MIRI: The Kelabit Highlands, some 1,200m above sea level near the Sarawak Kalimantan border, has attracted a 12-member multi-discipline research team from the Sarawak branch campus of the Curtin University of Technology.
The team, which left for Bario on Saturday for a three-day study programme, will gather research data on the 1,200 members of the Kelabit community, who inhabit the highlands.
Curtin research team head Associate Prof Barbara Stauble said in a statement here that the research would complement earlier studies by Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (Unimas).
Unimas had pioneered the first Bario project in the highlands. The project later won the Industry Innovators Award from the Society of Satellite Professionals International Industry Innovators Award for Systems Development and Applications USA.
Another member of the team, Associate Prof Anatoli Vakhguelt, who has only been with Curtin Miri for three months, was very excited about the field trip to Bario.
He said the research would also cover renewable energy for the local population in the highlands. An RM12.5mil mini hydro-electric power project completed three years ago had failed to function during the dry spell due to low water level.
The Federal Government had allocated RM500,000 to run the generator with diesel so that the highland community would continue to get electricity.
Famous for its fine, fragrant and short grain rice, Bario consists of 12 Kelabit communities: Bario Asal, Arur Layun, Arur Dalan, Pa'Ramapuh, Pa'Derong, Bued Main Beruh, Padang Pasir, Kampung Baru, Pa'Berang, Pa'Umur, Pa'Ukat and Pa'Lungan.
The highlands can produce up to 60,000 tonnes of the premium pesticide-free Bario rice annually.
Last year, Unimas published a book by Poline Bala, entitled Changing Borders and Identities in the Kelabit Highlands. – Bernama