Farming breakthrough for the poor
by Irene C. Posted on May 13, 2012, Sunday
THERE is still hope for the needy with Breakthrough Network Centre Bhd stepping in to empower and help them make a better living.
Formed three years ago as a non-profit and non-political organisation, its members have a clear vision to help the poor break away from their unfortunate situation so that they can help themselves to pursue their dreams.
Breakthrough has helped to build houses, renovate toilets and kitchens, start a small grocery shop, teach the poor to plant fruits and vegetables — and seek aid from government agencies and departments — run a pre-school and lower primary school help centre at Desa Wira and a youth centre at MJC for youths to learn skills and form fellowship with each other.
Moreover, it has also provided immediate help to the many struggling families by supplying food, clothing and basic needs and applying for aid from the welfare department. Now, a total of 90 families in Serian, Samarahan, Sematan, Lundu and Kuching are being cared for by Breakthrough.
One unique way of helping the needy to sustain their own livelihood is teaching them natural farming, using natural ingredients for fertilisers and pest control.
According to its full time manager, Victor Andin, the programme was started last year, and though wary of the technique at first, now many are keen to use it.
He said the programme was aimed at helping the needy to be self-sufficient by tilling the land in their house compound and selling their natural-farmed produce as an additional income instead of relying on dole-outs.
A natural farming consultant, Filipina Jhoanna Garcia is on hand to advise the participants.
Victor said: “At first, we support them by buying the tools and ingredients needed for natural farming. Later, they can buy their own after selling their produce.”
One of the pioneer and success stories is a farm owned by Madam Goh in Lundu.
The single mother with four children plants fruits and vegetables around her house compound to earn a living as three of her children are still schooling while the eldest is working.
Although she still has space to plant more, she can only cope with the existing 20 plus vegetable beds and numerous fruit trees as it is a one-woman show.
She also plants dragon fruits, guavas, pineapples, passion fruits and local oranges apart from a selection of vegetables, including lady’s fingers.
Goh has tried planting the vegetables and fruits the usual way but faced many pest problems such as fruit flies, vegetable worms, smaller yields and plant deficiency that causes the vegetable leaves to be covered in black dots.
But with the natural farming method, her produce are healthy and the vegetables have larger leaves, unlike previously, when the vegetables looked small and unappealing.
“When I used chemical fertilisers, the vegetables still have mineral deficiency but not anymore since I switched to the natural farming method,” Goh said.
She added that the technique also improves soil fertility — and the yields are not only ‘fantastic’ but sweeter too.
She rotates planting the crops to maintain soil fertility as different plants release different chemicals.
Among the items used to make different types of fertilisers and pesticides are fish, chilli, onion and ‘gula apong’ which are easily available.
Her produce are collected from her house in Lundu by Breakthrough and sold on a fortnightly basis on Thursday afternoons at Bumi Serasi (Borneo Talk) office at Jalan Kereta Api (a semi-detached house behind Sinar Saredah).
All proceeds go directly to Goh, and she earns RM600 to RM800 a month.
Victor explained: “We plan to have a demo farm next year so that we can prove to others that the method is effective. Moreover, we will also be opening up job opportunities to help the unemployed.”
The public will also get a chance to purchase the natural farmed produce at the “We Care” food festival on July 14 at the Association of Churches from 7am to 4pm.
“We are getting volunteers to set up a stall or buy coupons at RM5 and RM10 for the festival. Setting up a stall is free but we hope full contributions will go to Breakthrough,” said Ivy Pan, Breakthrough director.
She added that 70 stalls were expected in additon to hawker food, family events, game stalls, live portrait painting, live band, dance performance, exhibition, IT products and a barber stall. Cookies, made by the Youth Centre, will also be on sale.
“We plan to do something similar at the Kuching Fest but on a smaller scale. We will provide tables and chairs so that visitors not only can buy but also have a place to eat at.
Those interested in setting up a stall can contact Breakthrough office at 082-427478.
The Borneo Post and See Hua Daily News are the official media partners.