PADI farmers in the Long Langai village located in the Ba’Kelalan highlands of northern most Sarawak have achieved a pioneering feat.
They have produced padi harvests using a chemical-free farming method called System of Rice Intensification (SRI).
Last week, the farmers proudly showed their rice, which they named Adan Rice, to the press during a visit organised by World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Malaysia and the Long Langai residents.
WWF senior programme, community engagement and education officer Alicia Ng said the SRI method was proven to be sustainable. It used fewer rice seedlings and less water during the growth cycle, enabled easier transplantation of young seedlings, more effective weeding control and more fertile soil conditions as organic fertiliser was used.
“We encourage the farmers to go back to organic farming.
“I hope through this harvesting, the farmers will educate others about the SRI method.
“The reason we embarked on the SRI pilot project here is because Long Langai is the second biggest village in Ba’Kelalan.
“The village is also a 20-minute drive away from Ba’Kelelan airport.
“Most of the villagers are padi farmers while some are involved in tourism activities like providing homestays.
“As an environmental organisation, we are looking at various activities including eco-tourism. Sustainable rice farming is part of it and will be a continuous activity.
“We are not marketing or sales experts. We only look at how farming has an impact on the environment. That is our major concern.
“This SRI method will take a lot of hard work, but is worth it because it will save cost, chemical-free farming and a healthy option for the community,” said Ng during the visit.
WWF also held workshops for the farmers and Sarawak Agriculture Ministry guided them on eco-friendly agriculture practices.
For example, the farmers learnt about integrated soil nutrient management, insect or pest control management and weed management.
At the workshops, they exchanged experiences and shared about the challenges faced.
Matius Padan, head farmer of Long Langai village, said he hoped more people will take up this method of farming.
“This good effort was started by WWF, making Long Langai a project site with collaboration from the Agriculture Ministry.
“We are not only able to learn a new method or gain knowledge, but also maintain a sustainable environmental balance,” said Matius.
In 2014, Department of Agriculture Sarawak (DoA) introduced SRI farming in Long Rusu village, Ba’ Kelalan, with five farmers joining the three-year test plots programme under its agriculture research centre.
WWF was also involved in the programme, which aimed to promote chemical-free farming while reducing pests such as the golden apple snail.
WWF and CIMB Islamic Bank Bhd (CIMB Islamic) sponsored local farmers to participate in DoA’s programmes, which included visiting the SRI Lovely Farm in Sik, Kedah, to learn about the theories and technical aspects of the method.
In 2017, SRI farming expanded to Long Langai village, with 11 farmers committing to the project.
This was made possible under a pilot project by WWF through a RM1.5mil funding by CIMB Islamic in a three-year partnership (2017-2019).
In Ba’Kelalan and Long Semadoh, Sarawak, the total allocation is RM600,000.
“As a company that embraces sustainability group-wide, CIMB Islamic is proud to be associated with projects that are not only socio-economically beneficial, but also kind to the environment.
“SRI organic farming fits well into this concept and our sustainability objectives. We are pleased that more farmers have accepted and adopted the SRI method.
“With such encouraging progress, we believe the project can deliver a better outcome by benefiting more communities over time,” said CIMB Group Islamic banking chief executive officer Rafe Haneef.