TENGHILAN: In the midst of all the economic hardship created by the COVID pandemic, kampung farmers have responded and risen through the terrible challenges with initiatives that value Sabahan land, culture and heirloom rice varieties.
In partnership with Kampung Lapasan Ulu and Kampung Tinuhan communities, Forever Sabah initiated Projek Padi with support from Sabah Department of Irrigation and Drainage (DID) and a special grant from Yayasan Hasanah (with funds from Ministry of Finance, Malaysia).
The project had reaped 240 per cent of return on investment when it yielded 28 tonnes of rice for its first harvest which they name their product as “Wagas Dati”which means our rice.
Out of the 28 tonnes, they sold out two tonnes of their organic rice worth more than RM30,000 which means they are earning additional RM3,000 per acre as compared to farming using chemicals.
With Projek Padi, Saimah Malas, a 61 year-old woman from Kg. Tinuhan was able to expand her farming area to 2.34 acres and increase her yield to 2,260kg of paddy, growing eleven different kinds of rice with different properties and tastes.
The project enabled Saimah to maintain a consistent rice stock to feed her family, resilient to the challenges of life and the economy during the COVID pandemic.
Meanwhile, her rice sales enabled her to meet all her household cash needs as well as to invest in hiring additional labour to manage the fields.
Masyezienia ‘Agang’ Widin, joined Padi Projek concerned about how she would feed her family through the pandemic and because she had always been interested in rice, though she had not farmed on her own before.
Coming to Kg. Tinuhan from Kg. Liningkung in Telupid in 2009 upon her marriage, their lack of financial resources meant that even after twelve years of marriage, her family of five were still living with the in-laws.
Under the project, Agang opened up 0.85 acres of land; planting four varieties of wet rice.
Discovering that she had considerable skill in recognizing the different varieties, Agang also assisted Projek Padi in collecting agronomic rice production data through citizen science.
Harvesting 865kg of rice and having met the needs of her family, she decided to sell 45% of her harvest to raise funds for starting to build her first family home.
“As long as I’m still active I will continue the cultivation of rice. Although it’s hard work, paddy revitalization should carry on and hopefully, more people will join and be inspired by our harvests.
“Rice is one of the most important needs in life,” Saimah commented with an easy grin,