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By Calvin Jemarang
BINTULU, Oct 21: About three years ago, a teacher at a secondary school in Bintulu proposed to convert about an acre of the unusable swampy area surrounding the school into a modern farming method demonstration site.
“It would become a place for our students to learn about modern farming methods and its potential first hand,” Narawi Mohamad, 46 told DayakDaily.
In 2018, he proposed the idea to his “boss”, Kidurong Secondary School (SMK Kidurong) principal, Rosli Salleh. An avid gardener himself, the principal agreed and the project was supported by the school co-operative “Koperasi SMK Kidurong”.
The first year was sort of a learning year, Narawi said. They started by planting chillies in 300 polybags and gradually increased the volume to nearly a thousand by the end of 2018. In the following year, the school mini garden, dubbed “KidSS Fertigation Chillies Project”, showed illuminating potential.
“We learned a lot from the trial and errors of the first year”, Narawi said.
“Most of our chilies failed (to mature) due to fungus and disease attacks.”
It was a setback for the project and was a personal one for Narawi. However, he persisted.
“I began to attend more courses, gained more experience, knowledge, and followed the correct standard operating system.
“It was through all that, that’s how we improved. We generated about RM25,000 for the school co-operative that year,” he said.
Narawi clarified that was from a six-month planting season, not a year as reported previously by a national TV station.
Into their third season which ended last September, the school mini garden project yielded even more — six tonnes of chilies and generated an income exceeding RM60,000. The yield could have been higher, as nearly a third of their plants failed due to fungus attacks.
“We discovered chilies planted in raised polybags are less susceptible to fungus compared to those laid on the ground,” he said.
Success is sweet. Encouraged by the yield, Narawi is hoping that the school administrator would allow them to expand the garden project area to about half-an-acre in the future. There is about a quarter-acre of unusable, swampy land, next to their present site.
“But it entails incurring more expenses to fill up the swamp,” he said.
In early October, they started planting rock melons as it is commonly known, a variety of the muskmelon species (Cucumis melo) from the family Cucurbitaceae. This is a fast-growing cash crop that can be harvested after about 70 days according to Narawi. There is a high demand for this fruit locally.
However, chilies according to Narawi are commercially more viable and sustainable due to the constant demand.
Kidurong’s National Secondary School is a pioneer, in this type of commercially viable mini garden in a school in Bintulu District. Such project potential had attracted the attention of other schools. Bintulu’s National Secondary School had started one, in recent year.
“This idea has not really known in Sarawak, but in peninsular Malaysia it has been quite popular,” said Narawi.
According to him, as in 2019, there were more than 4,000 school had established this type of commercial mini garden in their school. — DayakDaily