Promote Tagal festival to boost ecotourism, says Sabah minister

Rural Development Minister Ewon Benedick (third from left) taking part in the Tagal festival in Terintidon village, Kota Belud.

KOTA BELUD: Sabah’s unique Tagal system, where a stretch of river is declared off-limits for fishing, must be aggressively promoted as one of the main tourism products in rural areas, said state Rural Development Minister Ewon Benedick.

Speaking to reporters after the Tagal harvest programme in Terintidon village here today, Benedick said Tagal committees should coordinate with their tourism committee and village community management councils to include Tagal harvest day in the district’s tourism calendar.

“The programme can be promoted through various media platforms.

“I am confident there are many tourists interested in taking part in the traditional fish harvesting on a river that is part of the Tagal system,” said the Kadamaian assemblyman.

Tagal is a Kadazandusun word loosely translated as “do not” or “no need”. Locals practise this traditional concept to allow nature to replenish its resources, in this case the fish population.

Disturbing a Tagal area is enforced through the Native Courts and heavy penalties (including payment by money, chickens and pigs) can be imposed, depending on the severity of the offence.

Benedick said the Tagal harvesting programme promotes the Tagal law as part of the native laws which are important for preserving the river ecosystem and making it an interesting eco-tourism product for rural areas.

“I was told that Terintidon village has recorded more than 2,000 tourist arrivals since it was opened.

“That means tourists are attracted to this place because of the river and forest conservation efforts by the villagers,” he said.

Benedick also said he was committed to ensuring the villages were equipped with the infrastructure needed to improve their eco-tourism industry.

He has helped to upgrade the concrete roads leading to ecotourism areas in several villages in Kadamaian, including to Terintidon village.

He has also put up signboards to indicate the washrooms and changing rooms for visitors.