Saturday, July 2, 2022

From padi crops to tourism for small Bidayuh village

While the residents of Kampung Danu traditionally depended on rice harvests, these days they have shifted to commercial crops with an eye towards tourism.

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Every morning, the villagers of Kampung Danu, a small Bidayuh community in Padawan, Sarawak, head out to their fields for a new day of work.

For decades, this has been their daily routine. But their farms today are very different from those of the earlier generations.

Once upon a time, the farmers of Kampung Danu grew hill padi, a variety found only in Sabah and Sarawak.

The crops flourished in the bountiful hillsides, and year after year, the farmers reaped a plentiful harvest.

But things began to change in the late 20th century with the arrial of logging and palm oil companies.

Many farmers gradually shifted to commercial crops such as cocoa, pepper, rubber and oil palm. In the meantime, patches of the dense rainforest that had lain untouched for generations were cleared for the development of commercial projects.

While the small Bidayuh community continued to value rice as a gift from God, more and more of the padi fields were converted into land for other crops.

Today, the Gawai Dayak festival is marked more by the presence of visitors who come from far and wide to experience the celebration.

Every year, the village holds activities and events that celebrate the Bidayuh tradition, hoping to attract tourists to their small community.

“Visitors are welcome to come and stay with us,” a villager named Roberth Kenneth told MalaysiaNow.

“We need people to discover our world. We don’t want to be forgotten, we have so much heritage to share.”

And while the village has slowly shifted in outlook from traditional agriculture to tourism, he said the community still has a strong sense of identity and belonging based on its traditions.

“As long as we unite and celebrate the festival together, that’s all that matters,” he added.

These days, there are no more padi farms in the village, and the farmers rarely bother planting a crop unless there is monetary benefit involved.

“We sell cash crops that grow wild,” said Kenneth, who has moved to growing avocados and bananas at his farm.

he is unsure if he will ever return to planting rice crops.

“I don’t know if the current situation with the inflation will get better anytime soon,” he said.

“Growing rice is very expensive,” he added. “I think it would be better to develop this village into a tourist destination.

“There are kayaking activities in the village to welcome the tourists who stop by over the river. Tourism can boost the economy, too.”

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