Sahabat Alam Malaysia – Friends’ of the Earth Malaysia (SAM), is an independent non-profit national organisation established in 1977 in Malaysia under its Societies Act 1966. SAM operates from two offices; in Penang in Peninsular Malaysia and in Marudi, in the state of Sarawak, Borneo. SAM has been a member of Friends of the Earth International (FoEI) since 1983. The Penang office, the organisation’s headquarters, is focused on issues in Peninsular Malaysia, while the Marudi office is responsible for issues and activities in Sarawak.
Our objective is to ensure that our development choices and management of natural resources are sustainable and ecologically sound, guided by the principles of environmental justice. We believe that the protection of our natural resources can only be effectively attained when there is equity in society, where the rights of indigenous peoples, farmers, fisherfolk and local communities to natural resources are respected and gender justice prevails.
To create a peaceful and sustainable world based on societies living in harmony with nature. We envision a society of interdependent people living in dignity, wholeness and fulfillment in which equity and human and peoples’ rights are realised. We believe that our children’s future will be better because of what we do.
To ensure environmental and social justice, human dignity, and respect for human rights and peoples’ rights so as to secure sustainable societies.
To halt and reverse environmental degradation and depletion of natural resources, nurture the earth’s ecological and cultural diversity, and secure sustainable livelihoods.
To secure the empowerment of indigenous peoples, local communities, women and other stakeholders in their participation in decision making.
To bring about transformation towards sustainability and equity between and within societies with creative approaches and solutions.
To engage in vibrant campaigns, raise awareness, mobilise people and build alliances with diverse movements, linking grassroots, national and global struggles.
What We Do
The foundation of our work is premised on the empowerment and mobilisation of grassroots communities, primarily indigenous, fishing and farming communities, to defend their territories and environment from destructive activities and ecosystem damage which are the result of inequitable economic and development decisions. We provide assistance to communities in their engagement with state actors and other civil society actors, support the formation and management of community-based organisations and community action committees, conduct field visits and surveys to better understand the situation on the ground, provide legal advice and support to communities who may need them and hold various advocacy and strategic activities with them on policies, laws and the protection of their territories. During the course of our work, we have directly supported the establishment of two fishing community associations in Peninsular Malaysia, 28 indigenous residents’ associations in Sarawak and numerous community action committees throughout the country.
Advocacy & Campaigns
Based on the information gained through community mobilisation and in-depth research, we conduct various activities to advocate and campaign for changes in policies and laws and the halting of activities and practices that are destructive to the environment and communities. Such activities may take place in the form of direct engagement with state and other civil society actors, as well as through consultative spaces established by various governance processes. They may be conducted at the local level where an environmentally destructive project takes place, at the national level when more effective policy and legal solutions are urgently needed, or at the international level where regional and global trade, treaties, conventions and other international political processes may have repercussions on the environment and communities.
Education & Awareness
We hold activities to provide information and technical knowledge to our indigenous, fishing and farming community partners, as well as students, the youth and women, and the general public. Throughout the years, we have held numerous training workshops for specific target groups; organised national and international conferences participated by affected communities, civil society organisations, the legal community and state actors; and actively participated in exhibitions during many public events throughout the country. We also regularly receive invitations to speak and present at various events organised by state and other civil society actors, nationally and internationally.
Research & Publication
We conduct and publish in-depth research as well as community and public-friendly documents, which cover the documentation of community experience; the analysis of policy, laws and statistical information; and the formulation of policy and legal recommendations, among others. SAM has produced numerous papers, memoranda, reports, books and community and public friendly materials since its inception. While the older materials, especially books, are only available in hard copy, in recent years, most publications are publicly available on our website. These materials are widely used in our advocacy and campaigns, as well as during education and awareness raising activities.
We provide legal advice and support to communities who may need them, including during times where they may be questioned, arrested and detained by the police or other authorities, as a result of their activities to protect their territories, natural resources and environment. We also provide legal advice to various public interest groups and coalitions in areas where we have expertise. Where resources are available, we also directly assist communities in seeking legal redress in courts to remedy environmental injustices.
As a civil society organisation, we recognise the importance of working together and in showing solidarity with aligned local, national and international allies. At the national level, our closest partners are two sister organisations i.e. the Consumers’ Association of Penang (CAP) and Third World Network (TWN). At the international level, we are an active member of Friends of the Earth International (FoEI), where our current president was its chair from 2004 to 2008. Our other international allies include the World Rainforest Movement (WRM), La Via Campesina, the Environmental Law Alliance Worldwide (ELAW), Break Free from Plastics (BFFP), Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA), International Pollutants Elimination Network (IPEN) and Seafish for Justice.
Media & Publicity
We publish at least 50 press statements and letters to editors in a year, all of which are posted on our website, and are regularly invited to provide insights and views on a range of issues by various national and international print and broadcast media. We also work with journalists, writers and filmmakers who are interested to help us publicise our advocacy activities and the plight of affected communities. Members of the public can also communicate with us directly through our social media accounts to highlight their concerns on matters related to the protection of the environment and community rights.
We support communities in developing their own sustainable solutions, where their livelihood is secured, their territories, natural resources, biodiversity and the environment are sustainably managed, protected and conserved.
In Peninsular Malaysia, we work with two fishing community associations to implement mangrove reforestation and rehabilitation efforts. Thus far, this partnership has been responsible in rehabilitating more than 100 hectares of mangrove forest with the planting of more than 100,000 trees since 1999. This activity is also often conducted with the participation of other groups, such as students and the youth, to raise environmental awareness. SAM encourages and implements mangrove planting with local communities as they can see the importance of replanting and gain a sense of ownership to nurture and manage the mangroves. By generating awareness and encouraging active participation among communities we have found that public support can be mobilised and increases pressure for policy reforms and accord protection of these forests.
In Baram, Sarawak, we support indigenous residents’ associations in implementing community-based forestry management and agroecology projects, which has also attracted significant participation from women. Our office in Marudi maintains and runs an agroecology training centre, with more than 3,000 saplings of local wild trees, that are regularly distributed to communities for their reforestation or forest enrichment projects. The office also supported the establishment of a community-run nursery in Long Miri, which has nurtured more than 1,200 saplings. SAM also conducts exhibitions in Marudi and supports community efforts to market their sustainable farming produce in Miri.
Pembangunan & Perancangan
Hutan & Biodiversiti
Who We Work With
SAM works closely with local communities and residents’ associations in Malaysia including in Sarawak such the Uma Bawang Residents’ Association (UBRA).
- Break Free from Plastics (BFFP)
- Environmental Law Alliance Worldwide (ELAW)
- Friends of the Earth International (FoEI)
- Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA)
- International Pollutants Elimination Network (IPEN)
- Third World Network (TWN)
- World Rainforest Movement (WRM)
- Coalition for the Protection of Selangor’s Forests
- Consumers’ Association of Penang (CAP)
- Forum Kedaulatan Makanan Malaysia (FKMM)
- Friends of Ulu Muda (FoUM)
- Penang Forum
Persatuan Aktivis Sahabat Alam (KUASA)
- Penang Inshore Fishermen’s Welfare Association (PIFWA)
- Persatuan Pendidikan dan Kebajikan Jaringan Nelayan Pantai Malaysia (JARING)
For its efforts in highlighting the destruction of the tropical rainforests in Sarawak and in bringing the plight of the indigenous peoples to the attention of the international community, SAM was awarded the Right Livelihood Award (also known as the alternative Nobel Prize) in 1988 and the Goldman Award in 1991. SAM was also the recipient of the UNEP Global 500 Roll of Honour in 1987 and the Conde Nast Travel Environment Award in 1998. We were also a founding member of the World Rainforest Movement (WRM), hosting its secretariat for several years in the 1990s.
Support our mission
Do your part for the environment with your donations. Each contribution enables our organisation to create more impact towards environmental justice.