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The Second Regional Indigenous Adaptation Learning Highway

From 25th to 27th August 2014, the second “Regional Adaptation Learning Highway” (ALH) was organized by the Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact (AIPP) and Partner of Community Organisations in Sabah (PACOS Trust) in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia. 60 participants (32 women and 28 men) from 9 different countries (i.e. Malaysia, Laos, Thailand, Vietnam, Nepal, Myanmar, Indonesia and North-east India, and Germany) took part in the exchange learning visit, including representatives of various different indigenous groups, government delegates (2 government officials from Malaysia, 1 one from Laos, Thailand and Indonesia, respectively) as well as representatives of the academe (2 researchers from the University of Sabah, Malaysia).

 “It’s very important to strengthen the two-way communication between the government and the communities. This is only possible through effective participation of the communities and meaningful consultation by the governmental agency”.  Mr. Yap Siew Fah, Principal Senior Assistant Director, Water Resource Management Section, Department of Irrigation and Drainage, Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, Malaysia.

From 25th to 27th August 2014, the second “Regional Adaptation Learning Highway” (ALH) was organized by the Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact (AIPP) and Partner of Community Organisations in Sabah (PACOS Trust) in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia. 60 participants (32 women and 28 men) from 9 different countries (i.e. Malaysia, Laos, Thailand, Vietnam, Nepal, Myanmar, Indonesia and North-east India, and Germany) took part in the exchange learning visit, including representatives of various different indigenous groups, government delegates (2 government officials from Malaysia, 1 one from Laos, Thailand and Indonesia, respectively) as well as representatives of the academe (2 researchers from the University of Sabah, Malaysia).

This second ALH was part of a MISEROR funded project on building the resiliency of indigenous communities on climate change adaptation as well as of a Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (Norad) – funded project on the strengthening of the role of indigenous women in sustainable resource management. Essentially, an ALH is a participatory journey that focuses on learning through sharing and mutual exchange of knowledge and experiences between various stakeholders, such as project partners, communities, state actors, and academics.

In order to open opportunities to create mutual understanding among the different parties, and to learn from good practices in the combat of climate change in the SEA region, the ALH in Kota Kinabalu covered three major stations, namely: 1. the ‘Knowledge Exchange Forum’ 2. ‘Interaction with Policy Makers’ and 3. ‘Learning through Observation’.

During the first station, the ‘Knowledge Exchange Forum’ (25th August 2014), project partners and civil society representatives from different countries shared information on indigenous peoples’ good practices related to climate change mitigation and disaster risk management. Gordon John (Resource Management Coordinator, PACOS Trust, Malaysia) highlighted traditional good practices and the crucial role of community learning centers for community education in Sabah. Gabriel Wynn (Green Empowerment Programme manager, Tonibung, Malaysia) gave an overview on community-based, sustainable micro hydro-power projects in Borneo that provide indigenous villages with access to clean water and electricity through renewable energy. Annas Radin Syarif (Head of Database Division and National Coordinator of the Climate Change Monitoring and Information Network, AMAN, Indonesia) presented good practices and climate change adaptation measures of indigenous peoples in North Maluku. All speakers agreed that indigenous communities play a tremendous and significant role in climate change adaptation based on their sound traditional knowledge on natural resources management, and that the recognition of community adaptation strategies into national planning is crucial. 

The second station of the ALH, “Interaction with Policy makers” (25th August 2014), included presentations of the existing local policies and implementations strategies from different Government Agencies. The first speaker, Tony Anus, representing the Malaysian Fishery Department, presented the government’s point of view on the traditional community-based fishery resource management system (‘Tagal’). He underlined the crucial role Tagal plays in the fight against river pollution and illegal fishing as well as in the protection and preservation of fish sources and species. Subsequently, Mr. Yap Siew Fah, Principal Senior Assistant of Director, Water Resource Division, offered a differentiated analysis of the role of the Department of Irrigation and Drainage in addressing issues related to Climate Change and his communication experience with the local communities.

Representing the Malaysian scientific and academic community, Ms. Pauline Yong from the Ethnography and Development Research Unit, Faculty of Humanities, University of Sabah shared her perspective on traditional good practices in resource management in Sabah (e.g. sustainable and environmentally-friendly water management, crop cultivation and waste management). Finally, Dr. Justin Sentian, Climate Change Research Group (CCRG), Faculty of Science and Natural Resources, School of Social Science and Technology, University of Sabah, Malaysia, provided an update on potential climate change effects as well as on key action plans and objectives of the National Policies. The second station opened opportunities for the indigenous peoples to highlight the issues and concerns of their communities, and a variety of questions and opinions from the participants were discussed in greater detail.

For the third and last station of the ALH, “Learning through Observation” (26-27th August), the participants joined field visits to different community experiences. This included a visit in Notoruss village, an indigenous Dusun community in Kota Kinabalu, which has effectively implemented the traditional Tagal system in their community river. Moreover, a visit at ‘The Centre for Renewable and Appropriate Technology’ (CREATE) which trains community based micro-hydro practitioners as well as the demonstration of the Micro-hydro technology opened further opportunities for the participants to learn through direct experiences in the field. Finally, a visit at the Community Learning Center (CLC) in an indigenous Dusun community in Kibuvo Village allowed the participants to directly exchange knowledge with the indigenous community members in charge of the center. Throughout the third station of the ALH, indigenous participants from all countries also shared good practices and experiences with disasters management in their own countries, e.g. related to a landslide disaster in Nepal, or an earthquake in Northern Thailand.

The first ALH, held in the Philippines in November 2013, and the second learning highway in Sabah, Malaysia, in August 2014 created unique opportunities for the different stakeholders to develop mutual understanding and to bridge the gap between divergent perspectives on adaptation. The sharing of information on community needs and priorities to relevant public actors can contribute to make government adaptation plans more effective and inclusive of community adaptation strategies and thus, strengthen the communities’ resilience to climate change in the long-term.

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