Saturday, October 22, 2016

Walk in the park: Combining conservation and entrepreneurship at Sabah's Tun Mustapha Park

SABAH, the Land Below the Wind, is regarded by many nature enthusiasts as a dream destination. For conservationists, it’s a veritable haven for its diverse species and habitats.

The beauty of Sabah was recently celebrated with the gazettement of Tun Mustapha Park (TMP), bringing much joy to conservationists and nature travellers throughout the world. Measuring 900,000 hectares and covering more than 50 islands, TMP spans across three Sabah districts — Kudat, Kota Marudu, and Pitas.

“The gazettement is just the first step to ensure that the largest marine park in Malaysia fulfils its potential for conservation and community,” begins Joannie Jomitol, team leader for WWF-Malaysia Kudat team.

“All the hard work towards the gazettement of TMP over the past 13 years was just the beginning. Now that it has finally been gazetted, it represents a new chapter and requires all parties to take it to the next level,” she adds.

WWF-Malaysia, together with Sabah Parks, had been continuously reaching out to engage with the local communities in TMP and this will continue beyond the gazettement and into the future. “We’ve been working hand-in-hand since 2006 to bring about the gazettement of TMP,” adds Joannie, who’s been working on local community engagement throughout Sabah for her last decade’s employment with WWF-Malaysia.

The community collaboration includes patrolling, relationship-building with local communities, setting up the Interim Steering Committee for TMP, and capacity building for the communities as well as for staff working on the ground.


In July 2016, 50 representatives from different communities under the Tun Mustapha Park Community Conservation Group (TMPCCG) travelled from remote islands to Kudat at the invitation of WWF-Malaysia, to attend a social enterprise training aimed at providing capacity building in entrepreneurship skills.

“Investing in building capacity and increasing knowledge in sustainability are vital in conservation. At WWF-Malaysia, we believe that safeguarding the environment involves everyone — from the public, to the private sector, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), industries and the local communities. Hence, we work very closely with TMPCCG, the biggest group of community-based organisations working on conservation of the environment to protect marine and terrestrial flora and fauna within the TMP,” says Joannie.

She shares that at present, the community groups in the established TMPCCG include Persatuan Belia Anak Taritipan (Anbatar), Kelab Belia Tigabu (KBT), Banggi Youth Club (BYC), Kudat Turtle Conservation Society (KTCS), Maliangin Island Community Association (MICA), Persatuan Belia Muda Tigabu (PBMT), and community groups from Kampung Berungus, Matunggong, and Balambangan Island.”

Formed in June 2014, the TMPCCG has gathered experience in marine education, awareness and livelihood programmes. Anbatar’s Sabarudin Samba saw the social enterprise training as an opportunity to incorporate these skills and knowledge into social entrepreneurships, where the benefits were equally shared amongst members and communities involved.

“In all the years that we’ve had workshops and trainings as part of community engagement, we never had one like this on entrepreneur-related capacity building and hopefully this will not be the last. Anbatar sees the benefits of this training to the communities, particularly in a marine protected area,” says Sabarudin.

The objectives of the training were to provide basic entrepreneurship skills to the TMPCCG members, and an opportunity to learn the Social Enterprise Business Model, which included financing and marketing. WWF-Malaysia believed this was an important step for community-based organisations (CBOs) to take, for them to recognise alternative livelihoods while keeping in view the importance of sustainability and conservation, which would be vital in moving forward with the recently gazetted TMP.


“We’ve been exposed to social enterprise before but this training is new in the sense that the workshop participants are communities who have hands-on issues to work on as they’re facing real challenges on the ground,” says Roslin Mohd Daud, programme leader for Malaysian Global Innovation & Creativity Centre (MaGIC).

Combining both conservation and social enterprise targets in mind, WWF invited MaGIC to develop a training programme specifically for TMPCCG. MaGIC sent two training groups - Tandemic and myHarapan - to give a four-day workshop on the fundamentals of social entrepreneurship, design thinking and problem solving, bringing products to the market, and financing social enterprises.

“We can definitely see the effort coming from the communities and their eagerness and passion in solving issues they face within their communities. We believe capacity building is a continuous effort and hope our engagement with the communities of TMPCCG doesn’t end here, and that relationship-building continues with them,” adds Roslin.

According to Tiu Kian Wee of Tandemic, speaking on behalf of his team, it was initially a challenge due to the adjustments needed in place for both parties — the trainers and the participants — to be able to understand each other’s concept of entrepreneurship.

After adjustments were made from their original programme, he confides that they were able to integrate personal experiences and skills of the community participants with their training and amazing and constructive ideas surfaced.

“This isn’t a first for Tandemic to be working with local rural communities but we’re excited to see what’s next in line for the communities in TMP. We’re hopeful and feel optimistic about the ideas and outcome from this training,” says Tiu.