Sapot Lokal Sustainability Bazaar 

Filled with energy and life, the Sapot Lokal Sustainability Bazaar hosted by MUSA Welfare was by far the most lively and comfortable atmosphere to be around. The buzz of students and local small businesses around the foyer area brought about great vibes and energies. From yummy food stalls, adorable stalls that sold adorable knitted products ranging from keychains to knitted flowers, and the prettiest accessories ever, to cool thrift stalls selling second hand clothes and the cutest tote bags to match. Literally anything and everything that a stressed uni student needed to calm off the stressful month of April, could be found in this bazaar. With the stalls promoting the many creative ideas of upcycling and not contributing to waste, it resonated with the hope for a better future for our environment. 

Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) Animal Welfare Forum 

The SPCA forum hosted by MUSA Welfare, aimed to educate the students of Monash on the animal cruelty issues surrounding Malaysia. Highlighting topics sheer number and severity of cases in Malaysia, to what we, as individuals can do to help them in reducing the animal cruelty rates around the country. 

There are 5 freedoms for animals that everyone should look out for and be aware of, as animals have their rights too! 

1. Freedom from hunger and thirst 

2. Freedom from discomfort 

3. Freedom from pain, injury and diseases 

4. Freedom to express normal behaviour 

5. Freedom from fear and distress 

SPCA focuses greatly on their rehabilitation centres for cats and dogs’ conditions post rescuing, ensuring their steady recovery before letting them be adopted by others. Their rehabilitation centres contain 4 parks to separate the dogs into and a cat room for cats to chill in (how adorable is that?!). SPCA also ensures that all their animals are spay neutered and are healthy before allowing them to be adopted. 

From our writer’s perspective, it was truly heartbreaking to hear how some people treat dogs and cats as the SPCA representative spoke about the many animal cruelty cases that are common in Malaysia. Chaining dogs, trapping kittens, and placing dogs and cats in just overall horrible conditions and situations. However, there are ways that you guys (yes, you reading this right now!) can help our little furry friends out! To support SPCA’s cause to rescue these animals and reduce the animal cruelty rates in Malaysia, we can start by educating others and ourselves on animal welfare awareness, so that we can ensure our furry friends are safe. The most efficient way to help however, is to donate to an NGO advocating for the prevention of animal cruelty, this doesn’t just have to be to SPCA. Always ensure that the NGO that you’re donating to resonates with what you believe in and that they don’t misuse the funds. Advised by the SPCA representative is that it’s better to visit the NGO and see what they do instead of just believing in social media posts as they could be a scam.

Transforming markets to make sustainable Palm Oil the norm: A conversation with the RSPO.

What images come to mind when you think of the words “Palm Oil”? Are they positive? Or negative? This was the question posed to the room by Dr. Cheryl Ong, the research and knowledge manager for the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (and an alumnus of Monash), at the beginning of her talk. The talk titled “Transforming markets to make sustainable palm oil the norm”, was part of the “Sapot Lokal” bazaar organized by GRN and MUSA welfare on the 2nd and 3rd of May.

For most of us, the mention of palm oil brings back haunting images of decimated rainforests and the near extinction of vital species such as the Orangutan and the Bornean and Sumatran Elephant. However, as Dr. Cheryl proceeded to explain, palm oil and its derivatives happen to be present in a wide variety of consumer goods ranging from confectionery to noodles and even toothpaste. Moreover, it also happens to be one of the biggest commodities produced by Malaysia and Indonesia and has raised millions out of poverty. Palm oil also requires less space than its alternatives with only 0.26 hectares needed to produce one ton. This makes a complete ban of this commodity impractical and instead highlights the need for sustainable production and management of the supply chain which includes growers, manufacturers, retailers, and investors. It is out of this need and with this goal that the ‘Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil’ or ‘RSPO’ was born in 2004.

Over the last 20 years, the RSPO has been instrumental in bringing together stakeholders of the palm oil industry with the goal of making palm oil sustainable. It functions as both an engagement system, as well as a standards platform. In order to be “RSPO certified”, member companies must abide by a series of stringent conditions based on seven principles. The conditions include conducting “high conservation value” and “high carbon stock” assessments before clearing a new area, preserving labor rights, and respecting the communities the companies work with. Moreover, the RSPO has a separate standard for small plantation owners or “small holders”, who account for 40% of palm oil production. Companies seeking RSPO certification undergo a thorough auditing process carried out by third party auditors contracted by the RSPO to ensure the company meets all the standards that have been set.

Following the talk, the floor was open for questions. There was a healthy discussion between the speakers and participants, with participants directing their doubts, concerns, and even criticisms surrounding the RSPO and the palm oil industry to the two speakers, Sheryl, and Monisha. The audience showed an impressive level of understanding of the issue and brought out important and good points in their questions, which were well answered by the speakers.

After a satiating lunch of Nasi Lemak, courtesy of Village Park; participants broke into groups for the second part of the session. A key challenge faced by the RSPO as noted by the speakers is the lack of demand for sustainably sourced palm oil in Malaysia in comparison to other countries which reduces the incentive for manufacturers to use the RSPO certification logo on their packaging. Groups were tasked with finding solutions to the question ‘’In your most creative way, how will you promote sustainable palm oil and RSPO to the youth.” Many creative ideas were presented by the groups which included awareness sessions, art competitions, campaigns, and field trips. Participants then voted on which group would take home Grab vouchers for having the best approach to the question.

The RSPO is also keen on engaging individuals in the work it does and offers internships to students who wish to gain work experience in this field. In a world where the climate emergency continues to require the cooperation of all parts of society, and demands business to be carried out sustainably, the importance of organizations such as the RSPO cannot be understated. Making sustainable palm oil the norm means ensuring that the economic benefits of this commodity are shared with communities and that intricate ecosystems are preserved for the benefit of future generations. 

Written by Simone & Zayd; Photos by Syaf

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