THE cycle of poverty among rural communities remains a great challenge in many countries, and Malaysia is no exception.
The first of the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals is to end poverty in all its forms everywhere.
The Covid-19 pandemic has led to the rise of poverty for this generation, with governments stepping in to provide short-term measures.
In Malaysia, the Statistics Department revealed that the number of poor households increased to 639,800 in 2020 from 405,400 pre-pandemic.
Among all Malaysian states, Sabah recorded the highest percentage of poor households (25.3%).
Non-profit organisation Hopes Malaysia stepped up to address this gap by introducing long-term solutions and deployed a team dedicated to developing the underprivileged communities in Sabah.
Hopes Malaysia founder and executive director Sam Lee said, “When we first started Hopes Malaysia, we studied how local charities would operate and strongly felt that ‘charity’ should not be a one-off thing.
“Instead, we should focus on making long-term changes.
“Hence, we started Hopes Malaysia to break the cycle of poverty with the aim for rural communities to sustain on their own in the long run.”
Gravity Water Project
The Sabah rural communities face a common issue, whereby remote villages are disconnected from the public water systems and do not have reliable water sources.
This makes it difficult for villagers who make a living through farming as they have to depend on inconsistent rainwater and mountain streams.
Hopes Malaysia saw a need to improve the water systems and provide the farmers with a reliable water source.
Hopes Malaysia introduced the Gravity Water Project in 2016 and has successfully built seven gravity water systems so far.
This comprises 30km of pipe network, supplying clean water to various remote Kota Belud villages and benefitting more than 8,000 rural villagers.
Additionally, the team also empowered the villagers by training the farmers to maintain and repair the pipe systems, ensuring that the community will have a consistent water supply for generations to come.
As a result, the farmers at the Kota Belud villages have been able to grow various local fruits and vegetables, sell the produce and generate consistent income to sustain their families over the long run.
The Hopes Malaysia team also played a role in educating the rural farmers to provide balanced diet meals for their families by introducing them to fish and poultry farming.
The community is now consistently harvesting 70kg of fish monthly and 60 chicken eggs daily to make a living.
Tamu Kita Benefit Bags
When the Covid-19 pandemic hit in 2020, the Kota Belud farmers faced many challenges due to travel and lockdown restrictions, making it difficult for them to sell their fresh produce.
At the same time, with the economic downturn, Hopes Malaysia team received word that many B40 families, children’s homes and centres for the disabled were also having a hard time sourcing donations and food supplies.
So Hopes Malaysia launched the Tamu Kita Benefit Bags initiative in partnership with Heineken Malaysia.
The organisation bought the extra produce from the Kota Belud farmers with funds from the Heineken Cares campaign and distributed the produce to those impacted by the pandemic.
Heineken Malaysia corporate affairs and legal director Renuka Indrarajah said, “We are proud of what Hopes Malaysia has achieved, and we would like to extend our gratitude and appreciation for giving us an opportunity to work hand in hand.
“This initiative was part of our Heineken Cares programme, where we partnered with eight civil society organisations and delivered 255,000 meals to communities in need in 2021.”
Through this initiative, Hopes Malaysia funded the purchase of fresh produce from the farmers consistently for four months.
They also distributed more than 50,000kg of produce to vulnerable communities throughout Sabah.
The initiative enhanced food security for its beneficiaries while ensuring no crops were wasted.
Lee concluded, “We would like to extend our gratitude to Heineken Malaysia and we hope that more corporate businesses will see our value in developing Sabah’s rural communities towards practical and sustainable change.”