DURING a recent visit to China, a delegation from Jering New Village, Perak, was pleasantly shocked to see rubber trees growing in Hainan.
Datuk Ooi Jing Ting, head of Jering New Village, said, talk had it that the trees in China could be traced to Sitiawan, Perak.
“It seems Chinese traders who came to what was then Malaya brought the rubber trees back to China,” he said of the rubber trees in Hainan, southern China.
Ooi was leading a delegation of about 30 people from Jering on five-day working visit to China.
He said the delegation was impressed by the beautifully landscaped villages in China which the government had transformed into tourist spots.
The villages, he added, were a showcase for agricultural produce such as mangoes, coconuts, guava and rubber.
“Tourists can cycle around the villages to take a closer look at the farms and their rustic setting,” said Ooi, 64.
He added that he was impressed, if not envious, of how China had reinvented its villages over the last two decades.
Living in a village is no longer a symbol of poverty in China today, he told StarMetro when met in Jering New Village.
The new village, set up during the Emergency in the late 1940s, has not had rubber trees for almost three decades now.
“Rubber tapping was a major source of livelihood for the villagers until the 1980s.
“Villagers were hit badly by the falling price of the commodity back then and also erratic weather conditions, so they shifted to oil palm cultivation,” he said.
Ooi said the villagers, some of whom had been there for three generations by the 1980s, found it harder to cope economically as their extended families grew larger.
“A family used to live quite comfortably in the old days toiling on 2.4ha of land. That was enough for the first two generations.
“The share became smaller and smaller as families got bigger and bigger. As such, some of the younger family members had to leave the village to make a living in bigger towns and cities,” he said, recalling how the younger generation, especially those with tertiary education, started leaving the village to seek jobs elsewhere.
Ooi said there were now 420 houses in the village with about 1,000 residents. The population, he added, doubled to 2,000 during Chinese New Year as those working in other states return to celebrate the festival with their families.
The exodus of youngsters has also had an impact on the marriage prospects of those who stayed behind.
Ooi said some of the men of the village past the age of 40 found it difficult to find a local bride. Some have married Vietnamese women.
He said the practice was quite popular in the village about 10 years ago, and there were now about 200 children of mixed parentage in the village. This helped to raise SJK (C) Kampung Jering’s current enrolment to about 190, he added.
The size of the village’s population has also taken a toll on businesses.
Villager Lim Kai Ming, in his 50s, said he once enjoyed a thriving business as owner of the village’s Chinese medicine shop, Ban Aun Tong.
Lim has converted the business into a sundry shop to keep up with the times.
Even so, stiff competition from hypermarkets continues to take a toll on his business, he said, adding that many of his customers now were foreign workers.
“Even the wholesale business where I get my supplies from cannot match the low prices offered by hypermarkets,” said Lim before reeling off the prices of essential items offered by hypermarkets compared to that by wholesalers.
The village may not have been riding the wave of development enjoyed in other parts of the country over the last 30 years, but not all is lost.
Wong Ling Piu, 50, said he is happy and satisfied with life in the village he grew up in, describing it as a close-knit community despite the changes over the decades.
Wong, head of the village’s 30-member Voluntary Fire and Rescue Squad, said the squad’s members like to take part in activities in the village.
Most of all, Wong said the squad is happy to help villagers deal with problems such as removing bee nests.
If there is a thing that remains unchanged in the village, Ooi said it is the sense of solidarity, especially in times of need.
“We are all very united and will come out to help each other,” he declared.
The village, he added, remains a hive of activity in the day, with coffee shops being a favourite meeting point.
Ooi is also proud to note that the village is well kept, with all its basic facilities including roads, drainage system, places of worship, a well-landscaped park, community hall and badminton and basketball courts in good order.
While he does not expect any major changes to the village over the next five to 10 years, Ooi harbours hope that things will get better in the future.
He said Jering New Village is strategically located and just an hour’s drive from towns such as Taiping, Kuala Kangsar, Ipoh, Teluk Intan and Langkap.
“We are very happy here. This is our home,” he said of Jering New Village, which is about 20km from Sitiawan.