IN 2007, oil palm smallholder Tukau Alleh quit the comfort of an office desk job to work on his father’s native customary rights (NCR) land and turn it into an asset that generates sustainable income for the family.
Tukau, from Rh Nelson Ningkan at Sungai Saeh Putih in Niah, Miri, led other youths and families to be involved in farming as means to diversify their income.
In no time, residents of the 36-door longhouse took part in oil palm planting, as well as cultivating their land with various types of cash crops.
The village has about 2,500 hectares (ha) of NCR land, with Tukau’s family owning about 30ha.
Thirteen years on, the majority of the some 400 longhouse population have diversified their agriculture activities, become involved in swiflet farming, fishpond farming and fertigation (chilli planting) among others.
“We have been involved in oil palm since 2007. Currently, about 40 acres of our land is used for oil palm and we earned between RM7,000 to RM12,000 per month,” said Tukau, who took over the running of agriculture activities at the family’s land from his father.
At only 39, the Iban native counts himself lucky to be able to make a decent living for his family through farming.
When the Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS)-led state government under Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg announced its commitment to speed up the NCR land perimeter survey, Tukau had nothing but utmost support to the initiative.
In December last year, Abang Johari revealed that the state government had added 464 more surveyors for the Land and Survey Department to carry out perimeter survey works.
“The NCR land perimeter survey initiative is good, as it helps the longhouse folks to know the boundaries of the land belonging to the villagers, while distinguishing state land.
“The initiative will help us divide the land accordingly and end any dispute among the community, as well as stop encroachment from outsiders.”
Tukau expressed hope that the government expedited its perimeter survey on both Section 6 and Section 18 of the Sarawak Land Code for villages and longhouses statewide.
“Once the economy improves and price of agriculture commodities such as oil palm increases, this would encourage more participants in the agriculture sector.
“It would be easier for the rural folks to plan their activities once the size of their lands are determined.
“Once it has been gazetted under Section 6, followed by individual land title awarded under Section 18, the people are more confident in working, making full use of their land, as how they see fit,” he continued.
Tukau praised the digital economy agenda initiated by Abang Johari, especially involving modern and precision farming. He agreed that rural farmers must see the bigger picture in commercial farming, catering for global market, while providing food security in Sarawak.
“We must be bold, adopt technology that would enable us to increase production. With the government providing support for the export market, higher yield equals better income,” he said.
Tukau also commended the amendments to the Sarawak Land Code that gave the force of law to customs of creating native territorial domain (NTD), consolidating “Pemakai Menoa” (territorial domain) and “Pulau Galau” (communal forest reserve).
The 2018 amendment to the Sarawak Land Code, giving the force of law to the NTD, is one of the 81 initiatives introduced under Abang Johari’s administration.
The amendment saw the NTD increase the 500-hectare limitation to 1,000ha. Land titles would be granted in perpetuity and free of premiums.
Tukau hoped the introduction of the NTD would solve the pemakai menoa and pulau galau dispute between the rural community and the state government.
“Our village will apply for the NTD, which could become a forest reserve for the community in looking for jungle produce and at the same time, preserving a natural habitat for the wildlife,” he said.
Retired police officer Jenai Nois, from Kampung Suba in Bau, said government initiative to ensure the rural community could benefit economically from their NCR land has come a long way in helping him and his wife raise their four children.
About 25 years ago, he and other villagers (150 households) participated in the Sarawak Land Consolidation and Rehabilitation Authority (Salcra) oil palm scheme.
On the side, the family also planted vegetables and pepper to supplement their monthly income.
The family finally received their NCR land title under Section 18 on April 14, 2019.
“We will expand our agriculture activities. Now that we have the land title, it is easy to plan our farming to improve our income, especially that the kids are all grown up and some having families of their own.
“At the same time, we will continue with the Salcra scheme,” he continued.
Civil servant Oliver Jenai, 39, said it was important for the state to carry out perimeter surveys and gazette the land under Section 6 and immediately continue their work to ensure villagers have their land title under Section 18.
“This to ensure the people can move forward in their planning, especially those who wants to be involved in modern farming,” he added.
Expressing gratitude that many villages in Bau district have received their land title under Section 18, Oliver urged the government to expedite efforts and help villages across the state.
“NCR land is important for the rural community. There have to be a ‘black and white’ that they own the land,” he continued.
On the NTD initiative, he believed it was a good start to ensure the rural community can utilise their NCR land to improve socioeconomy, especially the rights to the pemakai menoa and pulau galau.
“At the end of the day, there must be an amicable solution to the dispute (NCR land court cases) for the benefit of the rural native community,” he said.—DayakDaily