Malaysia’s mangrove-planting fishermen stumble at nature finance hurdle

  • Projects on the ground seek finance to expand as pledges rise
  • Communities face barriers tapping into growing funding
  • Win-win for locals to protect nature and improve livelihoods

SUNGAI ACHEH, Malaysia, Jan 24 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Walking across a swamp, retired fisherman Ilias Shafie and a small group of villagers plant mangrove saplings on Malaysia’s west coast, one tree at a time.

They have put in some 400,000 mangrove trees since a restoration initiative started two decades ago, in what was initially a bid to increase the catch of local fishermen.

Now their work has taken on extra significance as alarm grows over global warming and nature loss, with mangroves regarded as a key weapon in the fight against climate change.

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But the surge of international concern has yet to help this community win the global finance required to expand its project, highlighting the barriers often faced by groups on the ground seeking to tap into growing funding flows for nature protection.

“Mangroves are important to us fishermen – we need them because this is the breeding ground of fish,” said Ilias, 70, recalling how dwindling mangrove forests affected his catch and livelihood, which prompted him to launch the initiative.

Mangroves make up less than 1% of tropical forests worldwide but are crucial in the fight against climate change because they are more effective than most other forests at absorbing and storing planet-heating…

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