OVOP makes further advances

National 6 minutes, 10 seconds

BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN

THE year 2014 saw more villages offering cultural programmes as part of their ‘One Village, One Product’ (OVOP) initiatives in a collective bid to contribute to Brunei’s economy and boost the development of its tourism industry.

OVOP is a government project designed to encourage entrepreneurship at the village level.

Earlier this year, Kg Senukoh in Temburong district launched its ‘Cultural Tourism’ programme which offers homestay packages for tourists to enjoy cultural and traditional experiences such as paddy or fruit harvesting.

“Visitors will also have the chance to fish from the new ‘floating’ jetty built near the community hall. This project is another stepping stone for our village after winning the inaugural Anugerah Kampong Cemerlang (Excellent Village Award) in 2009,” said Sazali Hj Md Salleh, secretary for the tourism bureau of Kg Senukoh’s Village Consultative Council (MPK).

Kg Senukoh won the award for its fresh and dried noodle products. Sazali added that the idea to develop the tourism product was based on a suggestion from Minister of Home Affairs Yang Berhormat Pehin Udana Khatib Dato Seri Setia Ustaz Hj Awg Badaruddin Pengarah Dato Paduka Hj Awg Othman, who called for the development of more attractions for visitors such as homestay programmes.

Through homestay programmes, tourists get to experience firsthand the culture and way of life of the local residents, which also boosts the village’s economic activity.

The minister launched the cultural tourism programme, where he took the opportunity to observe rest huts, a floating jetty for fishing enthusiasts, a demonstration of noodle-processing and traditional performances and cuisine.

Another village determined to further promote itself as a tourist destination is Kg Pudak in Mukim Kota Batu. Recording an average of 2,000 domestic and foreign visitors every year, the acting village chief, Shahri Hj Durahim, said the Kg Pudak MPK will implement a cultural tourism programme aside from their current tourist attraction of fish cage farming in cooperation with village-run Kg Pudak Cooperative Berhad.

He said among the activities lined up for the cultural programme are bedudun (visiting) with the aim of understanding the lives of those in the water village, hiking and trekking in the jungle, kayaking, participating in traditional dances and sampling local cuisine.

The Mendaram longhouse in Labi is also thinking about upgrading its existing homestay programme to better serve prospective visitors. According to the longhouse’s Head of Women’s Bureau, Hensona anak Munah, the upgrading is part of its OVOP initiative, as at the moment, they only allow visitors to stay overnight in the longhouse’s living room.

She added that if they follow through with the upgrade, visitors will be able to sleep in enclosed bedrooms equipped with proper beds. Mendaram longhouse residents also actively showcase their crafts and participate in bazaars and expos organised in the district.

The objective of OVOP projects is to further motivate MPK members to encourage residents of their villages to become more self-reliant, progressive and united and not solely dependent on government support.

As part of its support of OVOP projects and the participation of all villages in the Sultanate, the government, through the Ministry of Home Affairs, provided facilities to help the villages implement OVOP projects.

The facilities, worth over a million dollars, include a concrete two-way bridge, a new road called Jalan Kecil Sengkarai and a community hall in Kg Pad Nunok in Tutong. The Tutong District Office said the bridge serves as an alternative route for visitors to Tutong’s Pasarneka and Tamu Complex.

“In the past, there was only one road to enter (the complex). There was also heavy traffic on Thursdays and especially when people received their salaries. It was difficult to go to the area,” said Hj Haizul Rizal Hj Yahya, special duties officer at the Tutong District Office.

Meanwhile, Kg Pad Nunok village head Hj Matasin @ Hj Musa Hj Matussin said its $344,000 community hall built under the OVOP project will be used to showcase the village’s products such as coffee, chili powder and wood carvings in addition to being used for holding meetings and activities for MPK members.

Another marketplace is also currently under construction in Mukim Lamunin, located in the community hall, to provide a venue for local residents to sell their OVOP goods.

The government support hasn’t only been material but also through providing workshops and training to equip villagers with necessary entrepreneurship skills and experience.

Another example of such facilities provided to villages was the opening of a new $200,000 pentas kebudayaan, or cultural stage in Kg Sungai Matan recently, which is hoped will further boost the number of visitors to the already tourist-focused village.

The cultural stage was officiated last Thursday by Minister of Industry and Primary Resources Yang Berhormat Pehin Orang Kaya Seri Utama Dato Seri Setia Hj Yahya Begawan Mudim Dato Paduka Hj Bakar, who also signed the official opening plaque.

The stage will be used to showcase all cultural performances and activities for tourists and visitors, especially those who stay at Matan Homestay, one of the village’s flagship products under the Ministry of Home Affairs’ OVOP programme.

“I believe this is another stepping stone for Kg Sungai Matan, and the stage is also quite strategic. (Before,) visitors would usually just wander around. But with the cultural stage, it will be a one-stop venue for visitors to witness Bruneian culture and traditions such as traditional dances and games,” said Yani, a young entrepreneur who lives nearby.

The Ministry of Home Affairs (MoHA) has also brought in foreign experts to provide advice and assistance, particularly for the purpose of OVOP projects. According to a report in November, MoHA has been coordinating with the Japan Council of Local Authorities for International Relations (CLAIR), which sent specialists to Brunei to help with the OVOP initiative in 2010 and 2011.

The main purpose is for the Japanese experts to provide technical skills and knowledge, as CLAIR was created to improve the quality of local administrations, technical expertise and human resources in local governments outside Japan and to promote friendly relations.

OVOP exhibitions

Throughout the year, there were numerous exhibitions organised by the Ministry of Home Affairs for participants of the Excellent Village Award (AKC) and OVOP to showcase their products.

The venues where the OVOP exhibitions were held included the Yayasan Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Complex in the capital, Times Square Shopping Complex in Berakas and Hassanal Bolkiah Indoor Stadium.

At these exhibitions, members of the public can view and purchase local handicrafts such as keris, tongkat kayu (wooden sticks) of various designs, takiding (woven baskets) and bubu (traditional fishing instruments). Visitors also can purchase local cuisine such as keropok udang (prawn crackers), acar buah (fruit pickles) and other value-added products.

Aspirations

Through their participation in these exhibitions, the villagers are hoping the public will provide input on how they can further improve their OVOP goods. They also hope to attract other locals who will help them promote their products in other villages and help them market their products overseas.

The tourism bureau secretary of Kg Senukoh’s MPK hopes the new year will lead to greater returns for their economic projects, especially the cultural tourism programme.

“We’re aspiring to expand and meet the increasing demand as well as supply our products to other districts, not only in Temburong.”

MPK member Pekan Muara Hj Ahmad Hj Ibrahim believes the OVOP programme will one day help reduce the nation’s unemployment rate.

The Brunei Times