Setbacks threaten to disrupt Kg Senukoh’s OVOP efforts

National 5 minutes, 1 second

BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN

TEMBURONG’S Kampung Senukoh once owned a tapioca plantation, offered a tourism package with homestay and sold handicrafts, but they are now nowhere to be found.

The village had launched the products and services as part of its One Village, One Product initiative (OVOP) in 2008, but it was later found that none of them could be sustained.

In an interview, Yusof Hj Maidin said the village initially found a suitable place for a tapioca plantation and the government had agreed to help construct a pathway to reach the designated area in the village.

“So we sowed the seeds and the tapioca grew and were big in size, but the constant problem we faced was getting our tapioca trampled and eaten by wild boars since it was near the forest,” said the village chief who was appointed in 2013.

Yusof said the village consultative council tried to chase away the wild boars many times, but to no avail because the forest was also their home.

“After many attempts, we had to give up because we do not have much in our budget, we asked the government to help but not much could be done.

“At the time, we planned to get machines to process the tapioca into crisps, good thing that didn’t fall through because we won’t be able to use it,” he added.

Tourism package

The village also introduced a tourism package dubbed the ‘Senukoh: A Mesmerising Traditional Lifestyle, making use of Kg Senukoh’s rich culture and nature as a product.

Based on the Kg Senukoh’s Village Consultative Council (MPK) website, the project was launched in January 2008 with two packages – a day trip and overnight trip with homestay included.

Yusof said the project began to fade last year, as most of the MPK youths tasked to take charge of the initiative either had to continue their studies or had other commitments.

“Moreover, the huts built for the people to rest and enjoy the traditional attractions we had to offer were also damaged due to wear and tear as they were made out of wood,” he said.

“We also received some requests from tourists, but looking at its status now, it may not be safe for them to come. A large budget would be needed if we were to fix it,” he said, adding that an overhaul will be needed.

He had asked the government to help, but was told that the area was not “gazetted” and that it was an “administrative” problem for the Ministry of Home Affairs.

“Moreover, the pathway for people to cross the river, which was previously clear, is now being blocked with bushes and the traditional games are also in bad condition.

“So an overhaul is really needed if we want to improve that place. If there is a budget, it can be done, but currently we do not have any,” he added.

Handicrafts and homestay

The handicrafts and homestay projects also had to be stopped because of insufficient manpower.

The village chief said most of the handicrafts and homestay were previously owned and managed by senior citizens.

Yusof said the people who had previously managed the handicrafts were too old to be able to sustain the handicraft businesses.

It was also difficult to find youth who were willing to manage the business full-time, as they had studies or work commitments.

He said the owner of the homestay, had passed away and the children had other commitments, thus the homestay project was scraped off from the village’s OVOP list.

Noodles

Kg Senukoh is now left with only its dried and fresh noodles, but its village head said the village is also having problems trying to keep the business afloat by selling the noodles.

Yusof said the dried and wet noodles are the village’s lifeline in sustaining its OVOP initiative

“We currently depend on a reservations-based system, we would only produce the noodles if there are bookings and usually, the Serikandi Group of Companies (Serikandi) and Royal Brunei Catering (RBC) are the ones that make their reservations with us,” said head of Kg Senukoh.

He said 1kg of noodles cost around $1.50, but the companies would only order about 10kgs, which he said would be just enough to cover their expenses.

The income gained from selling the noodles was not fixed, those who were involved in making the noodles - including single mothers - could only earn about $30.

They have previously sold their noodles to restaurants in Temburong, but the eateries have since stopped ordering the noodles.

Yusof said the restaurants may have found suppliers from neighbouring countries as they may be cheaper because of the currency exchange.

“The government, however, has tried to help us find a place where we could market our products, but so far it has been difficult as major supermarkets now make their own noodles.

“Right now, we are doing our best to preserve what we have left. We tried making the noodles more attractive and unique, and we are hoping that things could go in our favour once the bridge connecting us to the capital is completed,” he added.

Temburong representative to Legislative Council Yang Berhormat Hj Sulaiman Hj Ahmad said he supports Kg Senukoh’s efforts to develop its OVOP initiatives, and was aware of their struggles.

YB Hj Sulaiman said grassroots leaders had set good targets, but they are difficult to meet as most MPK members are volunteers who have other commitments.

He said the government, especially through the Temburong District Office, could help the MPK members who are keen on improving their OVOP initiatives.

“The help given would not necessarily be in the form of money, it could also be provision of materials to help repair the huts for Senukoh’s tourism project, proper ones that could last for about four to five years,” he said.

“Other than that, the Temburong District Office could also help organise visits to other countries so they could learn how to manage their projects,” he added.

The Brunei Times