Mantanani is a small island on the North coast of Sabah, in the Kota Belud district. It has a population
of 900- 1200 local people and a tourism industry that is increasing at a rate of 300% a year. The island
is a 2-hour journey by fishing boat from the mainland and due to this isolation it has historically been
overlooked in terms of education and development by the State. The severe absence of education
manifests itself in a dearth of awareness of environmental issues, as well as a lack of confidence and
empowerment in the local community to be able to negotiate their rights effectively with the booming
tourism industry.
As is often the case with small islands, Mantanani has a limited resource of fresh groundwater. The
water table is also high, so there is not enough sand to effectively filter the waste-water that is
deposited into it. As lifestyles of the local community are changing and people have indoor toilets,
rather that drops over the sea, there is an increase of sewage being ineffectively filtered through the
sand. Already conflicts are arising as wells become contaminated by soakaways. Pathogens are also
introduced into the aquifer, which has the potential of greatly increasing health problems on the island.
Although the local community appears to be immune to the current pathogens present, with increasing
tourism numbers, new pathogens are introduced for which there is no immunity. This is a major health
risk to tourism as well as the local community. In addition, the large number of visiting tourists, as well
as the increased use of diesel-powered pumps, is putting a strain on the aquifer that is unsustainable.
This results in water being withdrawn faster that it can be augmented by rainfall, a system that risks the
salination of the whole aquifer. These problems are compounded by the fact that although there is
basic cartographic information of the island, there is no baseline of data regarding the size or extent of
the aquifer.
In order to address these issues Arkitrek aims to:
Gather information and map the aquifer;
! Engage the local indigenous community in the mapping of the aquifer;
! Empower the community to develop comprehensive development plans and guidelines to
safeguard the aquifer;
! Galvanise the community to solve their pressing issue of groundwater depletion, salination and
public health issues;
! Lay the ground work for a long term and sustainable community lead monitoring of the aquifer.
These objectives will be achieved by a series of activities including: community-participatory
workshops; cultural exchanges and capacity building; community training; baseline data collection;
community engagement; and data analysis.
As the issue of the aquifer affects people across the island, this project will target three distinct groups
as beneficiaries. The project will give skilled education and training to members of the local indigenous
community to manage the project. They will do the bulk of the groundwork, taking measurements and
GPS points and drawing maps. They will also be community leaders in communicating environmental
concerns and implications to the wider community. Not only will it make them community leaders, it will
further their opportunities to work in other areas of Sabah.
The inhabitants of Pulau Mantanani will benefit from increased environmental awareness, education,
raised standards of public health and from being empowered to deal in a more informed manner with
the tourism industry- negotiate for their environment to maintain a secure aquifer, thus ensuring a
constant and clean water source. They will be engaged at every stage and invited to participate in
activities such as 3D mapping and cognitive mapping, result analysis and community action planning.
The third target group is the tourism operators on Mantanani. They will be invited to be involved at every stage of the data collection process and will be invited to workshops run by community members.
The project will empower the community to negotiate safe water practices with these operators, as well
as raise the awareness amongst operators of the threats associated with poor waste water treatment
practices. It will provide a basis for tourism to grow sustainably and responsibly, ensuring its long-term
success on the island.
The total cost of this project over the following 2 years is expected to be 53, 500 USD. Presently, no
other sources of funding have been sought.

The main objective of this project is to empower the local indigenous communities of Pulau Mantanani
to take responsibility for the sustainable monitoring of their groundwater resource. On Pulau Mantanani
this has never before been attempted and there has been very little investigation into the state of the
To get to this objective though a large amount of groundwork needs to be laid. The community first
have to be helped to understand the complex physics of the aquifer and the nature of their own unique
aquifer. They need to be helped to understand the threats to their aquifer and how these threats can be
minimised. This knowledge will put the community in an empowered position to negotiate with
confidence on behalf of their natural environment. This project will provide the necessary capacity for
the local community to safeguard their water source, improve the overall health on the island, create
long term development plans that protect their natural environment and improve their marginalised
There are two interlinking goals; namely:
1) Engage the local community in mapping the aquifer and human interactions with the aquifer in order
to establish a baseline of data which will enable the communities and the tourism industry to make
more informed decisions about development and management of groundwater. Motivating the local
community to take responsibility for the mapping will give them an awareness of the threats to their
natural resources and the value of preserving them. It will also allow them to understand the physics of
the aquifer and therefore to have greater confidence when when negotiating terms for future
developments with tourism operators. Engaging them in the mapping will ultimately ensure that they
have the necessary skills to keep their groundwater resource safe and sustainably managed.
2) Develop with the local community a framework for sustainably monitoring the groundwater resources on Pulau Mantanani. This framework must be sustainable and practical for long-term use, allow any
changes in the aquifer to be noted on a scale of seriousness and where necessary, to be dealt with
quickly and efficiently.
The project seeks to address this issue as quickly as possible in order to avoid the escalation of the
current conflicts between islanders and between tourism operators over water overuse and

Below is a list of overarching programmatic goals with their associated activities and expected outputs.
Goal 1: Engage the local community in mapping the aquifer and human interactions with the
aquifer in order to establish a baseline of data which will enable the communities and the
tourism industry to make more informed decisions about development and management of
This will be achieved by:
1. Engage a field officer trained and experienced in cartography to work on Mantanani for
18 months- This field officer will be responsible for leading the project on site. His role will
involve the accurate collection and monitoring of data collection that will allow the state of the
aquifer to be modelled. He will be responsible for training members of the local community as
well as engaging the community as a whole in the program. He will have to ensure that all data
is recorded in a manner that is easily understandable. This process will involve the following:
! Objectives
! To ensure the project has a skilled person who can oversee the project and can give the
necessary technical training to the community.
2. Cultural Exchange Mantanani is an island that is isolated from other community initiatives in
Sabah, thus the understanding of conservation concepts is still limited. The project aims to
build relationships between the locals on Mantanani with communities that have successfully environmental assessments and advocate for their rights. One such community would be Ulu
Papar in the Crocker Range of Sabah. (http://www.iapad.org/applications/protected_areas/ulupapar.
htm) Arkitrek seeks to follow the Ulu Papar model of community engagement while
fostering a relationship between the two communities. This process is already underway, and
has so far been self funded by interested community members.
! A training trip by representatives of Ulu Papar to Mantanani.
! Exchange trips for some community members of Pulau Mantanani to visit Ulu Papar at the
beginning and middle stages of the project.
! Objectives
1) To strengthen concepts of conservation and community cooperation
2) To broaden the awareness among the local communities of other conservation efforts
being carried out by indigenous people in Sabah.
3. Project Introductions The project will first be introduced to the Ketua Kampong (village Head)
! Objectives
1) To pay respect to the head of the village
2) To gain his support and backing to the project.
3) To this end, Arkitrek already have a good relationship with the head of the village and
although he dismisses any risk to the aquifer, he is aware of the problem of water
contamination and is supportive of initiatives that give employment to the community.
4. Project Introductions An open-house gathering to introduce the project to the community as a
whole. The issue of the water table will be described through interactive games and
! Objectives
1) To make the community aware of forthcoming surveys and the reason they are being
2) To begin the awareness of the community about water management.
3) To advertise the two employment positions of research assistants.
5. Train the Trainers Program (duration 18 months) After interviews, two research assistants
will be appointed. They will be given training lasting at least 18 months to develop skilled
community researchers.
! Objectives
1) The Research Assistants will be trained in all aspects of the project by the field officer
and will be actively involved in gathering all baseline data.
2) They will also be given training to allow them to take over the management of the
project in the future, ensuring the sustainability of the project.
3) Research Assistants will be taught to gather cartographic information, using equipment
such as GPS handsets and Total Station Theodolite and multi parameter water quality
data logging devices.
4) Research Assistants will monitor water levels and quality at test pits and wells.
5) Research Assistants will run the engagement with the community and set up the
workshops to benefit the community as a whole, including participatory 3D mapping
and cognitive community mapping and filming.
6. Data Collection Three months intensive investigation of the island along with community
participatory and cognitive mapping sessions will develop a baseline of data about the island. It
will include the following:
1) Measure water quality, including salinity, biological oxygen demand, suspended solids
and dissolved oxygen in existing wells and new test pits using a multi parameter data
logging device.
2) Measure groundwater levels in existing wells and new test pits using.
3) Identify and map water extraction points and volume of water being extracted.
4) Identify all wells currently used for potable water, non- potable water and those not used at all as well as the reasons for these uses.
5) Identify and map waste water/ sewage discharge points as well as volume and nature
of discharge. Identify and map other sources of groundwater pollution.
6) Collect participatory maps recording current water use and waste discharge in each
household and each tourism operation.
7) Create participatory community maps showing vegetation around the island and rates
of erosion.
8) Create with the community 3D physical models and digital models showing the shape
of the aquifer.
! Objectives
1) To gather an accurate and reliable baseline of data of all activity on the island related
to water use that is built by the community. This will enable informed decisions to be
made about development on the island and groundwater management.
2) To engage the communities in the practice and concern of environment awareness.
3) To help all the interested members of the local community understand the nature of
their groundwater resource and have a thorough awareness of the processes affecting
the aquifer and the threats to it.
4) To empower the local community to engage in discussions about the future
developments of Mantanani.
7. First Stage Analysis This date will be analysed, drawing connections between data collected,
population centres and human/ livestock interactions with the water table across the island.
This process will be instructive for the community to draw scientifically sound conclusions from
the data they collected.
! Objectives
1) This first stage will allow the community to see the greatest threats to their aquifer and
will allow them along with the field officer to gather advice on how the risks to the
aquifer might be averted.
2) To allow a strategy for monitoring the aquifer.
8. Monitoring the aquifer The field officer lead the monitoring of the water levels and quality at
test pits and wells training the Research Assistants from the community in accuracy and
scientific recording.
! Objectives
1) To establish a sustainable method of recording water issues; rate of extraction,
conflicts etc.
2) To gather data every two weeks recording the changing water levels across the island.
3) To gather data every two weeks recording the changing quality of water quality across
the island.
9. Complimentary Workshops Workshops, that are in an open house style in a community
building will cover the following topics:
1) Project Introduction (2 no.)
2) Water and Health (2 no.)
3) Water and Conflict Mitigation (1 no.)
4) Water and Tourism (2 no.)
! Objectives
1) To engage the communities in the practice and concern of environment awareness
2) To motivate community participation in the project
3) To establish a method of recording water issues; rate of extraction, conflicts etc.
4) Raise awareness in community of threats to the groundwater.
5) Raise awareness in community of physical characteristics of the groundwater aquifer.
6) To feedback collected data to the community on a regular basis, keeping them
engaged in the project and building anticipation for the final data analysis.
7) To discuss issues and to develop better models for infrastructure development and
health precautions.
8) To introduce a method of documenting public health issues
10. Process Recording All data will be recorded and weekly, monthly and 6 monthly reports
collated. However, more interactive forms of records will be made including 3D participatory
mapping, cognitive mapping and community filmmaking.
! Objectives
1) To create a record in which the community has participated to give a model that could
be used to set up this project in other island communities.
Goal 2: Develop with the local community a framework for sustainably monitoring the
groundwater resources on Pulau Mantanani.
This will be achieved by:
1. Result analysis with the local community The data will be analysed, drawing connections
between data collected, population centres and human/ livestock interactions with the water
table across the island. This process will be instructive for the community to draw scientifically
sound conclusions from the data they collected. This will be done in two stages- directly after
the intensive data collection as discussed, and secondly, after 18months of monitoring. This
will allow trends to be analysed and a discussion of the most effective process of sustainable
community monitoring. The research assistants from the community, who have been trained for
18 months, will now be given the responsibility to monitor the aquifer. They will be supported by
the Project Contact in Arkitrek's Kota Kinabalu office. In these 6 months, the community will
also be helped to establish future goals for the project and for the sustainable monitoring of the
! Objective
1) To allow the local community to draw their own analysis and conclusions about the
state of the aquifer and the fluctuations that occur.
2) To help the local community to structure their own guidelines for monitoring and
safeguarding their aquifer.
3) To empower the local community to direct their own groundwater conservation and
development guidelines.
4) A plan for sustainable water management to inform future island development.
It should be noted that all community engagement will be run in collaboration with Camp Borneo and
Blue Life. Camp Borneo already run a successful community marine conservation program and have
very strong relationships with the communities on Mantanani. Camp Borneo is a co-funder of this
project work. Blue Life are running safe drinking water workshops in parallel to this project. They are
also installing a water filtration system on the island for the use of the community.

A new awareness of environmental conservation issues throughout Sabah.
A trained team of conservation minded community researchers active in doing data collection and
organising participatory data recording.
New knowledge about the state of the aquifer of groundwater on Mantanani.
Documentation and visualisation of this knowledge in participatory maps, 3D model and database.
Baseline data for each household on health issues.
Community-based water management and zoning plan.
Agreement between the local community and the tourism operators on the island on matters of water management.
Six community awareness and education campaigns on water conservation with posters, banners, and
participatory workshops and film-making.
A sustainable framework for the longterm monitoring of the aquifer conducted by members of the local

Project Snapshot

Country: Malaysia
Area Of Work: International Waters
Operational Phase: Phase 5
Grant Amount: US$ 41,512.00
Co-Financing Cash: US$ 2,651.00
Co-Financing in-Kind: US$ 9,303.00
Project Number: MAL/SGP/OP5/Y2/STAR/IW/12/19
Start Date: 11/2012
End Date: 5/2015
Status: Satisfactorily Completed
Project Characteristics and Results
Significant Participation of Indigenous Peoples
The Mantanani community is predominantly Ubian, a subgroup of the Bajau that is believed to be the poorest of all the ethnic groups in Sabah. The people are primarily small time fishermen who generate income by selling fresh and salted fish. The tourism boom on the island over the past 5 years has created employment for many islanders, especially the women who take up kitchen and housekeeping jobs on the resorts. Sadly, in most cases islanders are paid below minimum wage. There are several key challenges for the Mantanani community: under education and lack of exposure being one, due to the somewhat remote location of the island. There is no awareness on conservation issues, or what is happening around the rest of Sabah, or the effect of tourism on the island. The villagers are ignorant about existing policies for engaging communities on development that are commonly practice in other rural areas. Another challenge faced by the villagers is the issue of land entitlement. There is no evidence that the FPIC principles are being followed. There are fears that the rights of the Mantanani islanders would be overlooked as plans are announced to move the communities away from the beaches and into the centre of the island. The Mantanani Groundwater project has not only engaged these islanders, but been run mostly by the islanders. The project has supported and helped them to record their experiences.
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