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A seed of hope that prosper a village

Processing centre.

10 October 2023


KOTA KINABALU: In the quaint village of Kg. Lompios, Kota Belud a remarkable endeavour began in May 2017. It all started with the planting of black pepper, (Piper Nigrum) an initiative that would bring about positive change to the community. This transformative project was made possible through the efforts of Datuk Ewon Benedick, a prominent figure who at that time served as a Board Member of the Malaysian Pepper Board (MPB) and held the esteemed position of Political Secretary of the Sabah Ministry of Agriculture.

Janus Tioon the Chairman of the Black Pepper Growers and Entrepreneurs Association in the village said it was carried out in collaboration with the newly established UPKO Branch in Kg. Lompios, Datuk Ewon organised a black pepper cultivation course. The course aimed to equip the villagers with the necessary knowledge and skills to embark on this exciting journey. As a testament to his dedication, Datuk Ewon generously contributed 250 seedlings to kick-start the venture.

“As chairman of the Association in Kg. Lompios, I took it upon myself to ensure the success of this commendable undertaking. To foster a sense of unity and cooperation, I divided the participants into five groups, with each group consisting of five individuals. Each group was entrusted with 50 seedlings for the initial planting phase, which they managed collectively.”

Janus being interviewed by the media.

The ingenious plan behind this approach was to allow the first cuttings, after six months of cultivation, to produce new seedlings. These offspring would then be distributed among all the members, enabling each individual to have their own seedlings and plot, he enthuses adding that It was an excellent cycle of growth and empowerment.

He shares that further blessings to their village occurred that December when Datuk Ewon once again graced them with his generosity by donating an additional 1000 seedlings. The excitement and determination among the members soared as they eagerly received these seedlings. The black pepper cultivation project was truly taking root, instilling hope and optimism in the hearts of everyone involved.

‘The following year, Datuk Ewon donated another 500 seedlings, accompanied by 500 support poles. These invaluable resources fortified our efforts and bolstered our confidence in the potential of black pepper cultivation in Kg. Lompios. The support poles are invaluable as they are very sturdy and quite costly too.”

Ewon (middle) looking at the black pepper.

Initially they were quite apprehensive about planting the commodity due to their lack of knowledge about the plant and of course, they didn’t know whether the soil there was conducive for this plant. Most of them were rubber tappers then, a true and tried way to eke a livelihood.

“We however continued with our efforts as we wanted to try a new venture and earn extra income,” he said and of course, it was not in vain.

Today, as the story unfolds, their village proudly boasts approximately 17 active members who are diligently cultivating and managing black pepper in a total land space of eight acres. Some participants have smaller plots while others may have larger ones. It is a testament to the hard work, resilience, and unity that has been fostered through the collaboration.

An array of pepper products from Kg. Lompios.

‘As for Datuk Ewon, he never gave up on us and through time, with his position in the Government as the Minister of Entrepreneur Development and Cooperatives, he continues to support and encourage us. His position and influence give us confidence and motivation to proceed with the initiatives.”

Janus shares that they have conducted research and sought guidance from agricultural experts to ensure they followed the appropriate cultivation practices. Over time they observed the promising results and the black pepper plant started to yield good harvest.

“We shared our experiences and success with other villagers, encouraging them to join in our efforts. Slowly the number of active members increased and more people became interested in cultivating black pepper.

Participants and their visitors at the plantation.

“Our harvest is now 50kg a month collectively. After two years of growth the pepper plants bear fruit continuously. We are not sure about the income ratio but I am sure we will have a result by the end of the year.”

“We have a processing plant here where the spice is processed and packaged. We are assisted by USM with the packaging and labeling. Our current market is mainly within Sabah. Our products are available at IKS Mart in Kota Belud, Kota Marudu, Tuaran, and Kota Kinabalu,” he shares adding that they also have a store at Taginambur Kota Belud. They also supply Noodle Soup Shops in Kota Belud area.

They are looking forward to forming a cooperative, he shares but they have yet to get it registered.

Janus will not rest on his laurels amidst the lush pepper fields of Kg Lompios, as he has a future wish to be able to market their products throughout the State and beyond. He also expresses his hope that other villages will follow suit and create for themselves an income-generating venture besides their traditional occupations.

Cleaning up the surrounding of the plant.

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