THE SUARA COMMUNITY FILMMAKING PROGRAMME is BEFF’s flagship training programme that supports rural communities to make short films about their people and the environments they live in using their own images and in their own voice. Our aim is to harness the power of film and storytelling to enable rural communities to tell their side of the story and compel action for a shared sustainable future. Since our inception in 2011, the Suara Programme has trained over 200 rural community participants and their partners from 11 districts across Sabah, representing the marine, coastal, riverine, interior lowland and highland indigenous communities of Sabah.

Suara is neither a film academy, nor meant for industrial training. Suara is a participatory capacity building programme especially designed for rural communities who want to use film and storytelling to engage with their target stakeholders. Our approach is based on teamwork, with team members learning to work together by taking on the different roles in a filmmaking crew. A team decides on the story they want to tell, learns how to develop the narrative, shoots and edits their film. Teams are expected to work with their home communities to research and discuss their story. Most teams we work with are already involved in conservation and sustainability initiatives and the Suara process creates a visually exciting interface to engage their communities and collectively reflect on the environmental and social change affecting them.

Current Suara Community Filmmaking Teams

  • Banggi Youth Club

    Banggi Youth Club
    Pulau Banggi, Kudat
    Suara participant since 2013

    Banggi Youth Club (BYC) is a collective of passionate youths who have been working since 2006 on a range of marine environmental issues. With the support of WWF Malaysia, they managed to officially register as a community-based organisation in 2009. Today, the BYC has over 170 members and conducts a broad range of activities such as community education, reef monitoring, beach clean-ups, alternative livelihood projects and school outreach programmes. Recognising the significance of Pulau Banggi, the largest island in Malaysia, which and is strategically situated within the immensely biodiverse Coral Triangle and the proposed 1 million hectare Tun Mustapha Marine Park, BYC members are actively engaging their communities in a range of conservation and development activities. Some have become local honorary environmental wardens to keep an eye on “no take zones”, and the organisation has sponsored weaving training so local women can earn money from mats and bracelets instead of selling fish. Other members learnt how to dive so they could participate in coral reef monitoring and then went on to set up monitoring transects in key marine areas to record changes in the fish, coral and substrate. More recently, the BYC launched a coral replanting project, an exciting initiative that they are keen to expand.

  • Camp Borneo and Mantanani

    Camp Borneo and Mantanani
    Pulau Mantanani Besar, Kota Belud
    Suara participant since 2013

    Located on the island of Mantanani, Camp Mantanani is one of four camps operated by social enterprise expeditions operator Camp Borneo. As with its parent company Camps International UK, Camp Borneo uses ‘voluntourism’ to educate students on local cultures and environments. On Mantanani, Camp Borneo has been partnered with community members to improve the local conditions of the community and their surrounding environment by promoting community agency in tourism development. In addition, their upcycling initiatives are encouraging community members to convert driftwood into wooden plates and household ornaments, and discarded plastics into bags and bracelets that are then sold at local markets. Together with partners Arkitrek, another social enterprise, this coalition is pioneering the sustainable use of local materials, such as bamboo and coconut-based concrete, in architectural design and have completed two buildings on the island that are used by communities and tourists alike.

  • RAMSAR Community Group 8 (RCG8)

    RAMSAR Community Group 8 (RCG8)
    Kg. Dagat (Da’BEST), Kg. Abai, Kg. Sri Ganda, Kg. Mumiang
    Suara participants since 2015

    RAMSAR Community Group 8 serves as a platform for artisanal fishing communities to have a united voice, build their local capacity, raise their pride and to effectively participate in governance and management of marine and terrestial resources in the area. The communities consist of the villages of Abai, Bongun, Mumiang and Pitas Laut from the Trusan Kinabatangan region, The communities of Sri Ganda and Tundun Bohangin from Kuala Kinabatanga and the communities of Kampung Tidung and Dagat from Lower Segama. Under the Forever Sabah umbrella, this initiative was inspired from the 10 years of partnership with Koperasi Pelancongan Mukim Batu Putih Berhad(KOPEL) and Sabah Forestry Department and the village of kampung Abai in the last 6 years.

  • Green Semporna

    Green Semporna
    Semporna town and surrounding islands, Semporna
    Suara participant since 2013

    Green Semporna, fondly known as GREENs, is a registered youth club comprised of more than 200 volunteers. Established in 2012 with the support of WWF Malaysia, members are mostly local youth of Semporna who have been trained to agents of change in mobilising a greener Semporna. Their aim is to diversify and enhance local volunteerism in the restoration and conservation of the environment. Their work is focussed on empowering local communities, especially the youth, in a range of activities that promote action in securing sustainable livelihoods. In 2014, the GREENs organised the inaugural Earth Hour celebrations in Semporna and later that year released the song ‘Suara Si Karang’ which was composed and performed by GREENs members to as one of their creative efforts to combat fish bombing in Semporna. Recognising the attraction of Semporna as a diving haven, GREENs members are developing exciting plans for the Semporna Shark Sanctuary.

  • Hutan-Kinabatangan Orang-utan Conservation Programme

    Hutan-Kinabatangan Orang-utan Conservation Programme
    Kg. Sukau and neighbouring areas, Kinabatangan
    Suara participant since 2011

    Since 1998, the NGO Hutan has been working with the Sabah Wildlife Department on the Kinabatangan Orang-utan Conservation Programme (KOCP). From the initial research focus to identify and understand the complex threats faced by orang-utans in Sabah, Hutan-KOCP has grown to include working on other wildlife issues including the endemic Borneo Pygmy Elephants. Today, the Hutan-KOCP team is composed of 50 highly skilled staff hailing from the Kinabatangan local community, working with immense dedication and in close collaboration with their partners. Some of them are honorary wildlife wardens who patrol forests to protect from wildlife poaching, and all of them are passionate about conserving the Lower Kinabatangan landscape for biodiversity and local livelihoods. Hutan strongly believes that conservation has to benefit local communities. Their initiatives include women in reforestation, fishermen for conservation, and an exciting project on edible nest swiftlet populations that seeks to combine conservation benefits with economic proceeds to the Sukau community.

  • Kumpulan Seni Anak Tidong (KASTI)

    Kumpulan Seni Anak Tidong (KASTI)
    Kg. Sg. Tongkang and Pulau Sebatik, Tawau
    Suara participant since 2013

    Siblings Rudy and Hayati Sandong hail from an unusual island off the South-Eastern coast of Sabah. Pulau Sebatik is bisected by the international border between Malaysia and Indonesia – sometimes the border even divides houses, such that bedroom and kitchen are in different countries! An issue with which Rudy and Hayati contend daily is that of unregulated international trade, with goods being transported across the porous border without checks and duty payments, which can have a detrimental and destabilising effect on the household economies of residents on Pulau Sebatik.

  • Kinabalu EcoLinc (Sabah Parks)

    Kinabalu EcoLinc (Sabah Parks)
    Villages in the Kinabalu EcoLinc area in Kota Belud, Ranau and Tuaran
    Suara participant since 2014

    Sabah Parks is a statutory body under the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Environment Sabah, and is responsible for the management of all parks in Sabah. In 2014 Sabah Parks embarked on a bold new initiative to establish forest connectivity between the Kinabalu Park and the Crocker Range Park. This connecting area is named the Kinabalu EcoLinc and encompasses many villages, farms and forests. The EcoLinc team of Sabah Parks have the challenging task of working with the local communities in this area and support the communities to set-up their own community forests for conservation and sustainable livelihoods. This includes exploring and initiating income generating activities, such as community-based tourism, so that forest conservation and livelihoods are mutually supporting.

  • KOPEL Bhd

    KOPEL Bhd
    Mukim Batu Puteh, Kinabatanga
    Suara participant since 2012

    The MESCOT Initiative was founded by the Batu Puteh community in 1997 as a ecotourism income generation project to alleviate community over-exploitation of natural resources. As MESCOT persevered over the years, its activities grew in scale and success, including the famed Miso Walai Homestay Program, guide association and boat service, culture group, and the recently completed Tungog Rainforest Eco Camp. In 2003 the community decided to form the Batu Puteh Community Ecotourism Cooperative (KOPEL Bhd.) as the umbrella organisation for all their ecotourism activities and to coordinate their conservation work of rehabilitating nearby forests and wetlands. Today, KOPEL employs over 170 people in Batu Puteh with significant annual returns from a range of ecotourism activities and contracts, and is widely applauded as a success story in community enterprise development. At the Sabah Tourism Awards 2013, KOPEL received the Excellence in Hotel Services award in the homestay category. KOPEL received the national-level Anugerah Koperasi Negara in 2011 and 2013 in recognition of its outstanding achievements in driving the economic development of rural communities.

  • Kudat Turtle Conservation Society

    Kudat Turtle Conservation Society
    Kg. Bavang Jamal & Kg. Simpang Mengayau, Kudat
    Suara participant since 2014

    The Kudat Turtle Conservation Society (KTCS) is a relatively new local NGO established in 2011 with the aim of conserving and improving Kudat sea turtle populations through public education and awareness. Their work has steadily gained the goodwill of villages around the famed Tip of Borneo, where they are actively mounting joint campaigns that patrol beaches to protect turtle nesting grounds. Working hand-in-hand with partners in government, schools, civil society and local communities, KTCS is also promoting better waste management in Kudat by advocating the concept of Reuse, Reduce and Recycle (3Rs), providing garbage receptacles and funding for regular collection at villages that require it, and conducting frequent beach clean-ups. KTCS aspires to expand its scope to address sea turtle by-catch and the rehabilitation of Kudat’s mangroves and beaches.

  • PACOS Trust

    PACOS Trust
    Kg. Terian & Kg. Madsiang, Penampang, Kg. Alab Lanas, Sook, Kg. Saguon, Tongod
    Suara participant since 2012

    Having been actively involved with communities since 1987, PACOS, or ‘Partners of Community Organisations in Sabah’ became a registered Trust in 1997. Today, PACOS Trust is one of the leading community-based organisations dedicated to supporting the indigenous peoples of Sabah. They strive to empower indigenous communities through systematic building and strengthening of community organisations so that communities can act collectively and with agency. By supporting networking amongst communities and revitalising indigenous systems, PACOS connects and collaborates with rural communities across 14 districts in Sabah to assert their rights over resources and livelihoods. Their long-standing Socio-Economic Development programme is designed to enable communities to initiate and develop economic projects and help them achieve self-reliance and independence. These have included organic farming initiatives, rejuvenating tagal systems, and handicraft-making.

  • Persatuan Wanita Pulau Omadal (WAPO)

    Persatuan Wanita Pulau Omadal (WAPO)
    Pulau Omadal, Semporna
    Suara participant since 2013

    WAPO was first mooted in 2010 by a core group of women on the island who are determined to address the basic issues affecting their families. They want to combat poverty and improve the socio-economic status of islanders by adopting an enterprise model that also has a social and environmental mission. In the longer term, they aim to be an ecotourism destination and are working now to first lay the foundation by instilling attitudes of care for marine environments and local resources. Their handicraft activities adopt eco-friendly practices that emphasise the sustainable harvesting of natural resources. Within five years, the handicraft skills and products of WAPO members have gained state-level recognition and they are regularly invited to participate in craft markets throughout Sabah.

  • G6 Paya Bakau

    G6 Paya Bakau
    Kg. Sg. Eloi, Pitas
    Suara participant since 2015

    Sungai Eloi is located in the northern district of Pitas, in an area traditionally surrounded by extensive tracts of mangrove forest. Recent conflicts between the community and external aquaculture developers has prompted villagers to seek outside support in protected their traditional lands, and the Sungai Eloi team has joined the Suara programme with the aim of documenting their plight through film.

  • Wild Asia

    Wild Asia
    Beluran, Beluran District
    Suara participant in 2016

    Wild Asia was first founded in 2003 as a Malaysian-based social enterprise, and offers guidance and partnerships with key industries such as the oil palm sector to help them meet sustainability and labour standards, creating a better environment for their employees, local communities and surrounding biodiversity. The Wild Asia Group Scheme (WAGS) was established in 2010, and is a programme which assists oil palm small producers to meet the challenges of enhancing their productivity and environmental best management practices. In Sabah, WAGS operates in the districts of Beluran and Kinabatangan, and has to date successfully obtained RSPO certification for more than 70 local community farmers. This team are keen to use film to document the journey of smallholders in getting certified, which they feel would be powerful stories to share with other as-yet-to-be-certified smallholders in Sabah.

  • Kivatu Nature Farm (KNF)

    Kivatu Nature Farm (KNF)
    Kg. Kivatu, Penampang
    Suara participant in 2018

    The aim of KNF is to shift agriculture practices in Sabah towards models of sustainable models of food production. The current Agricultural industry in Sabah has numerous negative effects both on buyers and producers At present the sector is dominated by an agribusiness system that often abuses its power over local farmers, many of whom have been driven into poverty and social isolation. A food production system based on fair trade, organic and community supported agriculture, farmers markets, backyard food growing and local food co-ops offers an alternative that can boost both the health and income of smallholders. The project is being developed in parallel with the Forever Sabah Institute and the Community-based Ecotourism Training School (CBETS).

  • Reef Check Malaysia

    Reef Check Malaysia
    Pulau Mantanani, Kota Belud
    Suara participant since 2017

    Cintai Mantanani is a community centred project under Reef Check Malaysia that aims to ensure the community economic well-being while protecting the environment. Under this project, Reef Check Malaysia is working to (1)improve the marine resources management by introducing and implementing a functioning marine managed area, (2)improving solid waste management for Mantanani, and (3) creating alternative livelihood activities for the local community in the island.

  • Kelab Belia Mantanani

    Kelab Belia Mantanani
    Pulau Mantanani, Kota Belud
    Suara participant since 2017

    Mantanani Nature Youth Club started January and registered on March 2018. More than 20 members, their aim to protect nature and build capacity of young generation in Mantanani.

  • REDD+

    Kinabalu Ecolinc – Sabah Parks
    Kg. Gana, Kota Marudu – Sabah Forestry Department
    Suara participant since 2017

    With the importance of forests for community livelihood in Sabah, where a majority of inhabitants still live in rural areas and are predominantly dependent on farming and forests, more recognition of these contributions to livelihoods are needed. Community forestry is regarded as a positive development strategy for rural forest communities to improve livelihoods while promoting environmental conservation and increasing biodiversity. It is hoped that in the future a Community- friendly REDD+ regime would be an important facilitator of rural livelihoods while maintaining forest resources.

  • Current Team
  • Past Team
  • Suara Participants

Past Suara Community Teams

  • Yayasan Sabah

    Yayasan Sabah
    Imbak Canyon Conservation Area, Tongod
    Suara participant 2013-2015

    Yayasan Sabah is a statutory body established with the purpose of uplifting the standard of living of all Malaysians in Sabah. To facilitate implementation of its many programmes, the Sabah State Government awarded Yayasan Sabah with forest concession of roughly 1 million hectares to manage in an integrated and sustainable manner, incorporating sound forestry practices and setting aside areas for conservation, research, education and recreation. The Imbak Canyon Conservation Area (ICCA) is a conservation area established in 2009 under the management of Yayasan Sabah’s Conservation and Environmental Management Division. The ICCA team is tasked with the day to day management of the ICCA, as well as engaging with the many villages located along the periphery of the conservation area. This includes conducting community education and outreach programmes, and investigating measures for how local communities can benefit from the Imbak Canyon such as through ecotourism.

  • Southeast Asia Rainforest Research Partnership

    Southeast Asia Rainforest Research Partnership
    Danum Valley, Lahad Datu
    Suara participant 2014-2015

    The South East Asia Rainforest Research Partnership (SEARRP) is a research programme based in Danum Valley, an area famed for its immense biodiversity and endangered lowland rainforests. Originally founded as a programme of The Royal Society UK, in 2015 SEARRP became an independent charity with a team of over 60 staff based in Sabah. SEARRP’s mission is to enable and communicate world-class research that delivers transformative skills, sustainability and conservation impacts. Their field team, almost all of whom come from local communities across Sabah, ranks amongst the best trained and highly skilled research assistants in the fields of tropical forest ecology in Sabah, and are continuing to work alongside renowned scientists and naturalists from leading universities and institutes the world over.

  • Tamparuli Living Arts & Heritage Centre

    Tamparuli Living Arts & Heritage Centre
    Tamparuli, Tuaran
    Suara participant in 2016

    The Tamparuli Living Arts Centre is a newly-established venue in the Tuaran district aimed at promoting, nurturing and developing Bornean and Malaysian creative arts – especially those which stem from local traditional cultures. The centre acts as a retreat for local artists, a resource library for culture and arts, and a repository of herbal and edible plants traditionally used by Sabahan indigenous peoples.

  • Sayap

    Kg. Sayap, Kota Belud
    Suara participant since 2015-2016

    Situated on the northern foothills of Mount Kinabalu, this Kota Belud village is inhabited by Dusun indigenous peoples, who chiefly engage in a traditional lifestyle of subsistence agriculture and the gathering of natural forest products. Victor, the son of Sayap’s Ketua Kampung or village head, joined the Suara programme in 2015 with an interest in documenting the effects of a proposed upstream dam on the river which runs through his village.

  • BC Initiative and Melangkap

    BC Initiative and Melangkap
    Kg. Melangkap cluster, Kota Belud
    Suara participant 2013-2016

    BC Initiative (BCI) is a social enterprise that was formed out of a desire to support and empower the people of Borneo in their quest for co-existence in a sustainable environment. Combining business strategies with a social mission, the BCI team are working to create sustainable opportunities for communities in Borneo. In 2012, BCI partnered with communities in the Melangkap cluster of villages in the district of Kota Belud. The five villages of Melangkap Baru, Melangkap Tomis, Melangkap Tiong, Melangkap Nariou and Melangkap Kapa straddle the western slopes of Mt. Kinabalu, an area that is poised to be the next tourism gateway to Mt. Kinabalu. Together, BCI and the Melangkap villages are exploring and building a vision for how the communities wish to be the agents of their own change.

  • Bundu Tuhan

    Bundu Tuhan
    Kg. Bundu Tuhan, Ranau
    Suara participant 2012-2014

    Bundu Tuhan is a village situated at the southern foothills of Mt. Kinabalu in the district of Ranau. Although experiencing rapid economic and social change, the people of Bundu Tuhan are passionate about their cultural and spiritual attachment to Mt. Kinabalu and its surrounding landscape. One of the last tracts of intact forest outside of protected areas in this landscape is the fiercely guarded Bundu Tuhan community forest that has been managed by this community since the 1960s. In 2005, the community launched a village development plan outlining key strategies and thrusts for the development of Bundu Tuhan and the protection of Hutan Winokok, their community forest. In 2012 a group of youth embarked on Project Winokok, a bold initiative under the guidance of their elders, to investigate how forest conservation can also contribute to the economic development of their village.

  • Bavanggazo-Tinangol

    Kg. Bavanggazo & Kg. Tinangol, Kudat
    Suara participant in 2016

    The two communities of Bavanggazo and Tinangol are located in Kudat, close to the northern tip of Sabah. The Rungus indigenous people of this area have long supplemented their livelihoods through various cultural enterprises, such as homestay programmes based around traditional Rungus longhouses, beadwork, and the sale of locally-produced goods such as honey. This new team divides their time between Tinangol and Bavanggazo villages, and are interested in making films about cultural change – in particular, about the loss of proficiency in the Rungus language amongst village youths today.

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