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A day after international women’s squash player and UNDP National Goodwill Ambassador Nicol David was conferred with the honorary title of Datuk for her contribution to her home state of Penang, the exuberant 25 year old hopped onto a plane and headed for the interiors of Sarawak for her first field mission for the year.

Trying for herself the basic transport facilities available to rural communities, Nicol and a small team from UNDP and the Sarawak Inland Waterway Transport System (SIWT) Study journeyed along the Batang Rajang for many hours to the far-flung community of Punan Bah, some 80km from Kapit. The Punan is one of ethnic groups under the Orang Ulu community and Punan Bah is the largest and oldest Punan longhouse in Sarawak.

At the aggregate level, Sarawak has an enviable record of development and an overall poverty level of just 8 percent in 2004. However, development in the rural areas has been less spectacular, and the rural poverty rate was 14 percent in 2004. The poor communities tend to be scattered along the state’s rivers or live in forested areas.

Currently, UNDP and SRB are concluding the Sarawak Inland Waterway Transport System (SIWT) Study. The two-year development project seeks to enhance river transportation in the state and support more effective use of water and related resources to alleviate rural poverty, while improving environmental management and contributing to the UN Millenium Development Goals (MDGs).

Nicol visited SK Punan Bah, a primary school lining the banks of Sungai Punan, and read a story titled, “Togu and the Trees of Life” to a group of delighted children during their afternoon tutoring session.

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Joanne said...

Nicol is sacrificial, she can choose to celebrate this great events, but she choose to make a trip to Sarawak despite the journey & challenges, be with the kids in rural area to make the kids feel special.

Calvin said...

Glad that you have visited the Punan Bah longhouse.

Now you'll understand how difficult it is for us to get to town especially during dry season when the water level get really low.

Despite the odds some of Punan Bah managed to get as far as USM, Penang to acquire knowledge.

Thank Nicol