Malaysian mangrove-planted fishermen stumble upon natural financial obstacles

As they walk along the swampy ground, retired fishermen Elias Shafi and a few villagers plant mangrove seedlings on the west coast of Malaysia, one tree at a time.

Since the renovation began two decades ago, it has planted some 400,000 mangrove trees.

Mangroves are considered a key tool in combating climate change, and their work is even more important now that global warming and natural disasters are on the rise.

However, growing international concern has not yet helped this community win the international finances needed to expand the project.

“Mangruvs are important to our fishermen – we need them because this is a breeding ground,” said Elias, 70.

Mangruv is less than 1 percent of the world’s tropical rainforest, but it is vital to combating climate change because it is more efficient than other forests in attracting and storing planetary heat.

Mangrove ecosystems protect coastal communities from hurricanes, reduce flooding and ensure food security.

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that despite the loss of more than 1 million hectares of land in the Mangruv region of the world between 1990 and 2020, losses have decreased in recent years.


In Malaysia, the mangroves are often cleaned up for infrastructure construction and farming, and they are at risk of industrial pollution and overcrowding – including in the northern penguin state of Elias.

In the late 1990s, when the fish population was declining for him and other fishermen, Elias, through his Pingwa Fishermen’s Safety Association (PIFWA), joined forces with his peers to rehabilitate the rapidly disappearing mangrove forests.

Their small initiative has been recognized – so far about 30 local companies have sponsored their tree planting activities as part of corporate social responsibility projects.

PIFWA charges a small fee of 8 Ring (2) for the planted tree, and participating fishermen are paid for their time and energy.

Right now, Elias is hoping to get a lot of international funding to plant more trees, but he is struggling with problems – such as language barriers and lack of technical knowledge to raise funds and grow the project.

He cited the example of an international donor who wanted to expand his seedling project by developing new ideas after the first round of funding.

“We could not afford to do this, such as turning it into an eco-tourism destination or engaging more young people,” he said.

“We are scared – we are fishermen and we are not confident in doing what we can to deliver,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation during a holiday planting of mangrove seedlings.

His frustration is that many countries and donors are investing in so-called “nature-based solutions”, ranging from deforestation to wetland expansion, to transferring funds to restore nature.

New Covenants

Over the past decade, less than 1 percent of global climate finance has gone to locals and local communities to control global warming carbon emissions and biodiversity, according to a recent report by Green Groups.

To protect climate change, biodiversity and land degradation without international funding, the United Nations has set a four-year increase in annual investment to $ 536 billion.

At a recent UN COP26 climate summit, pledges ranging from $ 19 billion to conservation and rehabilitation of forests to public and private funding have increased.

This month, a new international fund was launched under the initiative of rights and resources and a natural campaign.

According to Rama, an environmentalist, additional small-scale support is available to communities and, in collaboration with local non-profit organizations, transfers previously missed funds to overcome language and knowledge barriers.

“Nature gives them jobs, and they protect the ecosystem. It’s about sustainable livelihoods and conservation of nature (at the same time),” said Raman, a friend of the conservation group.

Increase for women

In Sungai Acheh, a sleepy village with wooden fishing boats along the river, he said women were inspired by the mangrove plantation.

Some Indonesian Mangruv-indigenous communities have learned how to convert certain tree species into tea, juice and jam, selling the products at 6-8 rings each to increase family income.

Hajar Abdul Aziz, a 36-year-old mother of five, says: “Not only did my husband improve his fishing business but I also benefited from it.”

Many coastal communities like her can benefit from conservation and improve their livelihoods if they receive financial support to overcome similar initiatives, she added.

One day City Hajar is looking for a way to expand its sales by selling its mangrove products in supermarkets.

“I used to sit at home – I’ve learned a lot since I started doing this,” she said.


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