Villagers in far-flung Sabah village not feeling strain of MCO

Residents in peaceful, quiet and beautiful Kampung Terian do not feel the strain of the movement control order likr those in urban areas.

KOTA KINABALU: While people across the country are required to comply with the movement control order, nothing much has changed in a remote Dusun village tucked deep inside Sabah’s Crocker Range.

Kampung Terian in Penampang lies about two hours’ drive from Donggongon town, the district’s capital. Here, the villagers still keep to their daily routine of farming and tending to their livestock.

They are, of course, not oblivious to the goings-on outside their area as they keep themselves up to date with the latest information on Covid-19 and the MCO.

“We definitely know of Covid-19, which is why we have closed our borders to outsiders,” said village head Blasius Sipail.

A signboard telling outsiders they are not allowed into the Ulu Papar settlements where Kampung Terian is located.

A newly put up “no entry” signboard by the roadside greets anyone coming into the village which, under different circumstances, is always known to be warm and welcoming to its guests.

The no-entry signboard which greets outsiders coming into the Ulu Papar settlements.

“But we can’t take that risk now. We will tell visitors, politely of course, to turn back and leave if they come without any valid purpose,” Sipail told FMT.

“This ban is also in line with the government’s order to limit the movement of people.”

Kampung Terian village head Blasius Sipail

The sign says outsiders, including government agency workers and volunteers, are not allowed into the Ulu Papar settlements, which house Kampung Terian and other villages like Buayan, Longkogungan and Pongobonon.

Women harvesting padi at Kampung Terian

The only way to get there is through a narrow dirt road and hilly terrain, with jungles on either side. There are also two rivers to cross, which become impassable in the rainy season.

Villagers clearing a hillslope to plant crops.

The villages are accessible by four-wheel-drive vehicles but the stretch becomes muddy and impassable after a downpour, posing a tough challenge even to the most high-powered machine.

A villager trying to free a vehicle stuck on the muddy dirt road leading to Kampung Terian

Sipail said the 450 people in his closely-knit community do not feel the significant changes experienced by their neighbours in the bigger towns.

He said the villagers depend mostly on their own crops like padi and vegetables, and for meat, they have ayam kampung and some breed pigs. The nearby Terian river also provides them freshwater fish.

Villagers helping clear the dirt road which has become muddy following a downpour to allow vehicles to pass

“We do need sugar, salt, cooking oil and other essentials, which sometimes go short. When supplies are low, we choose two or three among us to go out to Donggongon to buy them.

“But for the time being, we don’t really feel the movement limitations of the MCO. It’s like any other day. The villagers still go out to plant vegetables or padi, and some go out to tap rubber,” he said.

Children at Kampung Terian do their part to plant padi.

Sipail said it is fortunate that no one from his village has tested positive for Covid-19.

“However, we try to follow the government’s advice by not gathering in groups and limiting our contact,” he said, adding that sporting activities have also stopped.

He said some villagers who work in bigger towns have returned. “They say it’s better to be back in the village than to be in town, which they find distressing.”

Those travelling to Kampung Terian have to cross two rivers which become impassable after heavy rain.

Sipail said the villagers have received food aid in two phases from the government, which they have to pick up in town.

“We welcome whatever aid is available. We have more than a week to go before the MCO ends. If it is extended again, we will definitely need more assistance,” he said.

The village operates a community-run micro-hydro system for power and depends on a gravity system for water.