Sunday, January 30, 2005

Jan 7: Continuations Part 2


One of the local fishermen speding the lull time in mending holes in the fishing nets.

The villages were situated collectively and far between each other, journey of about half an hour to longer be the norm from getting to one place to another. From one end of the island to the other, the boat ride can be expected to take 2 hours at the highest speed. Geographically, Pulau Banggi and the adjacent islands provide a landmass larger than Singapore. The main village is of course Kampung Karakit where government services and supply stations are situated while the villages elsewhere are most often a ramshackle collection of wooden huts with corrugated roofing. Many villagers are hard core poor with earnings of below RM300 and carry out farming or fishing to supplement their meagre income, fishing being the main occupation of most here. The stark reality of how hard life is can be seen by the situation of one of the foreman of the project. His wages as a supervisor is RM400 a month, he is married and has 12 kids, calculation would tell that its about RM30 per kids per month, for many of us this is unthinkable. This is one problem that the Seaweed project hopes to help.


One of the largest wooden sampans I've ever seen. It will be used for the journey past the Philippines border to purchase seaweed seedlings from farmers in the country to be brought back for propagation.

By around 2 the seaweed gathering was done and the payment was given to the villagers, the seaweed will then be brought back to the central seaweed plot near Kaligau and later split into smaller fronds to be replanted and distributed. Excess seaweed is dried and stored for future sales. We finished with our visits at around 3 and we had lunch at the diners with ABC to stave off the hot day. Getting onto the jetty was tricky as we had to cross from our boat onto another bigger boat with the threat of me being sliced in half as the waves cause both to rock while I had to scale to boat’s side (nearly fell too as a sudden lurch sent me hanging to the side in mid air). The afternoon there wasn’t much to do thus I sat outside to watch the villagers (inside was sweltering). Mr. Ramlan and a few of the workers there were testing out the new ping pong table and having a great time. A group of kids were playing outside, a bunch trying to ‘jolok’ a coconut from the tree while around 4.30 p.m. the ferry spewed out people coming from Kudat. Taking a walk around I found stalls selling grilled fish by the road side as well as grilled chicken backsides. Bought a few (RM1.50 each fish) for dinner and walked about some more. Life here can be simple; the kampung life is clearly visible here. For dinner Mr Ramlan decided to cook for a change and he made fried fish, fried long beans and blanched brinjal.

Ramlan Posted by Hello

En. Ramlan enjoying the ride back home by laying back to relax as the sea breeze blew.

A meeting was scheduled tonight to discuss with the site supervisors on the project. Each of them came in turn in their kain pelikat and songkok, ranging from old veterans of 70 years of age to younger members in their 20s. The meeting was quite heated, many issues and problems were reiterated especially on the decline of some farms and the lost of interest by certain villagers from the programme. Problems were discussed, dissected and solutions voiced. Each was given a turn in putting in their views and voice. What was apparent was getting the villagers interested in the long run and creating social engineering in the betterment of their livelihood is not a simple process. From crop failures from disease and predation to the low commitment by the participants, the project might be facing a hard sell. It lasted for 4 hours stretching far into midnight with coffee served all round the table to those present.

The main thrust of the problems faced are;
1) Pests in the form of turtles and fishes are stripping away the crops disheartening the farmer who invested their time in cultivating the seaweed.
2) Problems with factional kampung politics which at times makes it difficult for the supervisors to direct their followers in planting schedule.
3) A lack of self interest and effort in continuing maintenance in their farms and of knowledge procurement to self sustain farms after UMS staff hands over responsibilities to concentrate on other farms needing help.
4) The lackadasical attitude of the locals which only treat the project when it suits their whims and as quickly abandoned planting if opportunity presents itself for other work such as vegetable cultivation.
5) Locals not following instructions of the supervisors on proper cultivation methods leading to substandard seaweed quality yet demands for higher payment.
6) New sites are not yielding as good a results as the test plots, factor differences may account for this.
7) Participants not giving their best and often drop out after a few months of the program.

These were discussed and solutions mooted for further discussion and action taking. Thus ends another day.

Meeting Posted by Hello

Supervisors of the seaweed farms as well as participants congreagating at the office for a late session brainstorming and progress meeting.

Karakit Posted by Hello

View of Kampung Karakit, the building at the top of the hill is the government quarters, land office and government clinic, below are some of the kampung houses.


Kid entertaining himself with a self made toy, a rubber slipper tied to a length of string.

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