Wednesday, January 21

Revive role of Home Demonstrators to help rural economics

When prices of rubber, pepper and timber are down and prices of agriculture produce are up, and when many factories are closed down and workers forced to quit, what a better way is than to involve ourselves in agricultural activities. The decision of some 250 families in Kapit and 75 persons in Sarikei participating in a Bumi Hijau programme is not only a wise decision, but one that others should emulate.

While the programme is involved in the planting of vegetables around the house compound mainly for home consumption, extra produce can be sold to supplement household incomes. Under this programme the participants among others will enjoy subsidies of fertilizers, vegetable seeds, fish fry, chicks and other garden paraphernalia.

The Green Book programme introduced more than 30 years ago is being revived to reduce the rate of inflation by raising the people’s incomes through involvement in agriculture either as a part time or full time basis.

Through this programme the Federal Ministry of Agriculture has introduced a “kitchen farming” concept whereby households involve in vegetable farming, chicken and fish rearing in gardens of individual homes. Last year alone, the ministry had allocated RM20 million for the purchase and distribution of selected vegetable seedlings, fertilizers and manuals to all strata of society.

Sadly not many of our folks know about the existence of this scheme; perhaps there was little publicity or perhaps our so-called Dayak Yang Berhormats were ignorant or couldn’t be bothered about government policies that could benefit the Rakyat.

For us in Sarawak, the State government should go one step further to ensure the success of this “kitchen farming” concept by reviving the department of agriculture extension programme. Under this extension programme, Home Demonstrators (HDs) go to longhouses to teach Dayak women about home economics including advising them how to plant vegetables and fruit trees, the use of pesticides and fertilizers, how to make compost and to prune fruit trees, teach them sewing, cooking, handicrafts, cake making and healthy living, etc. Likewise, Junior Agriculture Assistants (JAAs) help their menfolk in maintaining their pepper or rubber gardens, chicken, sheep or cow rearing, etc.

This extension programme was actively carried out when Datuk Sri Daniel Tajem was Deputy Chief Minister and Minister of Agriculture and Community Development from October 1980 to March 1987.

Working closely with the Home Demonstrators were members of the Women’s Institute resulting in many housewives establish cottage industries selling various kinds of handicrafts including “pua kumbu”.

But when Adenan Satem took over as Agriculture Minister and Community Development in mid-1987, the agriculture extension programme was discontinued, the monthly visits by Home Demonstrators were stopped, and the name of Home Demonstrators was changed to Community Development Assistants having entirely different duties.

Even Farmers Training Schools where the menfolk were trained to be progressive farmers were closed and now they become white elephants. Since then the home economics programme was left to disappear into thin air.

The Women’s Institute which was under the leadership of Rugayah Majid, wife of Abang Yusof Puteh also became dormant.

Could actions against all these institutions and programmes have something to do with the Ming Court Affair 1987 during which Permas (a Malay party) and Parti Bansa Dayak Sarawak (PBDS) were trying to topple Taib Mahmud’s government? Why were rural people, especially the housewives made to suffer due to political harassment and victimization?

However, for the Green Book programme to be effective, we must not play politics and deprive the rural women from playing an important role in economic development. Therefore it may be necessary as far as rural Sarawak is concerned to revive or activate the agriculture extension programme.

This is where the role of Home Demonstrators is not only an important tool towards enhancing home or rural economics, but one that helps produce healthy families that are essential in nation building efforts. – The Broken Shield



sarawakiana said...

I think your suggestions are very good.
But I believe many of these home demonstrators are now being absorbed into the agricultural extension programmes. They are often the cooks for YBs when these VIPs visit longhouses.

Correct me if I am wrong.

Aki Josh said...

There is a bit of distortion in attributing the agricultural extension program to Daniel Tajem's time as Minister for Agriculture. You could just as well attribute it to previous ministers, such as Wong Soon Kai or (dare I say it) Alfred Jabu. In fact the program goes back to colonial times and was built up over the years, e,g, with help from the World Bank's National Extension Program. Some aspects of the traditional HD's work seem a bit of an anomaly now (e.g., cake making) but I fully agree that in times of economic hardship the nutritional and financial benefits of home gardens could well be re-emphasised, espcecially when hill padi farming (with associated vegetable crops) is in decline.

Ini Josh said...

Nuju Aki Josh,

Dipeda aku nadai nya distortion. The fact that the writer used the words "actively pursued" during Tajem's time indicates there was such a programme.

Ari Ini Josh

Aki Josh said...

Ini Josh, no argument that there was an active extension program under Daniel Tajem, as under previous ministers. Also no argument that it was one of the most effective ways to address rural poverty, despite persistent criticisms of the so-called "subsidy schemes". I endorse the general tenor of our Blogger's remarks. (BTW, are we related?!)

Chakui said...

Planting oil palms in Selcra Scheme is it not Bumi Hijau programme and economic development.But, why SOME of the Dayaks against the scheme?I am confused, Jetty.

Sarawak Update said...

Well said. Tajem did very well here. Development wise? Until now many of his kawasan despite long-long years under him, still in warp zone like he himself confided to me, Rahman and Taib fault ka?


Anonymous said...

Hi there everyone.
what a good idea it is to discuss such matter.

But i wonder where has the HD gone? I heard and saw these so called HD during my early childhood but now i dont.

BUT the problem is, even if these so called HD still exist, i believe they are having a difficult time going to Dayak areas since most of them are KEJI dengan orang Dayaks, unlike those days where HD were mostly Dayaks, so how?

I hope Tan Sri Jabu address this matter, not just scolding innocent longhouse folks.

You scare away people when you scold of vitimised them, remember that Tan Sri.

It is a very good thing indeed to have such idea mooted into reality.

I once had an idea having one longhouse working together planting vegetable and suggesting that a proper management be introduce to them to manage it.

I suggest to the Govt having more Dayaks employed as HD since most Dayaks stayed deep in interior areas and a muslim lady/woman may find it difficult to accomodate to the enviroment just like sending a Semananjung malay officer from a National Registration Dept to ulu areas to register the Dayaks as natives for those without IC.


Bugau said...

Well, I want to approached Jabu for Kepayang scheme. Anak ikan for our river (maybe not now, whatever happened to the fish in Belaga recently, it seem to brush under the carpet).

Hei guys, what about scheme ijok. Ijok fetched a good price and marketable, too. I don't know whether Jabu or any dayak YBs would support my opinion.

Cina kebun said...

Thank you to Mr. Jetty for this excellent article. It is worth reading during this time of economic crisis. Everyone knows that the vegetables are getting expensive. You will do your wallet a big favor if you start growing your own vegetables. You don’t need a large land to grow your own vegetables. You can use a container or whatever things you can recycle to grow vegetables such as cabbage, carrot, etc. Previous article by Mr. Jetty about dayak pensioners spend too much time at the coffee shop gossiping about politics. Instead of lazing around, why don’t they take up vegetable/fruit gardening as a hobby. Gardening is also a good form of exercise.

Roti Kawin said...

To Chakui,

Ya, you should be confused. No one blames you.

One is Salcra scheme and the other ones are by private oil palm companies.

Nobody is against Salcra scheme if it is porperly managed. And if you want the answers to your question, you better read Dr. John Brian's reply to Jabu in his blob

What Ibans in particular are against are their NCR land being taken away, their fruit trees, crops and even lonhouses are destroyed by privately run oil palm companies.

They do not respect the Iban Adat, Pendam, pemakai menua. I am sure you have heard so many court cases against these companies.

What Ibans want is that their land be developed properly: proper negotiations and they being given 30% stake in the company should also be appointed as directors in the company to ensure that they are not cheated by these companies. Proper agreements must be signed, etc.

I hope you do pretend that you are confused.

Or perhaps these companies have not encroached into you kampung or longhouse.

For those whose land have been taken away know the suffering, the misery and even some have landed in jail to protect their land.

Suddenly the owners of the land become criminals.


Anonymous said...

akai rai bugau,
Aku kak meh minta projek nanam rambai tauka miding kok bangsa bukai tang dijangka aku agi meh tanah kitai diambi sida ia laban rambai tuk utai ke tumbuh dalam utan so taib and jabu will say rambai is a wild semi creeping plant ukai utai ditanam so the idle land is not utilised so the two of them will take it away in the end.