaysia Conference 2020 in University of Science, Malaysia.

BC MY had conducted a pilot survey for Project 6’s household health questionnaire in the 2nd year of the program and actual data collection took place in the 3rd year, from July 2019 until February 2020, across the districts of Kudat (including Banggi Island), Kota Marudu and Pitas. A total of six villages from Kudat & Banggi Island, four from Kota Marudu and three from Pitas were selected for the household surveys, totalling up to 610 respondents interviewed from 330 households. Mercy Malaysia (Sabah Chapter) facilitated BC MY in the hiring of local volunteers to conduct the household health survey in Kota Marudu and Pitas.

Citizen Science Photovoice Workshop in December 2019Project 12 of BC MY had officially began collecting data in December 2019. Unlike other projects in the BC MY, Project 12 started out with a capacity building workshop with stakeholders in TMP in collaboration with Sabah Parks. A two-day Citizen Science Photovoice Workshop was held at Sub-station Serinsim, Kinabalu Park (Kota Marudu) in December 2019. Participants of the workshop included local stakeholders from ANBATAR, Kudat Turtle Conservation Society (KTCS), Banggi Coral Conservation Society (BCCS), school students and teacher from Abdul Rahim Secondary School and Sabah Parks personnel from throughout the state. The capacity building workshop provided the stakeholders with opportunities to learn about citizen science and photovoice technique, with the aid of a professional photographer invited by the BC MY team. Participants of the workshop who were interested were recruited as part of a citizen science program for Project 12’s data collection and at the same time polishing their photovoice skills. Focus group discussions (FGDs) with participants in citizen science program were conducted twice in Kudat, Kota Marudu and Pitas between January to February 2020.

In February 2020, BC MY held a meeting with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) office in Putrajaya. The meeting was to formally introduce the GCRF Blue Communities Programme and BC MY to the UNDP in order to gain feedback and explore potential collaborations with UNDP for upcoming BC MY activities in TMP, in which UNDP had shown considerable interest. In subsequent communication, UNDP had invited BC MY to participate in a discussion in the area of youth employment/biodiversity conservation/indigenous communities in Sabah, which is tentatively scheduled in June 2020.

School students taking part in ecosystem mapping activities at BC MY booth during Abdul Rahim Secondary School Convocation CeremonyIn October 2019, BC MY and the UM Partnership Grant had participated in the University of Malaya Academia-Community Engagement Conference held in Kuala Lumpur, in which a team member had presented a poster focusing on BC MY engagement with school students from Abdul Rahim Secondary School through the Kudat Coastal Community Festival 2019, via activities such as photography and videography competitions. The relationship between BC MY and Abdul Rahim Secondary School was further strengthened when the School had invited BC MY to set up an exhibition booth during their school convocation ceremony in October 2019, officiated by the Assistant Minister from the Ministry of Trade and Industry, Ben Chong.

The 2nd coastal community festival, replicating the Kudat Coastal Communities Festival 2019, is planned at a much larger scale, involving four schools across all three districts of Kudat, Kota Marudu and Pitas. Consultation with students on the photovoice and AirBnB (video) competitions had begun in February 2020 and the students had started taking photos and videos capturing the relationship between human wellbeing and the marine environment and creating narratives that highlight their communities’ traditions, strengths, concerns and hopes.

However, the year 2020 had started with a solemn beginning when the CoVID-19 virus outbreak was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO). The Malaysian Government had enforced the Movement Control Order (MCO) beginning 18th March 2020, with nationwide lockdown. As of June 2020, the MCO had been replaced with the Recovery Movement Control Order (RMCO) after the number of new cases began dwindling down to double digits per day. Due to the unprecedented pandemic, the majority of BC MY research and capacity building activities were put to a halt, affecting the delivery of the projects’ output. Among the affected projects in BC MY are Projects 6, 12, ECRN Pilot Project and the UM Partnership Grant. Project 6 planned for a meeting with health officials from the Ministry of Health in June 2020 while both Project 12 and ECRN Pilot Project planned for two stakeholders’ workshops and pre- and post-questionnaire survey collection, based on the comic book developed titled “Lumba-lumba Pulanglah” (Come Home Dolphin), related to fish bombing with school students respectively. The 2nd coastal communities festival organized by BC MY and UM Partnership Grant was planned to take place in June 2020, celebrating the winners for the photovoice and AirBnB competitions. However, all of these planned activities are now postponed as the MCO was imposed. Under the MCO, interstate travels were not allowed and education institutions were closed. Similarly, University of Malaya was closed during the MCO and all on-site and laboratory-based research activities were halted.

While the first half of 2020 has not been smooth in terms of empirical research and capacity building activities, BC MY had spent the lockdown period focusing on data analysis and writing and explored the possibility to conduct phone interviews for its partnership project. As an outcome of Project 6, BC MY had published a journal article titled “A Systematic Review of Health Status of Coastal Community in Sabah, Malaysia” in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health in February 2020. In April 2020, BC MY published a press article titled “Keeping Our Heritage via Voices of Youths” in the Sabah’s Daily Express. Another press article was submitted to the same press in June 2020 and is currently awaiting the editor’s feedback. BC MY had submitted an article to the University of Malaya Research Bulletin introducing the BC programme and briefly explaining BC MY’s activities in June 2020.

Despite the drawback from the pandemic, BC MY will still proceed with the planned activities in the upcoming months once the situation is under control. As the team is now already working on-site back in UM and interstate travels (including to Sabah) are allowed, empirical works will resume after consulting the local stakeholders and taking into consideration travel safety and precautions. However, due to the restrictions imposed by the Sabah State Government, travellers into the state are subjected to health and risk evaluation upon entry by health officials. Travellers with higher risk of getting infected will be tested and quarantined until the result is released.
Taking blood pressure reading from one of the villagers in Kg. Karakit (November 2019)
One of the groups from the Citizen Science Workshop presenting their photo and narrative

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