Meet the FABLE Malaysia team

The team has been led by Jeffrey Sachs Center on Sustainable Development, Sunway University. They are looking for interested researchers who would like to join the team and develop national pathways for sustainable food and land-use systems in Malaysia.

Transforming food and land-use systems in Malaysia

Malaysia faces significant challenges in its food and land use systems. In 2012, the country had 66% forest cover, 21% cropland, 1% urban areas, and 12% other natural land. Agricultural land is distributed fairly evenly in Peninsula Malaysia, with more concentration in the coastal regions of Sabah and Sarawak states. The Agriculture, Forestry, and Other Land Use (AFOLU) sector play a critical role in Malaysia's climate change efforts due to carbon sinks like forests and peatlands. Balancing economic concerns, food security, and the preservation of carbon sinks remains a point of debate.

Malaysia struggles with malnutrition and non-communicable diseases. While caloric, protein, and fat consumption seem on track, health outcomes remain poor. High rates of stunting and obesity compared to other upper middle-income countries highlight the imbalances in Malaysian diets, including overconsumption of sugar, eggs, and poultry, and under-consumption of nuts, pulses, fruits, and vegetables.

Extensive deforestation occurred, especially in Sabah and Sarawak, driven by logging and expansion of oil palm plantations. Between 2000 and 2020, 2.6 million hectares of new oil palm plantations were established, nearly doubling the total area to 6 million hectares. This expansion brought revenue but also caused significant forest and peatland conversion, leading to carbon stock and biodiversity loss. Addressing land exploitation in Malaysia requires diversifying income sources, capping palm oil expansion, and developing coherent policies across ministries. Rethinking the land-use strategy is crucial, including a new food supply-demand model.

Overcoming these challenges and establishing a sustainable food and land use system in Malaysia requires inter-ministerial collaboration, exploring new income sources, and sustainable policies to protect forests and promote local food production. It is imperative to find a balance between economic growth, food security, and environmental preservation. By addressing imbalances in diets, reducing reliance on palm oil exports, and implementing coherent policies, Malaysia can work towards a resilient and sustainable future for its food and land use systems.