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Downstream pineapple project helping quake economic recovery

Aireen and the other participants processing pineapples.

7th June, 2016


KOTA KINABALU: Good Shepherd Services (GSS), which piloted a community-based project to downstream pineapple production, has launched Phase I in January 2016 after seeing encouraging results.

GSS approached Aireen Gumbi and 10 other women from Kg Kiau Nuluh to participate in an effort towards building social and economic community resilience, last year.

Aireen and 10 other women, whose main source of income depended on pineapple farming, were chosen by the community to participate in this pilot project through a selection process participated by about 80 women representing the families in Kg Kiau Nuluh.

The pilot project for the production of Pineapple Chutney and Pineapple Jam was successfully implemented from August to December 2015.

Executive Director of GSS, Chin Poh Choo said that the project is one of the initial hopes of this initiative which is to encourage the community to re-commence their farming activities; it was also targeted towards drawing strength from their community bonds for their trauma recovery process.

The residents of Kg Kiau Nuluh, a village fringing the foothills of Mount Kinabalu, were affected by the June 5, 2015 5.6 magnitude earthquake that killed 18 people.

Wracked with anxiety due to the after-quake tremors, Aireen did not just lose her kitchen but also abandoned her pineapple farm which had a devastating impact on her livelihood as the harvesting and cultivation of crops were left unattended.

The low market price for pineapple also did not make it worth their while to risk the safety of the villagers. “Along with the earthquake, pineapple price dropped drastically to 30 cents per kilogram,” said Aireen.

Their economic woes were further compounded by the closure of the mountain summit which affected almost 70 per cent of household income as it was heavily reliant on mountain guiding, portering and other tourism-related services.

“You cannot always find an answer as to why things happen but the success of the pilot phase has taught me about hope, strength and gratitude. I am especially grateful to GSS for believing in us.”

“Aharap oku da do iti milo popotilombus do semangan kekitaan om kaanu popointutun produk tempatan kumaa tulun songkosuaian (I hope that this project will keep the togetherness among our people and introduce our local products to outside),” said Aireen in her mother tongue, Dusun.

“The engagement of the women in the selection process was critical in setting the tone for this community-based initiative in terms of ownership and empowerment,” said Chin.

Chin added that the recipe for both products, Pineapple Chutney and Pineapple Jam were shared by GSS volunteers who committed themselves to making fortnightly trips to train and supervise the women in the production process.

GSS volunteer, Irene Liew said that she considers her involvement a privilege as she was able to experience the determination and commitment of women in order to progress their lives post the earthquake. During the pilot phase, a total of 600 bottles of Pineapple Jam and Pineapple Chutney were produced and sold mostly through GSS network and public fairs.

The sales generated net profit which contributed to an increase in household income for the group of 11 women involved in this initiative.

The quality and potential of the products also gained recognition by the Rotary Club, earning them a RM5,000 Biz Grant for their initiative.

“The pilot phase was necessary not only to assess the economic viability of the project but to enable us to understand the dynamics within the community and to facilitate a deeper engagement with the community for this social enterprise,” said Chin.

In January 2016, Phase I of this community-wide initiative was launched involving 49 women, each representing a household in the community. This constitutes about 35% of total households in Kg Kiau Nuluh.

According to Chin, the community phase was launched on a platform of a shared aspiration, one that is inclusive and which builds on the strength of the community to develop socio-economic capabilities that benefit its members as well as neighbouring communities.

“While the continuity of this initiative has renewed personal energies, lifted the human spirit and given new hope to this earthquake-affected community, I have no doubt that this new phase will bring with it new challenges. But I believe it will also provide opportunity for strengthening community discussion, growth and solidarity,” added Chin.

Good Shepherd Services (GSS) is a charitable organization registered with the Companies Commission of Malaysia with extensive grassroots services in Malaysia, both residential and outreach, reaching out to women, children and youths in crisis and those who have limited access to education. For more information, please visit: www.goodshepherd.my

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