As hiking activities at Mount Kinabalu in Sabah have been suspended for most of 2020 and this year due to the Covid-19 pandemic, some mountain guides have turned to farming to generate income, cultivating fruit and vegetables for sale.
One of them, Abdul Hasnin Kasim, 49, from Kundasang, said that he has been growing highland vegetables such as broccoli and cauliflower since the implementation of the first movement control order on March 18 last year.
He said that although the income from selling vegetables was inconsistent, at least it could help sustain his family while waiting for climbing activities to be allowed to resume.
“I sell vegetables in Kundasang town and earn about RM400 to RM500 a month only. It is quite a small amount, but I am thankful that I still have the means to continue living,” he said.
Abdul Hasnin, who has been a mountain guide for almost 16 years, said that he really missed the thrill of taking tourists to climb the highest mountain in Malaysia, and was looking forward to the day when he can resume these activities again.
Another mountain guide, Japarin Ginsos, 43, said that he took advantage of the down time during the various MCO phases to plant pineapples, and sold them around Kota Belud, Ranau and Kota Kinabalu, for between RM1.80 and RM2 per kilogramme.
Japarin, from Kota Belud, started planting pineapples since March last year, and within a year he was able to harvest the fruits and sell them.
“During harvest, you can get up to 200kg of pineapples, with an estimated income of about RM500 a month. It is quite encouraging but we still need more efforts to ensure that the pineapple is of better quality,” said the father of three children.
The same initiative was also carried out by their female colleague, Suzana Bulangai, 48, who grows and sells pineapples in Kota Belud to generate income.
Suzana, who has been working as a mountain guide since 2018, hopes that the vaccination programme in Sabah will run smoothly to enable the herd immunity target to be achieved, so that tourism activities can resume.
Since the country was hit by the Covid-19 outbreak, Mount Kinabalu has been closed several times to climbers, most recently on June 1, until now.
Last week, a vaccination programme was organised by Sabah Parks (TTS), in collaboration with the Ranau health office, to vaccinate about 300 people, comprising mountain guides, porters and TTS staff.
Many of the guides who received their shots last week said that the programme was a good initiative because it helps those involved in the tourism industry to prepare for when climbing activities start. It is said that only mountain guides who have been fully vaccinated will be allowed to bring climbers up the mountain when it reopens. – Bernama