Kampung Community Successfully Restores Destroyed Mangrove Trees

he community hall near Surau Al-Khairah in Kampung Dato' Hormat here buzzed with activity as about 60 residents and others gathered there on July 11 to hear a briefing on the village’s mangrove replanting programme organised by the Global Environmental Centre (GEC) and Yayasan Petronas.

Mangrove rehabilitation is nothing new for the people of Kampung Dato' Hormat, having been involved in it since 2012 as they have a mangrove forest in their backyard. Located about 300 metres from the village, the forest lies on the fringes of Sungai Bernam.

For these villagers, the mangrove forest acts as an important buffer zone between the riverbank and their village, protecting it against storms and floods. Not only that, it is also a source of livelihood for them as many of them fish there to supplement their income.

Kampung Dato' Hormat has a population of 350 with most of the people involved in farming and fishing activities.




According to Friends of Kampung Dato’ Hormat Mangrove Forest (FKDHMF) chairman Mohammad Omar Muslim, since 2006, over 20 hectares (ha) of mangroves behind their village have been destroyed due to unsustainable aquaculture activities.

“The activities also resulted in the mangrove swamp lacking in moisture and water which affected the marine resources… there was less fish for us to catch.

“We also started worrying that the (depleting) mangroves will no longer be able to protect us against the floods during the monsoon season,” he said.


Mangrove nursery in Kampung Dato' Hormat is 700 square feet in size and has about 15,000 saplings.


He said efforts to rehabilitate and manage the area’s mangrove ecosystem began following the establishment of FKDHMF in 2012 in collaboration with GEC, Selangor Forestry Department, Sabak Bernam Irrigation and Drainage office and the local council. About 20 residents of Kampung Dato’ Hormat, mostly aged between 50 and 80, are members of FKDHMF.

He added that as of now, a total of 42,600 mangrove trees have been replanted in the area’s 21-ha mangrove forest.

Mohammad Omar also said FKDHMF members have been able to generate a side income for themselves as well as funds for the rehabilitation and conservation of their mangrove forest by collaborating with corporate companies in their tree-planting endeavours to earn carbon credits.

“For example, we have been working with Yayasan Petronas (the social impact arm of national oil company PETRONAS) through GEC since 2021 to get funds for the restoration of our mangrove swamp.

“Not only that, with their help we were also able to open a nursery (for mangrove saplings) located not far from our kampung. We sell the saplings to other companies for their tree-planting efforts,” he said, adding that the nursery is 700 square feet in size and has about 15,000 saplings.

(Tree-planting activities under the Greening Malaysia Programme are carried out by companies and other entities to generate carbon credits that can be auctioned on Bursa Carbon Exchange or BCX, Malaysia’s first government-backed voluntary carbon market exchange.)  




Meanwhile, GEC forest and coastal programme manager Nagarajan Rengasamy, who is also FKDHMF facilitator, said although its members have their own commitments to attend to every day, they are tasked with ensuring the healthy growth of the replanted mangrove trees as well as the saplings in the nursery.

“Unlike peat swamp trees that grow fast and can reach a height of two metres within several months, mangrove trees grow rather slowly during the first four years… they spread out first and grow faster after the fourth year but this will also depend on the physical conditions of the area where they are planted.

“The growth of a mangrove tree will also depend on the salinity level of the mud and the area’s situation because it needs up to four years to get adapted (to the conditions),” he explained.


The participants of 'Community Peer Learning Forum' organised by Global Environmental Centre (GEC) and Yayasan Petronas


Pointing out that the mangrove tree’s carbon storage rate is quite low in the first five years as it is still in the growing stage, Nagarajan said the carbon absorption rate will only be calculated after the mangrove tree has matured.

He also said before embarking on a mangrove rehabilitation project in an area, the community members are provided intensive training to teach them how to plant the trees, measure the height and width of the mature trees and calculate the amount of carbon they absorb.

“In Kampung Dato’ Hormat, the villagers involved in the mangrove rehabilitation programme are using the skills they learned to operate a mangrove nursery and are earning extra income by selling the saplings to companies that wish to participate in tree-planting initiatives,” he added.  




Meanwhile, journalists who attended the July 11 briefing were taken on a “tour” of Kampung Dato’ Hormat’s rehabilitated mangrove forest which some years back was left barren after the destruction of the mangrove trees due to human activities

After a short walk from the village in the blazing sun, the forest’s cool environment was a welcome respite indeed.

GEC programme technical assistant Muhammad Syafiq Abdullah said for every 2,000 trees planted at any one time, they are set 1.5 to 1.7 metres apart to provide the roots sufficient space to spread out and trap sediments and minerals that are carried by upstream rivers and streams before releasing them onto the river or sea downstream.

“Like other flora, mangrove trees help to absorb greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide and convert it to clean oxygen. And, mangrove forests are capable of absorbing five times more atmospheric carbon than tropical forests,” he said.

A briefing by GEC programme technical assistant Muhammad Syafiq Abdullah during a visit to rehabilitated mangrove forest at Kampung Dato' Hormat

Pointing to several crabs that could be seen scurrying out of the wet soil and digging tiny holes, Muhammad Syafiq said crabs and bacteria that survive in the mangrove forest ecosystem contribute to the mangroves’ ability to function as earth’s most superior carbon stores.   

GEC director Faizal Parish, meanwhile, said apart from involving the local communities, conservation activities also need to be complemented with options for sustainable livelihoods which can maintain the interest of the community.

“This programme provides a great platform for the communities to appreciate and protect their own mangrove and peatland ecosystems through good management initiatives.

“At the same time, it provides many opportunities to improve their livelihood," he said.

Parish said many companies participating in the government’s '100 Million Trees' campaign tend to plant as many trees as they can but treat it as a short-term initiative.

"At GEC, we rarely accept any short-term projects. Instead, we open up to anyone who genuinely wants to generate carbon credits by fully involving themselves with the local community, starting from seed planting until the trees mature.

"This is to prevent any 'greenwashing' activity where many areas are used for tree-planting programmes but are abandoned (later) without proper care and maintenance," he added.

Yayasan Petronas chief executive officer Shariah Nelly Francis agreed, saying that tree-planting and forest restoration programmes should involve working together with local communities as they are more knowledgeable and experienced in agricultural activities.

Yayasan Petronas CEO, Shariah Nelly Francis

"There is so much we can learn from them, and I am deeply inspired to see them sharing their experiences in creating a growing group of nature champions.

"Their resilience and willingness to take on the role of forest stewardship make them the true unsung heroes of mother nature," she said. 



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