Words by Hannah Reshma and Nanna Dybdal
Photos by Yeo Li-Sha and Hannah Reshma
When the earthquake struck the village of Kampung Kiau Nuluh in 2015, claiming the lives of 18, the villagers’ livelihood was also significantly impaired. Ms Aireen Gumbih, the head of production at the pineapple jam and chutney processing centre, reveals that the trauma from the quake had disenfranchised women from farming, as they were plagued with the fright that another earthquake might occur. In the aftermath of this tragedy, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), and other organizational bodies came to the aid of the villagers, attempting to re-establish their livelihood. As pineapple farming is a large part of the villagers’ livelihood in Kampung Kiau, Good Shepherd Services (GSS) suggested alternative ways of production of pineapple in order to generate high income and revenue for the ladies involved in the production, and thus, the Koonduan Kiau Nuluh Enterprise (KKNE) (Koonduan, when translated from Dusun to English, means women) was formed in order to restore the spirit and passion of the village women, empowering them through entrepreneurship.
Aireen Gumbih, explaining the workings of the jam and chutney processing centre
Products & Production
The KKNE yields five different pineapple products – pineapple jam, pineapple chutney, anchovy pineapple chutney, spicy anchovy pineapple chutney and pineapple juice! The 49 women that make up the KKNE are divided into groups and assigned varying responsibilities such as administration, marketing and quality control. Ms Aireen briefly took us through the production process at the jam and chutney processing centre, where the productions numbers are mostly based on the consumer demand. However, production normally occurs twice a month, on the 2nd and 4th week. First the pineapples are picked (on average, each woman picks about 5kg of pineapple fruits per week, averaging a total of 245kg pineapples per week). The pineapples are then skinned, and cut into small pieces, following which they are cooked – either into jam or chutney. After the ‘proses masakan’, the jam/chutney is bottled and is put through a process called canning, which preserves and extends the shelf life of the product (Shelf life: 1 year without opening, once opened, store in a cool place ie refrigerator). The pineapple products are then cooled, and labeled, and sent off to be sold. Most of the sales occur in the village churches, church organized events, and bazaars, such as the ‘Kaamatan Festival’ that we were attending. Beaming with pride, Ms Aireen emphasizes that their pineapple products are “100% original”, and that the local villagers are the ones who buy the most products.
Pineapple jam and chutney for sale at the Kaamatan Festival
Challenges & Future Plans
Standing in the quaint house, Ms Aireen informed us that their operations had only moved to the ‘balai raya’ (community hall), recently. Prior to the move, the pineapple jam production was set up in St Ireneus Church, and due to how well the pineapple products were received by the community, following a trial phase, and copious training for the women involved, the pineapple jam and chutney processing centre officially opened on the 1st of January 2016. However, following the recent shift to the new house, built specially for the KKNE’s pineapple jam industry, operations have yet to be fully functional. She hopes that they will be fully up and running in early July, a week or two from now. Ms Aireen acknowledged several challenges in being able to successfully establish and run the operations of the processing centre, both in terms of recruiting (wo)manpower, negotiating family arrangements and marketing the final pineapple products. However, having been there from the very beginning, Aireen Gumbih, a month away from having served two full years with the KKNE, does not seem weary in the face of these challenges; she excitedly talks about the future plans of the pineapple jam production company, hoping to soon realize their vision of selling their products beyond the borders of Sabah, to Peninsular Malaysia, Singapore, Arab countries, and even to Denmark! And after having taste-tested the products ourselves, I dare say we too, can’t wait for this pineapple goodness to be served in our home countries!
Traveller Nanna taste-testing the anchovy pineapple chutney
Fighting off everyday evil with her “spiciness”, Hannah relishes in the notion that she is cool and swag, but you probably could not find someone with less chill than her.
Nanna is known to love challenges and emerging into new cultures. However, she is also known to have an extreme and irrational fear of snakes and to be happy to have the privilege of withdrawing to a home with no-snake-guarantee included in the facilities. She firmly believes that the antidote for ignorance is travel.