Mangroves, which play a crucial role in fortifying shorelines, mitigating erosion and protecting coastal communities from storms and flooding, are facing an imminent threat.
According to the Global Mangrove Watch Report , our planet has lost 11,700 km² of mangrove cover since 1996, with Southeast Asia experiencing the worst devastation. Total mangroves in Malaysia decreased by about 3.3% from 650,311 ha in 1990 to 629,038 ha between 1990 and 2017.
Aramco Malaysia and the Global Environment Centre (GEC) have teamed up to deliver the Mangrove Forest Ranger (MFR) Programme, to raise awareness about the importance of mangrove forests to coastal ecosystems and local communities.
It aims to support the Community-Based Mangrove Conservation and Sustainable Livelihood Project for 2023-2025, focusing on primary and secondary school students in Kota Tinggi District.
By engaging students and teachers in various activities and field trips, participants learn about the relationship between humans and the environment.
Over a three-day Training of Trainer (TOT) programme, participants explored mangrove ecosystems and environmental stewardship. On day two, teachers actively engaged in a mangrove tour, learning about sustainable crab harvesting and planting 300 Rhizophora Mucronata (bakau kurap). The visit to the mangrove nursery provided insights into diverse mangrove species and their environmental benefits. Participants also learnt practical techniques for measuring mangrove growth and biomass, emphasizing their role in carbon sequestration. Day three included a stimulating debate on mangrove forest management, addressing economic development, environmental conservation, and the delicate balance between community livelihoods and ecosystem preservation. The program aimed not only to impart knowledge but also to foster active participation, reflection, and dialogue among educators, cultivating a holistic understanding of mangrove ecosystems and their vital role in sustainable development.
GEC Director Faizal Parish said MFR was a groundbreaking endeavour, blending education with entertainment and captivating the hearts and minds of students. With an unwavering commitment to fostering deep understanding of environmental education and sustainability awareness, this visionary programme serves as a catalyst for motivating young people to actively participate in mangrove conservation and rehabilitation efforts.
Mr Parish said the MFR programme goes beyond raising awareness by fostering civic engagement, nurturing student leadership and promoting active learning.
“Through this programme, teachers, school management, and district education offices can enhance their environmental expertise and teaching strategies while also increasing local awareness of mangrove conservation and protection. In the pursuit of a safer, healthier, and more promising future, the MFR programme empowers the younger generation to take the initiative and champion the cause of environmental protection,” he added.
Another milestone of the partnership is the establishment of the Mangrove Forest Mentor-Educator Training, known also by its Malay acronym - LaMPHu, a joint initiative by GEC and Aramco Malaysia to equip teachers, particularly those involved in the MFR Programme, to become ambassadors of local mangrove forests. LaMPHu empowers teachers to independently undertake essential tasks at the school or educational institution level, with a strong emphasis on environmental conservation and building grassroots capacity for environmental awareness activities.
The inaugural LaMPHu 2023 event was held from November 5 to November 7, 2023, at Kompleks Kastam dan Kem Jati Diri, Tunku Mahkota Ibrahim, Tanjung Surat, Kota Tinggi. It featured 50 representatives of primary and secondary schools in Kota Tinggi District, the District Education Office, Friends of Mangrove Pulau Tanjung Surat, GEC and Aramco Malaysia.
The event was inaugurated by the District Education Officer, Haji Mohamad Fadil Ishak, who said: “The District Education Office fully supports and welcomes the collaborative efforts of Aramco Malaysia and GEC to raise awareness about protecting the state's invaluable mangrove forests, which ultimately contributes to addressing climate change and enhancing the wellbeing of students and the local community.
“This MFR programme fosters a profound connection with and respect for nature. Through field trips, outdoor activities, and immersive experiences, individuals gain a firsthand understanding of the intricate interdependence between humans and the environment.”
Teacher-coordinator for the TS25 School Transformation Programme, Mohd Riezman Bin Ramli, said he was grateful for the newfound knowledge in mangrove planting and maintenance. Beyond the programme, Mr Riezman is committed to environmental initiatives, particularly targeting children in early primary years. He envisions early education on mangrove care fostering an understanding of the broader mangrove ecosystem, including trees, flora, and fauna.
He said the training championed the sustainability of Malaysia’s natural environment.
“It’s not just about planting; it’s about understanding their role in our ecosystem, and I’m eager to share this knowledge for a better, more sustainable future,” he added.
SJK (T) Jalan Tajul Senior Co-Curricular Assistant Teacher, Saralah Rajandran, described the MFR programme as a transformative experience.
She said: “The MFR programme has provided me with a profound understanding of mangroves, allowing me to effectively share this knowledge with my students. It’s not just about teaching; it’s about instilling a deeper appreciation for the role of mangroves in our ecosystem.
“I'm excited about prospects of organizing a site visit to the mangrove planting site for our students, integrating project-based learning to ensure my students comprehend the significance of mangroves for a sustainable future.”
She added: "Now, I feel a deep commitment to the conservation of these vital ecosystems in our country. The MFR programme has truly empowered me to contribute meaningfully to the preservation of our natural environment."
GEC’s Forest and Coastal Programme Manager, Mr Nagarajan Rengasamy, said that by incorporating environmental education practices into the curriculum, teachers and district education office can align with state and national academic standards across various disciplines. This approach enhances the learning experience, fostering engagement and interdisciplinary knowledge in subjects like science, math, language arts, history, and beyond.
“Teachers and students involved in this programme will gain insight into how their choices and actions impact the environment, learn to solve complex environmental challenges, and discover the ways they can contribute to a healthier and more sustainable future,” he added.
Aramco Malaysia Managing Director, Ayman M. Hoho, said that by imparting localized knowledge and providing hands-on training, the MFR both educates and instills a sense of environmental stewardship. He added this empowered the younger generation to safeguard and manage the environment more sustainably, in line with Aramco’s global citizenship strategy.
The MFR programme is carried out with the cooperation of the Pertubuhan Sahabat Bakau Pulau Tanjung Surat (PSHBPTS), drawing from its experience and expertise in strengthening the transfer of local knowledge to participating teachers.
1 Cooper, Caitlin. “Mangrove Forest Loss Is Slowing toward a Halt, New Report Shows.” Mongabay Environmental News, 8 Nov. 2022, news.mongabay.com/2022/11/mangrove-forest-loss-is-slowing-toward-a-halt-new-report-shows/
2 Hamdan, O., Tariq Mubarak, H. & Ismail, P. (2020). Status of Mangrove in Malaysia. Forest Research Institute Malaysia, Malaysia. pp. 288 (https://www.mybis.gov.my/pb/4805)