PEWANIS: Making a Difference
In 2006, Nestlé (Malaysia) Berhad began a project with WWF-Malaysia in Kampung Mangkok, Setiu, a coastal village in Terengganu, aimed at improving the livelihood of local communities through a sustainable development programme that empowers local women while engaging them in environmental conservation.
Nestlé funded a survey of the socioeconomic needs and existing conditions of communities in key villages in Setiu. The survey identified the local communities' capacity building needs. Emphasis was put on the women because, as mothers and co-income earners, they had an important role to play in the area’s long-term development in a sustainable manner. The project entailed equipping local women with the skills needed to develop cottage industries, including training on basic entrepreneurial skills, adopting clean "green" practices in food processing, marketing and branding as well as environmental awareness.
Pengusaha Wanita Setiu (PEWANIS), or the Setiu Women Entrepreneurs, an informal group comprising women from Kampung Mangkok, Penarik in Setiu was then established in November 2007. With technical support from WWF-Malaysia and funding from Nestlé, this group has the potential to help underprivileged women improve their families' living standards and spearhead conservation efforts around their village.
Currently, PEWANIS is active in their traditional banana chips venture as a means to gain alternative income. Together with WWF, they have organised several conservation awareness activities among the local community and are active in mangrove replanting efforts. The goal is to empower them to become their home's environmental guardians to conserve the mangroves, wetlands, turtles and terrapins in Setiu. The group also organised free English classes for the local children at their activity centre cum production house, locally known as the Pink House.
In the long run, PEWANIS aims to venture into low impact nature tourism. The area is deemed by the state government as a potential tourism destination, and there will be a resort in the village soon. PEWANIS can attract visitors to participate in the process of making traditional chips and mangrove replanting for a fee. This income will boost the livelihood of local communities in Setiu while aiding efforts to conserve the area, an important fish spawning site for Peninsular Malaysia's fisheries industry. The Setiu Wetlands is the habitat for Malaysia’s largest breeding population of the critically endangered painted terrapin. Its beaches are nesting sites for marine turtles. This community participation in low impact nature tourism and conservation is supported by Terengganu's largest local travel agency, Ping Anchorage.
In October 2009, the Pink House hosted a group of tourists, who were happy to learn about local conservation efforts, such as mangrove replanting and protecting turtles and terrapins in the scenic coastal village. They were thrilled to participate in making the traditional banana chips. It was the first attempt for all and they enjoyed the experience thoroughly from peeling the bananas to packaging. “It has been an excellent trip for my group. Most of us are from the city and it is a great experience for us to meet the makcik-makcik PEWANIS and we had a lot of fun making the kerepek. We have not even left yet, but everyone has started talking about their next trip here to Setiu and visiting the lovely ladies of PEWANIS!” said delighted visitor Mazri Mahussein.