Monday, July 22

From the Heart of Borneo

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AS we go into the holiday season, perhaps we should reflect on the gifts of Mother Nature.

Think back to Nov 12, 2011, when the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) started a campaign to increase familiarity and appreciation of Pade Adan (commonly known as Bario rice), as part of the three nation — Malaysia, Brunei and Indonesia — transnational Heart of Borneo initiative.

PREMIUM PRODUCT: Pade Adan ready to harvest.

The Heart of Borneo, first visualised in the early part of the 21st century, is a vision of the kaleidoscope of all the factors that make the mountainous spine running down the island of Borneo important. The total value of the components — land, water, air, biodiversity of living creatures, including man, is much greater than the individual — so much so that if one is lost, then all are likely to be dramatically negatively affected. This mountainous region acts as the heart and lungs of the island.

The fine-flavoured Pade Adan is the result of man, the farmers in the Krayan-Kelabit Highlands from Bario, Ba Kelalan, Long Semado, Long Pasiah and their counterparts in the Krayan valley of Kalimantan, understanding the natural resources of the highland plateaus and sustainably using them while working with the forces of nature.

The promotion of this indigenous product, in my view, symbolises the vision that WWF and its partners had with the inception of the Heart of Borneo initiative.

The Heart of Borneo aims to develop partnerships at all levels, from the grassroots to government administration, to ensure that effective management of the protected and productive forests and other land uses can be sustained.

This initiative is not about excluding man, but recognises that we are part of the environment. The development and promotion of ‘Green and Fair Products’ originating in the spine of Borneo can provide much needed economic input into the area through sustainable use of resources.

Pade Adan, of which there are three varieties, Adan Merah (red), Adan Putih (white) and Adan Hitam (black), is an example of a traditional product that can be grown through the sustainable use of resources. This high-value crop is recognised within Sarawak and consumers are willing to purchase it at a premium.

Penghulu George Sigar from Ba Kelalan, during the opening ceremony to promote Pade Adan, described the steps in producing this fine quality rice.

Traditional wet rice cultivation practices are largely organic as artificial fertilisers and pesticides are not normally used. The fields are made in the wide river valleys in the plateaus. The choice of location depends on the topography (the flatter the more desirable) and the availability of water.

Each field is surrounded by a carefully built bund; water from the surrounding mountains is led into the fields through a series of ditches, aqueducts and pipes, in the past made of bamboo or now PVC.

Water buffaloes are a key component of the system. The fields are left to fallow from harvest in December, January or February to June, when it is time to prepare them for the next crop; but water buffaloes graze in the fallow fields. The buffaloes loosen the soil by walking on it and also fertilise it. Grass and other plants are cut before the fields are flooded, just prior, and then left thus adding green manure and contributing to the overall fertility of the soil.

Irrigation water, which comes from the surrounding mountains, must be clean and it adds micro-nutrients to the mixture in the soil. Small fish inhabit the fields when they are flooded. This system has created a delicate balance that produces premiere rice year after year and in almost all years there is surplus rice for sale.

This efficient traditional agriculture system shows how man can work with nature to produce products needed in a sustainable manner. However, it does require us to know and understand delicate and complicated intertwining factors.

As mentioned, clean, clear running water is needed and this is sourced from the mountains that surround the highland plateaus containing the meandering streams and rivers. Forest cover is necessary if the streams are to stay clean and clear.

It also shows how man can work with Mother Nature and add on to what she has created, in our quest for development.

Deputy State Secretary Datu Ose Murang, at the promotion of Pade Adan last month, was quoted as saying that “while development is essential, conservation must be taken into consideration”.

Sustainable development, while preserving the heart and lungs of Borneo is the essence of the Heart of Borneo initiative.

For more information on the Heart of Borneo go to www.wwf.org.my. To learn more about the Krayan-Kelabit highlands, go to www.unimas.my/ebario/.