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Peatland News

Title: Villagers tapping the peat swamp potential
Date: 24-Feb-2012
Category: Malaysia
Source/Author: Tan Karr Wei, The Star
Description: The waters of the peat swamp in the Sungai Karang forest reserve was the colour of black coffee.

Friday February 24, 2012

Villagers tapping the peat swamp potential

THE boat ride along the irrigation canal in Kampung Sungai Sireh, Tanjung Karang, Selangor, was refreshing and visitors could ask the boatman to stop and take a stroll along the lush edge of the forest.

The waters of the peat swamp in the Sungai Karang forest reserve was the colour of black coffee.

Stepping foot into the idyllic Kampung Sungai Sireh was almost a shock for the senses of a person born and bred in the urban jungles of Kuala Lumpur.

Cottony soft: The cotton fibre from the bursting pods of the kapok tree is used to make mattresses and pillows.

Just across the two-lane road from the Sungai Sireh homestay base, there was nothing but the long stretch of water with greenery as far as the eye can see.

A gust of wind brought a small shower of soft cotton fibres from the pods of the kapok tree by the road and the effect was mesmerising.

“Yes, once in a while it ‘snows’ in Sungai Sireh,” quipped the boatman who was watching us with interest as we went around picking up the fallen pods.

The fibre has long been used as stuffing material for mattresses and pillows in villages.

Local resident Abu Bakar Moin, 51, started the homestay programme in his village in 1995 and there are more than 40 homes registered now.

There is a spacious common area and dining hall that can accommodate large groups of people who want to experience life in the rice-growing community.

“We even have a small cafe and internet facilities. Our main attraction is the padi fields and those who come here can get a feel of what the farmers do here,” he said.

Abu Bakar is now one of the committee members of the newly-formed Friends of Peatland Forest, of which Sungai Sireh was one of the chosen communities.

“Most of us grew up here but have no knowledge of the peat swamp forest or how important it is for our community. We never even realised that destroying the forest would mean affecting the source of water for our padi fields,” he said.

By joining in the programme initiated by the Global Environment Centre, he said they were now armed with valuable knowledge that they could share with visitors who go on boat rides, kayaking or jungle-trekking in the forest reserve.

“A lot of people here know the area in and out because they were involved in logging activities that have cost us our natural resources. Some of them are now helping out as guides or boatmen and their knowledge of the area is a great asset to the homestay programme,” he said.

Those interested in the Sungai Sireh homestay can contact 019-346 7372.

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