Tuesday, 17 January 2017

(The Star) Agrotourism breathes new life into village

Chinese New Year songs blasting from a shop lent a festive air to an otherwise quiet morning in Kampung Baru Kangkar Bahru near Yong Peng, Johor.
It was about 8am on a weekday and most of the residents were already at work.
According to village chief Lee Kiat Moh, more than 90% of the villagers were farmers, mostly in oil palm and fruits.
He said about 60% of the villagers were of Foochow descent and the village history could be traced to the Japanese Occupation and then the Emergency.
Fast-track to the present, many of the villagers now are from the older generation because the young people have moved to big cities such as Kuala Lumpur and Singapore for jobs.
But the younger generation may soon have good reasons to remain in the village or even return to live here.
The wooden shops at the main road of Kampung Baru Kangkar Bahru.
The wooden shops at the main road of Kampung Baru Kangkar Bahru.
Lee said e-commerce and tourism were two sectors that could help create new and exciting economic activities in the village for the young.
“The younger generation can market the agriculture produce via e-commerce.
“We are also in the midst of promoting tourism programmes, especially agro tourism in the village,” he said revealing the efforts being taken to change the economic landscape of this over 80-year-old village.
The village, he pointed out, was also known as “long life village”.
“Longevity is our trademark, with many villagers living right into their 80s and 90s.
“One of them passed away recently at 101 years old,” he added.
Kampung Melayu Kangkar Bahru and Kampung Baru Kangkar Bahru are located next to each other and their residents jointly take part in community programmes.
Kampung Melayu Kangkar Bahru and Kampung Baru Kangkar Bahru are located next to each other and their residents jointly take part in community programmes.
On agriculture, Lee said fruit farming had good potential to cater for the local and export markets besides tapping into agrotourism.
“There are 13 types of local fruits, including durian, jackfruit and mangosteen which grow well here,” he said.
Busloads of tourists, he added, would come to visit the durian farms these days to eat durian and other local fruits.
With Visit Yong Peng Year 2017, Lee is confident that the programme would spur the village’s agrotourism further.
The programme is spearheaded by Ayer Hitam MP Datuk Seri Dr Wee Ka Siong, who is also Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department with new villages being one of his portfolios.
In fact, Kampung Baru Kangkar Bahru, which is in Yong Peng, has all the trappings of a model village in the country.
(From left) Ayer Hitam MCA chairman Ling Tian Soon, Mahun, Lee and Mok.
(From left) Ayer Hitam MCA chairman Ling Tian Soon, Mahun, Lee and Mok.
It was the champion for the 1Malaysia Harmonious Village Award in 2015.
One of its winning traits is the close relationship it shares with the Malay village next door, Kampung Melayu Kangkar Bahru.
Residents from both villages take part in many programmes together, from celebration of major festivals like Hari Raya and Chinese New Year to gotong-royong and sports events.
“We also have dance groups comprising women from both villages.
“They can do Malay and Chinese dances and perform during celebrations in our villages.
“They are very good. They practise for two hours every Tuesday,” said Lee.
Kampung Melayu Kangkar Bahru chief Mahun Johan, 61, was visibly proud when talking about the good relations between the two villages.
He said there were 84 families and 385 people in his village.
“One Malay family can speak Chinese very well and sing Chinese songs too.
“They have children who studied in Chinese school,” said Mahun, who is referred to as Haji by the villagers.
Mahun and his wife, Siti Yusof, 62, have four children and seven grandchildren.
On activities in the village, he said the younger ones played a variety of games including badminton and futsal.
“Many of the villagers work in factories and there are civil servants such as teachers,” he added,
Mahun is also optimistic about the vast tourism potential in Kangkar Bahru.
He noted that the authorities had completed a study on the tourism potential of the nearby Sembrong Dam last year.
Mahun said the accessibility from Kangkar Bahru to Sembrong Dam was important and he proposed that the authorities build an alternative road linking the two places.
Echoing Mahun’s take on eco tourism, Lee said Kangkar Bahru could be packaged to offer agro, eco and cultural tourism.
Kangkar Bahru is located off the trunk road between Batu Pahat, Labis and Segamat, about 12km from Yong Peng town.
Its accessibility is good.
The drive from Yong Peng town to Kangkar Bahru provides visitors a feel of the area: from a buzzing small town full of good food and touristic spots like the longest manmade dragon in the world to oil palm plantations lining both sides of the road, before arriving at Kampung Melayu Kangkar Bahru and Kampung Baru Kangkar Bahru.
A huge and modern arch greets visitors to Kangkar Bahru.
Mok Dak Kam, 66, who has been living in the new village for more than 50 years, said life in the village was good.
The Yong Peng municipal councillor is confident that the young will stay on or even return to the village for good when more business and job opportunities are available.
Mok said family ties among the villagers had remained strong.
He said the young who had settled down outside the village would return to celebrate major festivals such as Chinese New Year.
“The celebration starts late on Chinese New Year eve and continues for about three hours to usher in the new lunar year,” he said, adding that some people from surrounding areas would also visit during this time to view the beautiful red lanterns in the village.

Lee said there were plans to make the lantern decoration a permanent feature so that the village became a place for tourists to visit at night as well as to enjoy good local food and the beauty of rustic life after sunset.