One of the best descriptions of the Bidayuh clan is “Soil Sloggers”. They work very hard to get supply for themselves without bordering what are their struggles and pains. Since born until they die, the same routine rotated year after year. In June, they start to clear jungle to raise crop. They cut trees in July and burn their farm in August and at in the same month they plant seeds. In September to December, they kill weed and harvest maize and cucumbers while waiting for the paddy grains to get ripe. Then, in April to May, the harvesting season will be in progress. At this time, the “Soil Sloggers” will evaluate their deadly effort by counting their harvest. Some get twenty sacks and some get less. It is much depending on the fertilizer and pesticide used to cultivate their paddy plant.
It is not an alien routine for me since me myself came form poor farmer family. I used to overnight at the paddy farm because most of the time we have to find a primary jungle to plant paddy. Based on the old folk’s tale, the primary jungle is more fertilize than the secondary jungle (bushes). Therefore, we have to fine a small piece of land at about 10 to 15 kilometre out of the village. The best way to increase production (cultivating time) is to overnight in the jungle and leave our home empty for months. During night time, we can go out for hunting or fishing to get protein source. Tapioca will be an alternative whenever we are out of rice. We lived in a small hut made of bamboo and palm leave weaved by my father and mother. My mother used to assemble bamboo trap to trap squirrels, hamsters and birds. This was my experience before my secondary school. I left that out since I stayed in barding and left the same routine to my father and mother.
I have missed such routine for almost 10 years and there are some folks practice the same routine at this moment of time. You can find them at Kampung Sapit, Kiding, Kakas, Bengoh and upper Annah Rais.
What I would like to say here is that, the Aborigines toiled very hard without complaining of their fate and future. Poverty is the best word for them (the farmers). They raise crops for their own supply and could not commercialise them due to worst productivity. They could not effort to have pesticide and fertilizer because they are expensive. “Kaum Peladang Bahagian” gives subsidy for registered farms under NCR lands through village head. They can only apply once a year at about 5 sacks of paddy fertilizer per approval.
I had an opportunity to meet this two men and woman who sell junk foods and water at a bus stop. They told me that they have to do such job instead of farming to get money since farming is not really satisfying them.
During my ride to Padawan, I got a chance to shot some picture of paddy farm “padi huma” which is ready to be burned. Next moth Kuching will get haze as it used to happen every year. What amazed me is that the government condemn jungle burning but never find a solution for those farmer especially to help them to re-plant crop at the same land or doubling the production so that there will be less burning activity. Yes, Indonesian farmers will burn their farms as well but we might reduce by not burning ours.
Faithful routine of the Aborigines
What is the best approach to doubling the production? It is still up to the government to help us to be productive. FELCRA and SALCRA is not the best answer since the income from working in an oil palm estate is lesser than wages of those who are working at construction site. That is why there are many Indonesian workers working at the estate because they do not mind to get paid RM 15.00 for every ton metric of oil palm fruit. Worst, it is not our ability to work until we die and get less pay on our very own mother land. The best way is let tem (FELCRA and SALCRA) screw our land and we are still remain as “Soil Sloggers”.