The People of Ulu Engkari

Jetty

The still and calm water of Batang Ai Dam

The weather looks clear when we were about to leave the jetty of Batang Ai dam. However, after 30 minutes on the boat the dark clouds covered the sky and rain start to dripping. Lucky for us that we already pass through the dam and we are entering the Engkari river mouth. The water level is a bit low and just sufficient for us to going up river. I am still wondering what adventure await us as we start to enter into a more narrow and rocky river. The water is a bit muddy and obviously it was caused by the landslides on some parts of the river banks. Since it was raining, i couldn’t took any photos of this stretch of the river. There were about 13 longhouses along the Engkari river and the list below are following the order start from the first longhouse on the river mouth until the furthest longhouse.

 Rh Belaun, Ng Stapang
 Rh Siam, Ng Gugu
 Rh Intang, Ng Mengiling
 Rh Sabang, Ng Mengiling Baru
 Rh Buran Ak Mujan, Ng Mengkak
 Rh John, Ng Tutong
 Rh Gugu, Ng Ukom
 Rh David Ujan, Ng Sepaya
 Rh Rosli Pakak, Ng Stamang
 Rh Liam, Rantau Kembayan
 Rh Patrick, Tarum Buai
 Rh Jaung, Lubok Pantu
 Rh Bada, Ng Talong

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Rh. Bada, Nanga Talong is the furthest longhouse along this Engkari River

Our first day journey was ended at Rh. Bada, Nanga Talong and we overnight there before we continue our journey to the field station the next morning. I was shivering cold because of the heavy rain and quite windy on the boat. Upon our arrival, the Iban community in this longhouse were having an offering ceremony to the spirit of the harvest. The villagers only allowed to begin harvesting after this ceremony is completed. So, we were invited to join and participate in this event. As usual they will having a drinking session just after the offering ceremony completed.

Miring_1

‘Miring’ an offering to the spirit of the harvest

The livelihood of the Iban communities in this longhouse is still depend on the natural resources from the forest and also cultivation of cash crops. They cultivate paddy, pepper, rubber and fruit trees on their land as their source of income or for their daily consumption. The men going into the forests to hunt for a wild meat as their source of protein, while women collecting rattan for making a weaving products such as basket or floor mat. This way of life is quite common and traditionally practice among the longhouse people in Sarawak.

One of the thing that attract me with this particular longhouse is that they living on the boundary of the Lanjak Entimau Wildlife Sanctuary and they were involved directly with the community development programme manage by the ITTO Project. As a result, i can see they are still manage strictly their “Tagang System” (Tagang means restricted in Iban language). This system is not new to the local communities because it was a native tradition to preserving and protecting fish stocks in their river system. With assistance from the ITTO project they manage to make this system better and in place. Furthermore, the importance of this system is acknowledged by the Forest Department of Sarawak. See article about this on the Borneo Post News – Community service schemes prove successful at wildlife sanctuary.

It was a success but at the same time, the awareness on the cleanliness of the river is not in good practice yet. Obviously, the longhouses and primary schools still dump their domestic waste into this river. Too sad to see this but this is one thing that must be done soon. Keep the river clean!

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Feeding the tagang fish on our way to the LEWS field station (Photo credit to Belden)

To conclude, it was a great opportunity to be able to expand my horizon into a new area and getting to know the local communities living adjacent to this wildlife sanctuary. I always believe conservation will not success without active participation from the local communities.

Iron_Men_1

The Iron Men of Ulu Engkari – our boatmen

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2 thoughts on “The People of Ulu Engkari

    • Hi Ratty!
      Thanks for drop by my new blog and being my adventure blogger friends since a few years ago. I really appreciate it very much. Yes, this community is different but same in term on how to survive a living.

      Like

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