‘Tenom has potential as agro-tourism hub’

TENOM: Sabah’s interior Tenom district – well known for the state’s popular coffee and fruit products – has full potential to become an agro-tourism hub post Covid-19.

Entrepreneur Tham Yau Kong, who operates the Tenom Padas Farmstay here, is holding strong to his “agro-tourism” business ideals, keeping it sustainable through agriculture despite a total drop in visitor numbers over the past year.

Instead of laying off his employees, Tham has taken the initiative to share his experience and provide upskilling training to existing staffers in cultivating the farm that sits on a 12ha piece of land at Kampung Paal about 200km from here.

Crops such as pineapple, passion fruit, lemongrass, tapioca, durian and lime have been planted here and Tham has also begun planting coffee beans.

“Tenom is well known for coffee. But we can see that coffee cultivation is declining due to the influence of oil palm cultivation.

“Last year, we began developing a plot of land as a coffee farm and found that it has added value, with the potential to become a quality tourism destination, ” said Tham.

He also noted that community-based rural tourism in Tenom could be further empowered and the poverty rate reduced if every family sets aside a small plot for a coffee garden, among other crops.

Describing the future of agro-tourism as promising, Tham hopes that more Tenom folk will involve themselves in the sector to increase their income and create more community-based tourism programmes for the district.

Venturing into agro-tourism allows the people’s economy to continue to thrive even as tourism comes to a halt, Tham said.

Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, he placed emphasis on the cultivation of kaffir limes, Key limes and calamansi to produce marketable products such as essential oil, massage oil, and beverages.

In the past, the farmstay hosted many local and international visitors, all of whom had the opportunity to learn about local crops and agriculture production, and participate in community work.

On Wednesday, Tourism, Culture and Environment Assistant Minister and Sabah Tourism Board chairman Datuk Joniston Bangkuai visited Padas Homestay to see the development of tourism and the potential of Tenom district to become an agro-tourism hub in the state.

Having won numerous awards, including the community-based tourism award in 2017, Padas Farmstay could be a role model for other farmstay operators to focus on boosting the agro-tourism sector, said Joniston.

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