Access to water, organic farming and new careers, for women and girls in rural Malaysia #WWLSoroptimist

SI Region of Malaysia proposed a progressive project ‘Clean Water for Rural Communities’ to take place in Sarawak and Sabah on the island of Borneo. With Phase one of the project, part of the SI President’s Appeal, ‘Women, Water & Leadership’ now completed, we are excited to bring you news of successes to date, and details of Phase Two of the project, taking place in both locations.

Long Tanyit, Sarawak

Now receiving a steady supply of clean water for drinking and cooking, phase one of the project in Long Tanyit, included the strengthening of a dam which is now providing 15 cubic meters of water (equivalent to 15,000 litres) at any given time. The pipes laid have a water flow rate of 5.5 litres per second and at the village, which is approximately 2 km away, the estimated flow is about 3.5 bar at a volume of 580 litres per hour, plenty for the needs of the villagers.

During phase one, 5 Penan women were upskilled, studying for a Diploma in Welding (SKM Level 4), and we are delighted to announce that all have now graduated and also taken steps to begin their careers – all receiving job offers as Quality Control Supervisors at the SKS Bus Company in Kuala Lumpur, earning RM 2000 each per month (see lead image). We would like to extend our congratulations to the young women and wish them the very best in their future careers.

Six women and a man have completed a 10-day training programme in organic farming at the Frangipani Organic Farm in Gombak, Kuala Lumpur. The group will now begin clearing a 2-acre plot of land next to their village to begin farming, planting crops such as spinach, chili, okra, brinjal and cucumber. Having learned the skills of composting, how to make bio-fertilisers and bio-pesticides, the group has also trained in the setting up of a nursery for plants and a new system of planting padi (SRI – System Rice Intensification), which it is hoped will double or even triple the yield of padi.

They have also enlisted the help of logging company Shin Yang, to excavate and construct 2 ponds for a ‘constructed wetland’. Each pond will measure approximately 40 feet (L) x 30 feet (W) x 4 ft (D), with the first pond acting as a retention pond, to filter and purify wastewater, and the second used to rear fish such as catfish and ‘tilapia’. This will provide the capacity for a steady source of good nutritious food for the village, and a viable source of income going forward.


Kg Gana, Sabah

In Kg Gana, Kota Marudu, phase one, included a partnership with Heineken, to construct a gravity-fed water system for channelling water from a mountain stream to the village and this is now completed. With increased access to water, 35 village women are training in organic farming methods and have begun to plant and harvest green leafy vegetables, as well as corn and sweet potato.

Two trainers from the Kivatu Nature Farm in Penampang, Sabah have taught the women the basics of organic farming, including composting, making organic fertilisers and pesticides and the technique of crop rotation. Irrigation pipes will soon be installed. A visit to Kivatu Nature farm gave the opportunity for the women to observe first-hand the farming methods used, learning more about the set-up, maintenance and management of an organic farm.

Later the women will be taught how to process the food and market their products. Each woman has been designated six beds to plant and harvest, with a variety of seeds, compost and organic fertilisers purchased. They have also started a pilot project growing mushrooms.


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