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New Zealand High Commission donates RM 10,000 to Tasek Bera project

01-Jul-2002

On 16 May 2002, the Head of Mission from the New Zealand High Commision presented a cheque for RM10,000 to Wetlands International-Malaysia Programme to spearhead a project to further develop an exist...
On 16 May 2002, the Head of Mission from the New Zealand High Commision presented a cheque for RM10,000 to Wetlands International-Malaysia Programme to spearhead a project to further develop an existing handicraft making enterprise and provide basic business training to the Semelai women in Tasek Bera.It is hoped that this project will assist in supplementing the income of the women folk at Tasek Bera. This is a crucial consideration since half of the Semelai people residing in this protected area are an economically disad-vantaged group, living below the National Poverty Line (earning approximately less that RM200 per month or USD53). The indigenous or ("orang asli") Semelai have lived in Tasek Bera for more than 600 years. Today most of the community live in a government resettlement scheme at Pos Iskandar, which is situated at the southern end of the Ramsar Site. Collecting natural resources to sustain their livelihood remains an important supplementary economic activity as the income they earn from tapping rubber suffers from the currently low market prices of rubber latex. The majority of Semelai women are involved in the collecting and processing of wetland resources. Activities include fishing using dugout canoes and traditional methods of catch; harvesting, threshing and winnowing hill paddy; collecting non-timber products for medicinal use; growing vegetables; rubber tapping in small plots; thatching roofs; cooking for their own domestic consumption; and weaving mats and baskets. Currently, there is no systematic approach to the making, selling and marketing of handicrafts made by Semelai women. In the past, the women worked on an ad hoc basis to weave, carve and produce mats, baskets, musical instruments, miniature curios and souvenirs. These would then be sold during the launch of environmental campaigns, wetland symposia and exhibitions to mark certain International Environmental events like World Wetlands Day, World Environment Day and Earth Day. Needless to say, these inconstant efforts only managed to generate a small amount of revenue, negligible at worst and not very reliable. By participating in this project, the Semelai women can play a bigger role in setting up and running cottage industries like handicraft production while the project ensures a sustainable mechanism for the women to produce and market their handicraft products. This project will not only raise the economic status of the Semelai by developing their capacity for income generation and creating local employment opportunities, but will also promote the ecologically sustainable utilisation of natural resources which complements the conservation of Tasek Bera while keeping Semelai culture and traditions alive.

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