Mangrove Regeneration Efforts Take Root in Setiu

by Lilei Chow

planting mangrove saplings
Students and parents from two local schools help Manaf plant saplings | Photo: UNDP Malaysia

After two years, Abdul Manaf's dream of restoring life back into the strip of mangrove forest in his backyard is one step closer to reality. As head of the local residents' committees, Manaf has been instrumental in getting about 150 villagers from Kampung Fikri, Kampung Saujana and Kampung Gong Batu to come together to rehabilitate and conserve mangroves in the area through a community project started by PETRA Perdana and UNDP.

This is the first time that local communities in the state have been involved in mangrove conservation. Though modest in scale, the project has attracted the attention of the local populace. This morning, Manaf will be getting help to replant the saplings by students from two local schools, some of whose parents themselves are involved in the community project.

Initially, many of the villagers were reluctant to get involved. "For us, these mangroves have been there for generations. We took what we needed from the forests, but we did not see the value in replanting. Now, we organize a gotong-royong* about once a month where we go into the mangrove forest to clear the area of debris and to ensure that our saplings are growing well."

As the mangrove replanting activities began in earnest last year, the villagers were in for another challenge - in the form of goats and monkeys. "We had goats wading into the water and monkeys hanging from the branches above to eat the young shoots! In the project's infant stages, only 25% of the trees survived." Manaf points to the fencing around the project site, a costly investment, but one which has helped enormously to increase the survival of the saplings.

Highlights

  • About 150 villagers from Kampung Fikri, Kampung Saujana and Kampung Gong Batu came together to rehabilitate and conserve mangroves in the area through a community project started by PETRA Perdana and UNDP.
  • The villagers have also built a nursery where the saplings of two mangrove species, called Bakau minyak and Bakau kurap in Malay, are cultivated for a year before they are transferred for planting at the project site.

Manaf has watched this land slowly come back to life. Birds, water snakes, clams, and shrimp are now coming back to the habitat. As one of the most productive ecosystems in the world, mangrove forests have the potential to provide supplementary income for coastal communities in Terengganu, especially during the early monsoon season when fishing activities, which forms the backbone of much of the rural economy, are suspended.

The villagers have also built a nursery where the saplings of two mangrove species, called Bakau minyak and Bakau kurap in Malay, are cultivated for a year before they are transferred for planting at the project site. Manaf also hopes to set up a Koperasi by the end of the year so that the community can begin selling the saplings and the project can become self-sufficient and sustainable.

* The spirit of gotong-royong is the hallmark of village in Malaysia. Often, the whole community is mobilized to get involve in an activity that benefits the village, for example, a clean-up of the river, cooking for a wedding feast, preparing for a festival.

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