Water and food insecurity - or the lack of access to clean water and nutritious food - are major, widespread problems affecting Sabah’s vulnerable rural community. Families living in Sabah’s disconnected and scattered interior villages are often in deep poverty and barely surviving. Worsening their livelihoods, most are not connected to the government’s water supply, forcing villagers to struggle just to get the basic life need of water each day. Water is the source of all life, so how can Sabah’s over 41,000 hardcore poor progress if they do not even have enough water to drink, cook, clean and farm for their food at home?
Life had been a challenge for the 1045 rural villagers of Kampung Pinolobuh, Kota Belud as clean water was always a necessity that each family had to ration and fight over. The secluded community made up of B40 households is detached from the public water system and solely relies on a natural water source deep in the jungle, 5 kilometres away for their daily needs. They also face the challenges of soil infertility and ever-rising cost of living.
Gravity Water Woes
Relying on a leaking and unsustainable gravity water system built more than 20 years ago, most families were unable to have a proper water supply by afternoon as broken PVC piping would cause low, unusable water levels in the village’s main tank. The increasing population worsened the community's water scarcity. Dry taps at home and on their farms meant that mothers, farmers and children were being left behind in life without this basic human right classified by the United Nations.
“Our population is increasing because people returned to the village after Covid-19. This and more leaking and breaking pipes only deepened the water problem for all of us,” says village representative Encik Jalni. "It is difficult for families to use water at home and on farms each day."
For the second year with Heineken Cares, local Sabah Civil Society organisation (CSO) Hopes Malaysia has sustainably empowered Sabah’s rural community in fulfilling their basic needs for a brighter future. The Heineken Cares 2022 Programme supports the vulnerable rural families towards lasting food security via an improved gravity water system - sustainably providing two basic needs.
In 2022, 40 volunteers from Kampung Pinolobuh united to improve the well-being of their community. The villagers were empowered with the skills, knowledge and durable gravity water system materials, such as poly pipes, to reconstruct their village asset. The volunteers trekked through thick jungles and up the steep foothills of Mt. Kinabalu to lay and connect the piping from the 5km-away water source to the village centre. “The hot sun and strong rains made progress very difficult, but I am proud that we managed to complete the system before the situation got worse,"
explains volunteer Encik Daimin on their success.
Families have been able to enjoy a consistent water supply since the start of 2023. "The tank actually
overflows now, and my children and I don't have to worry about the water suddenly running out at our
farm or home," gratefully expresses local mother Puan Kin.
Sustainably Farming For The Future
Additionally, the collaboration has also further empowered 30 families in the rural village through sustainable small-scale farming, utilizing the efficient gravity water system. Farmers are part of community training workshops and learn farming essentials for improving both their food security and livelihoods in the long-term.
The participating households have since been able to harvest more than 200 kilograms of fresh produce, which is steadily increasing monthly. Access to a consistent healthy food source at home - including varieties of leafy and fruit-bearing crops - assists families in having healthier diets, while also reducing their food expenses and creating savings.
Although harvested mainly for self-consumption, extra vegetables are sold locally for more income. Green farming techniques, such as using vermicompost fertiliser, protect and revitalise the environment while reducing waste. This ultimately ensures that the rural families are self-sufficient through their sustainable practices for generations to come.
Speaking of the impact sustainable farming has brought to Sabah's rural community, Hopes Malaysia Founder Sam Lee speaks, "Families attend our farming workshops and learn proper, sustainable farming techniques that bring long-term results. They are also given the materials and support needed to start farming for nutritious food. There is much potential for sustainable farming in rural Sabah villages, but land often needs to be fertilised. These workshops have already changed the lives of over 350 families in 15 rural communities."
Aligned with the United Nations' SDGs in this Decade of Action, Hopes Malaysia aims to equip more rural Sabah families with clean water and sustainably farm for their own food. The CSO greatly needs your support and donations at www.hopesmalaysia.com/supportruralfamilies to continue helping villagers in need. For more details on Hopes Malaysia's sustainable charity projects and CSR partnerships, kindly email email@example.com or contact +60162417838. Sustainably fulfilling the basic needs of Sabah's rural community.