malaysia: mobilizing national and local action on climate change
The Malaysian government is currently preparing a draft national policy on climate change and much work is needed to secure appropriate national policies, and to ensure that civil society perspectives are incorporated. Local community participation and mobilization at the grassroots level is key to ensuring that real action is taken and plans do not remain mere words.
Although the project has only been running for ten months, Friends of the Earth Malaysia/Sahabat Alam Malaysia has already been engaged in awareness-raising and mobilization activities with farmers, fisherfolk, rural and urban community activists, and students in selected schools and campuses. They have carried out awareness-raising and mobilization activities in three villages, involving a total of about 100 people, including women. These events involved an exhibition on climate change, talks, discussion, and the signing of a petition urging government action.
FoE Malaysia also organized a nationwide mangrove replanting program in December 2008, with the support of fisher community groups. Some 700 people were involved, and they planted 6,000 mangrove saplings in six locations. The mangroves commemorate the 2005 tsunami and symbolize the likely impact of future storm surges due to climate change and the role of mangrove forests as natural barriers between the sea and the land. The fishing communities have pledged to maintain and regenerate mangrove forests.
FoE Malaysia also produced attractive popular education materials on climate change, and lobbied parliamentarians and federal politicians. They held a workshop for government officials and leading environmental organizations, and met with and contacted politicians, policy-makers and researchers. They also met with the Forestry Research Institute of Malaysia on Mangrove Research and Development, to emphasize the importance of mangrove forests as natural in-shore protection against the impacts of climate change. Additionally, FoE Malaysia wrote letters to the media opposing nuclear power, and supported Friends of the Earth International’s work on agrofuels, focusing on the impacts of oil palm expansion on Indigenous Peoples’ lands.
FoE Malaysia is the first environmental NGO in Malaysia involved in community mobilization to combat climate change, and is now making real progress in building a grassroots movement. Replanting mangroves proved to be a very successful way of raising awareness about climate change mitigation and adaptation – and will also support fisher communities’ livelihoods as the mangroves also provide an important fish breeding ground.
Through their advocacy work, FoE Malaysia has gained more contacts, outreach, exposure and knowledge, enabling them to engage more effectively in national policy work. Their continued involvement will help raise the level of debate on climate issues in the Malaysian Parliament. FoE Malaysia’s staff also benefited from this project, and from engaging with FoEI’s Climate Justice and Energy program: they significantly increased their knowledge about climate change as a result of the project.
“We have begun making climate change relevant to villagers, farmers and fisherfolk, and this is the beginning of building a grassroots based movement.” said Meenakshi Raman from SAM / FoE Malaysia. SAM will continue to mobilize and empower grassroots communities to be engaged in climate change. More awareness-raising events are planned, including outreach to university students. A series of leaflets on climate change is in production looking at the implications that climate change has for agriculture and farmers, fisherfolk, mangroves, waste, energy and transport.
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