Sabah Rural Folk Discover Green Gold In Their Backyards
Buyers looking to buy plants at the Kota Marudu farmers’ market.KOTA KINABALU: Sabah’s rural communities are literally discovering the value of the state’s biodiversity right in their backyards.
Plants growing in the wild from the Alocasia and Caladium species, which used to be simply chopped off as part of the land-clearing process when cultivating crops, are now considered prized commodities.
These farmers know that they can earn more from selling these plants in addition to the fruits and vegetables they have been cultivating.
The Covid-19 movement control order (MCO) led to a surge of interest in gardening and fuelled by social media posts, plant species like Caladium, which is locally known as “keladi”, Solenostemon (“ati-ati”), Alocasia and Monstera were suddenly in high demand.
Mohd Akil Marasul, among the dozens of sellers at the Kota Marudu farmers’ market, selling plants collected from their backyards or forests near their village.When travel restrictions were removed under the recovery control movement order (RMCO), gardening enthusiasts flocked to outlying districts in search of these plants and rural communities realised the “green gold” that was growing in their backyards.
This was evident from the rush to sell these plants at the weekly “tamu” or traditional farmers’ markets across the state.
Produce such as “lembeding” (a type of fern), wild ginger, dried and cured tobacco leaves, and even tilapia fish were a common sight at these farmers’ markets.
Some farmers pot their plant to fetch higher prices.However, over the past six months, a transformation has been taking place at the farmers’ markets with the plants growing in the wild becoming the mainstay.
At a recent farmers’ market in Kota Marudu, a two-hour drive from here, most of the farmers were offering a variety of these plants, with some even taking the trouble to sell them in pots.
For the plants sold in pots, prices could go as high as RM50 to RM60 each while the loose plants were sold for between RM3 and RM15, depending on the species.
For farmers like Mohd Akil Marasul of Kampung Manggaris, a 45-minute drive from Kota Marudu, the sale of the plants was definitely more lucrative than the usual vegetables and fruits.
“We started seeing the change since last August when people were allowed to travel between the districts. Many who came here from Kota Kinabalu and other towns were asking about these plants,” he said.
A farmer harvesting plants at the Crocker Range hills near Inanam in the outskirts of Kota Kinabalu.He added that farmers responded by taking the trouble to find and dig up these plants around their villages.
“Some people go into the jungles and search overnight looking for these plants,” Akil said, adding that he is certain interest in the wild plants will continue.
His only concern now is the possibility of another full MCO and travel restrictions being imposed.
“It would hurt us if Covid-19 cases surge again like it did after the state election in September and people can’t travel again,” Akil said. - FMT
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