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Co-producing climate curriculum with indigenous communities


Voices of the Rainforest is a new climate change education project that aims to co-create a traditional, ecological, knowledge-based climate change curriculum framework for primary schools with indigenous communities, children, and school partners in Malaysia.

Indigenous communities often find themselves on the frontline of climate change impacts. In Peninsular Malaysia, these indigenous communities consist of 18 tribes, categorised into three main groups: Senoi, Proto-Malay, and Negrito, all of whom reside in rainforest areas.

The project is led by University of Leeds researcher, Dr Syafiq Mat Noor, a Lecturer in Climate Change Education from the School of Education, in collaboration with researchers from Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, Dr Siti Nur Diyana Mahmud and Dr Zanisah Man. 

The research project has been funded by a prestigious award from the British Academy under the ‘Knowledge Frontiers: ODA International Interdisciplinary Research 2024’ grant call. The full list of winning projects is available on the British Academy website.

Voices of the Rainforest has been awarded this grant in line with the UK’s Official Development Assistance (ODA) goals, which are a central part of the nation’s commitment to the Paris Climate Agreement and Net Zero targets. 

Within the Paris Agreement (article 7, paragraph 5) it is stated: “Parties acknowledge that adaptation action should follow a country-driven, gender-responsive, participatory and fully transparent approach, taking into consideration vulnerable groups, communities and ecosystems, and should be based on and guided by the best available science and, as appropriate, traditional knowledge, knowledge of indigenous peoples and local knowledge systems, with a view to integrating adaptation into relevant socioeconomic and environmental policies and actions, where appropriate.”

One of the key aims of the research project is to address knowledge gaps in existing climate change education by exploring and evidencing the richness of traditional ecological knowledge within indigenous communities and investigating how it can be utilised to enrich school curricula related to climate change.

Existing research emphasises that indigenous communities are empowered in terms of resilience and self-sufficiency when they utilise traditional and local knowledge in climate change adaptation. 

Indigenous communities have found ways to adapt to the impacts of climate change, notably by using their traditional and local knowledge to predict changes in the climate, thus providing valuable lessons for both indigenous and non-indigenous communities.

The research project emphasises the importance of improving policies and approaches, to better respond to these challenges and promote the economic development and welfare of Malaysia, with potential application of findings to other countries in the Global South facing similar threats and challenges.

By Dr Syafiq Mat Noor

For full details on the research project, visit the Voices of the Rainforest project webpage. Dr Syafiq Mat Noor can be contacted via email at 

Featured photos by Ronnie Bahari, an indigenous photographer from the Semai tribe in Perak, Malaysia.