Words by Yeong Hui Min
Photos by Yeong Hui Min
On Day 2 of the ISO Sabah study trip, we were delighted to meet with PACOS (Partners of Community Organisations) Trust, an NGO that has been advocating the rights of Sabahan indigenous people since 1987.
PACOS office in Penampang
We first started off our day at PACOS Trust’s office in Penampang, where we were welcomed by the NGO’s Executive Director, Anne Lasimbang. We took a tour around the office and a learning centre that serves as a kindergarten for children in the nearby communities. PACOS, we learnt, emphasises on socio-economic development of the indigenous and community education for children. This includes the effort to revive indigenous culture by teaching children their mother tongue, something that is not taught in primary schools.
PACOS Executive Director, Puan Anne Lasimbang
We were then briefed by Puan Anne on the services and activities that PACOS engages in. Having known how the rights of the indigenous are challenged in Peninsular Malaysia, I was moved by the efforts of PACOS in fighting for land rights. It was also sad to hear that the homes and health of the indigenous are affected by environmental issues caused by logging and oil palm plantations.
After the session with Puan Anne, we took a tour of the Kivatu Nature Farm which is a model organic farm and training centre for the community at PACOS. As we explored the nature farm, we made use of our senses and learned the names and benefits of several herbal plants. Other than that, we had a chance to taste fresh raw honey harvested from the hives of stingless bees at the farm.
Kivatu Nature Farm at PACOS
The nature farm provides workshops on sustainable and traditional farming, such as compost-making and recycling. Some tourists who attend the workshops like to stay at a homestay located at the back at the farm.
After having a nice meal provided at the farm in the afternoon, we departed for Kampung Kibunut where we learned about the Tagal system of the indigenous in Sabah. Tagal, which means “to protect” in the language of Kadazandusun, is the way the indigenous care for nature by prohibiting fishing in the restricted zones of rivers.
Tagal at Kampung Kibunut
There are more than 2,000 Tagal systems in Sabah as the indigenous depend on them for their daily water consumption. However, many are now struggling to have clean water sources as a lot of rivers are now murky as rain water washes down silt from degraded forests.
Our final session for the day was at a PACOS community learning centre (CLC) in Kampung Kipouvo, Penampang before we headed to Kipouvo Homestay located not far from there. We met with Ms Hilda, who works at PACOS and is also from this village.
PACOS community learning centre (CLC) in Kampung Kipuovo, Penampang
Ms Hilda’s session was an enlightening one. We learned how CLCs are important to the indigenous children and families. The Kipouvo CLC is a day care and learning centre for children aged two months to four years old. The CLC supports learning of the locals’ native language and national language by teaching the languages through play instead of formal learning. Some families choose to send their children to CLCs as they have relatively cheaper fees compared to private kindergartens. The Kipouvo CLC charges RM250 per month whereas other kindergartens can charge up to RM450 per month.
After bidding goodbye to the staff at the Kipouvo CLC, we retired to the Kipouvo Homestay which is hosted by Hilda’s mother and enjoyed the scenery from the balcony of our dorm.
I am truly motivated by inspirational people I have met today as I now appreciate the environment even more. After some self-reflection, I am more enthusiastic about leading a more sustainable life and having a harmonious relationship with mother nature.
The upcoming tree-hugging journalist believes that there is a story worth listening to in every corner of the world and she’s ready to tell them