KUCHING: Farmers in Ba Kelalan are on the right track to produce environment-friendly rice using a chemical-free farming method called System of Rice Intensification (SRI).
Some 27 farmers with more than 30 paddy plots from Long Langai, a village in the Ba Kelalan highlands, recently harvested their second batch of fragrant Adan rice from pilot plots covering almost three acres, against last year’s 1.3 acres, according to WWF-Malaysia.
The harvesting period took place between Jan 9 and Feb 3.
WWF-Malaysia in a statement said it has been working closely with farmers in Long Langai to promote sustainable rice farming using SRI since 2018.
“The pilot project started out with 12 farmers and after the first harvest in January last year, 15 more farmers were convinced to participate in using SRI this harvesting season.
“Some of the farmers shared that their yields have doubled compared to the traditional farming method that they had been using for many years,” said the statement.
This environment-friendly rice production project is made possible through a three-year partnership with CIMB Islamic Bank Berhad.
According to WWF-Malaysia, the SRI method helps to reduce the impact of agricultural on the environment by eliminating the use of pesticides and chemical fertilisers, which helps keep the rivers clean.
“SRI also delivers a higher yield compared to conventional planting methods. It is also proven to be sustainable as this method uses less quantity of rice seedlings and less water during their growth cycle, as well as enables easier transplantation of young seedlings, more effective weeding control and more fertile soil conditions as organic fertilisers are applied,” it added.
WWF-Malaysia Senior Programme Officer for Community Engagement and Education Alicia Ng said in 2015, the Sarawak Agriculture Department introduced SRI to Ba Kelalan under the Agriculture Research Centre to study the potential to transform Ba Kelalan into an organic valley.
“The project adds value to the ecosystem services such as the provision of clean water for irrigation, by minimising upstream land use changes such as unsustainable logging or large-scale forest conversion to agriculture,” she was quoted as saying in the statement.
Meanwhile, CIMB Islamic CEO Ahmad Shahriman Mohd Shariff said the bank’s involvement in the project reflects its support for Bank Negara Malaysia’s Value-based Intermediation concept as well as CIMB Group’s ‘Forward23’ sustainability pivot.
“To that end, we are pleased to support this WWF project which has benefitted the farmers of Long Langai, and reflects CIMB Islamic’s focus on inclusivity and diversity.
“Further, this project is not just about environmental sustainability, but also economic uplift, particularly in enhancing the farmers’ yield through modern and sustainable agricultural methods.
“In support of CIMB Group’s mission to ‘advance customers and society’, CIMB Islamic will continue to support initiatives that have positive environmental, economic and social impact in our society,” said Ahmad Shahriman.