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The System of Rice Intensification Farming has Empowered 88 Farmers
31 January 2024, Ba’ Kelalan, Sarawak: The System of Rice Intensification (S.R.I), a sustainable farming project supported by the World Wide Fund for Nature Malaysia (WWF-Malaysia) in partnership with CIMB Islamic Bank Berhad (CIMB Islamic) has reached a significant milestone, now enhancing the livelihoods of 88 local farmers and their families in Ba’ Kelalan, Sarawak.
What began as a pilot project in Long Langai, one of the villages in Ba’ Kelalan with only 12 farmers in 2017, has now expanded its reach to four neighbouring villages, namely Buduk Bui, Long Rangat, Long Lemutut, and Long Kumap. This expansion reflects the positive impact and widespread acceptance of the S.R.I, as it promotes chemical-free farming, and employs targeted methods to reduce pests like the golden apple snail.
The resounding success of the S.R.I initiative underscores the commitment and dedication of the farmers, who have become the driving force behind the project. In a commendable collective effort, these farmers have united under the leadership of the S.R.I Task Force, aiming to share knowledge on good agricultural practices, guide new farmers, and incorporate important principles such as environmental sustainability.
In a recently held ceremony, farmers witnessed the official opening of a storeroom by Ria Gugkang Sakai, Chairman of S.R.I Task Force, Dr. Jason Hon, Associate Director of Sarawak and Conservation Science of WWF-Malaysia, Brendan Kon, Managing Director of Antares Ventures as well as representatives from CIMB Islamic. The completion of the SRI storeroom was one of the project’s achievements, symbolising another key milestone and continued empowerment of the community. The S.R.I Task Force will oversee the operations of the storeroom, ensuring that all S.R.I farmers adhere to the facility’s usage guidelines. This facility serves as a valuable resource for storing machinery, as well as processing and storing paddy.
Ahmad Shahriman Mohd Shariff, Chief Executive Officer of CIMB Islamic said, “We continue to place special emphasis on championing sustainability, while being guided by the principles of value-based intermediation in everything that we do. We take pride in fostering collaborations with like-minded partners in making lasting and positive change in society. CIMB Islamic is pleased to once again act as a catalyst for a meaningful community initiative with our long-standing partner, WWF-Malaysia through the S.R.I. farming project, an initiative that has positively uplifted the livelihoods of farmers in the Ba’ Kelalan area in Sarawak, demonstrating the beneficial synergy of sustainable partnerships and community-led efforts.”
"The farmers are the champions of this initiative. Their active involvement and expansion into neighbouring villages underscore the success of the community-driven conservation approach. The project contributes to the livelihoods of the farmers and promotes nature conservation and environmental stewardship in the area," affirmed Dr. Hon.
He added, “With support from CIMB Islamic Bank Berhad and other agencies, we have carried out numerous activities. Among them, we have helped install irrigation pipes for Long Langai and Long Lemutut, with three other villages in Long Rangat, Buduk Bui, and Long Kumap expected to be completed soon. The pipes are an essential aspect of S.R.I, where water management is crucial.”
“Those who purchase S.R.I-farmed rice from Ba’ Kelalan can feel reassured that they are not only contributing to sustainable agriculture but also to the preservation of the environment through the collective actions of the farmers,” Dr. Hon added.
"Being part of the S.R.I has not only improved our farming practices and transformed my farm but has also given me a sense of responsibility towards the environment. We are proud to champion sustainable agriculture practices in our villages," said Ria.
“The growth of S.R.I in Ba’ Kelalan starting with one village to four has been incredible. The S.R.I storeroom is one of the many achievements that represents the collective strength and unity of our community. The S.R.I journey has brought both project supporters and local farmers together, collectively sharing knowledge and aiming to improve our farming system. Notable improvements have included installation of irrigation pipes, together with necessary training, including sessions with experts,” Ria added.
The S.R.I rice farming project stands as a shining example of how collaboration between local communities, corporate partners, and conservation organizations can create a lasting positive impact on both people and the environment. It provides a win-win situation for farmers and ecosystems by increasing paddy yield and sustaining income while minimising the need for clearing more forests for rice cultivation. Moreover, the chemical-free approach keeps rivers clean and reduces environmental impacts.
Irrigation water is sourced from the surrounding hills, requiring the laying of kilometer-long pipes purchased by the project but installed by the farmers themselves through a gotong-royong approach. Additionally, WWF-Malaysia’s monitoring has shown that the Ba’ Kelalan catchment, approximately 7,000 hectares in size, has remained intact with good forest cover.
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Harvesting season for rice grown using the S.R.I method in the highlands of Ba’ Kelalan. Photos © Ezen Chan / WWF-Malaysia
From left: Arshad Nuval Othman, Head of Sustainable Finance of CIMB Islamic Bank and Dr. Hon presented a memento to the S.R.I Task Force. Photo © Ezen Chan / WWF-Malaysia
From left: Kon, Dr. Hon, Arshad and Ria unveiled the storeroom during the opening ceremony held in Long Langai, Ba’ Kelalan. Photos © Ezen Chan / WWF-Malaysia
From left: Ria, Dr. Hon, Arshad and Kon delivered speeches during the opening ceremony. Photo © Ezen Chan / WWF-Malaysia
Invited guests posed for a group photo. Photos © Ezen Chan / WWF-Malaysia