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Inspiring Stories: How the Hornbill Award is Driving Conservation Efforts

Updated: Apr 1

On 5 March, CGM hosted The 2023 Hornbill Award Ceremony, commenced with an opening speech by Dato Henry Barlow, a council member of the organization. He commended outstanding contributions to climate action and biodiversity conservation. Going beyond corporate governance, the ceremony aims to steer companies towards effective climate transition strategies while recognizing the dedication of NGOs and CSOs in biodiversity preservation. Aligned with national and global commitments, the event underscores collective action for sustainability and resilience, promoting collaboration among stakeholders for enduring benefits to biodiversity and affected communities.

Ar. Serina Hijjas, council member of Climate Governance Malaysia, presented an overview of the Hornbill Award, emphasizing its alignment with national biodiversity policy objectives. This coveted award recognizes outstanding proposals in ecological conservation from non-governmental organizations or Civil Society organizations, offering a substantial prize to the winner. During the announcement ceremony, six finalists were commended for their impactful contributions to conservation. The selection criteria included project impact, execution, award impact, track record, and community benefits. Ar Serina highlighted the imperative of fostering partnerships with the private sector to prioritize biodiversity conservation projects. Expressing gratitude to all finalists for their dedication, she underscored the award's aim to honor individuals and organizations committed to preserving and enhancing biodiversity, providing crucial funding for ongoing projects.

In the 2023 edition of the Hornbill Award, Shavez Cheema of 1Stop Borneo emerged as the top recipient, receiving a cash prize of 100,000 Malaysian Ringgit. Dr. Serina Rahman from Kelab Alami was also recognized with a special commendation, receiving 40,000 Malaysian Ringgit.

Shavez detailed their strategy for utilizing the Hornbill Award and associated funds to create wildlife havens reminiscent of those in Tawau, Sabah where animals coexist harmoniously with humans due to effective enforcement and abundant food sources. The plan involves replicating these habitats by introducing preferred food sources, enhancing infrastructure, establishing nurseries, and recruiting former hunters as guides. Collaborations with various stakeholders such as travel agencies and governmental bodies are crucial for long-term sustainability, emphasizing partnerships and political support. Collective action and continuous training are vital for project success, building upon past achievements in wildlife tours and tree planting initiatives. With a team comprising both youthful energy and seasoned expertise, the overarching goal is to promote ecological balance and sustainable tourism in new locations.

Dr. Serina Rahman, a lecturer at the National University of Singapore and co-founder, as well as principal advisor, of Kelab Alami, provides insights into the organization's impactful initiatives. Located in the western part of the Tebrau Strait, Kelab Alami is dedicated to environmental education and community empowerment. Originating as an environmental education club in 2008, it has since evolved to encompass projects like Pasar Pendekar Laut, a seafood market aimed at ensuring fair prices for fishermen's catches. Additionally, initiatives to preserve fishing heritage, such as net-making training, had been implemented. Dr. Rahman emphasized that Kelab Alami is operated by and for the community, with a strong commitment to improving livelihoods and conserving local biodiversity. She discussed the organization's efforts to empower local artisanal fishermen in maintaining sustainable fisheries and preserving biodiversity. Central to this approach is the amplification of fishermen's voices and the sharing of their stories. Climate change, exacerbated by development and reclamation projects, has significantly impacted fish stocks, posing threats to the livelihoods of coastal communities. Dr. Rahman underscored the establishment of a Fisheries Community Organization, MyKP Pendekar Laut, to facilitate communication with the Fisheries Department and ensure equitable resource distribution. She expressed gratitude for the Hornbill Award, which will bolster their data collection efforts and further empower the community to advocate for their rights and sustainable practices, so as to achieve their goal of a Community-led Conservation Area.

In a panel discussion moderated by Ar. Serina Hijjas, Shavez and Dr. Serina Rahman explored the intricate relationship between ecotourism, ecological conservation, and community involvement in biodiversity protection. They emphasized the critical need to align economic incentives with conservation efforts, particularly in engaging local communities dependent on natural resources. Shavez highlighted ecotourism's potential to generate revenue for conservation while empowering communities, advocating for a sustainable business model that integrates conservation practices. Dr. Serina underscored the significance of community-driven conservation efforts and addressed the challenges of navigating local politics and hierarchies. She emphasized the importance of incorporating local knowledge into conservation strategies and emphasized the role of partnerships among stakeholders in achieving conservation objectives. The discussion also examined the role of Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) initiatives in conservation, focusing on the authenticity and efficacy of carbon offsetting programs. Overall, the panelists advocated for a comprehensive approach to conservation that considers environmental, social, and economic factors. They stressed the essential role of community engagement and sustainable business practices in realizing long-term conservation goals.

In the final statements of the round table discussion, both Chavez and Dr Serina conveyed their hopes and aspirations for the future of conservation efforts. Chavez stressed the importance of involving more young individuals in conservation initiatives and establishing sustainable models that seamlessly integrate conservation into daily life. He also highlighted the necessity of cultivating multiple leaders within organizations to ensure ongoing effectiveness. Dr. Serina underscored the significance of acknowledging and respecting local community knowledge and involvement in conservation efforts, advocating for inclusivity and sustainability in conservation practices. As the discussion concluded, Dato. Henry Barlow expressed gratitude to the participants and organizers, emphasizing the importance of acknowledging small and medium-sized businesses for their efforts in meeting ESG requirements.

Click here for the recordings.

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