Sunday, February 8, 2009

It's Padi Harvesting Time Again

I spent Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning with this group of 15 Iban women and 1 Iban man in a padi field about 20 km outside Sibu near the airport. It's harvesting time again, thanks to 2 continuous days of fine and sunny weather after almost 2 months of non-stop rain.

As I drove to Sibu Jaya Saturday afternoon, I came across this padi field with a large group of people harvesting. I immediately parked the car at the road side and walked a short distance down to the valley, asking for permission to take photographs. To my delight, all the people were very friendly although they were curious and some were camera shy.

It was indeed a very rare opportunity to photograph so many people harvesting padi at the same time. I wasted no time wading through the padi field in more than one foot of water and mud.

Almost half of the crop in the entire 3-acre land had fallen flat on the ground due to heavy rain and strong wind. So when harvesting, they had to bend very low and many of them complained of back ache. According to the owner, the harvest this year was poor due to the bad weather.

The crop actually belonged to a middle age couple who employed a group of women from his longhouse to do the harvesting. He paid each of them RM15 for a day's work.

This specially made knife is used in the harvesting. An experienced and skillful farmer can do the job very efficiently. In this job, women usually out perform the men. That may explain why there was only 1 man in this whole group.

This is the owner of the land and the crop. When he is not farming, he is a contractor in Kapit.

When the basket was full, the padi was brought to the "langkau" (small farm hut) where it was spreaded out to dry under the sun.

The only male in the group, he is a relative of the owner.I observed that he was as good as the women.

The youngest woman in the group. At first I thought she was still a student. But at 23, she is a mother of two children already.

The women were almost entirely covered up for protection against the hot sun, the muddy field and possible attack by insects.

The padi was put out to dry near the farm hut before being packed in the poly bags.

It was resting time...every one was so happy that they could relax, quench their thirst and fill their stomach.

They started work at 7 in the morning, bringing with them rice, some canned food and a lot of drinking water.They also brought along some vegetables which were later cooked in the open air. This afternoon some fish caught in the field was also cooked in bamboo over the fire.

This is the "langkau", a simple farm hut used as shelter from the sun and rain and also for resting and eating.

Many Ibans are still self sufficient in rice. Those living close to the urban areas and those in the coastal areas usually plant wet padi while those in the remote interior plant hill padi.Planting is normally between July and August and it usually takes 5-6 months to harvest. Improved rice varieties take shorter period to mature and 2-3 harvests are possible nowadays.


sarawakiana said...

Let me be the first to congratulate you on your excellent work!!

Wow!! Inspiring.

Unseen Asia.

Steve said...

Philip, nice photos, many will be envy about the harvesting. good timing also, no more rain.

Bengbeng said...

excellent opportunity. well done.

Aaron C. said...

Wow... Nice.. I want to go on a trip like this.. Too bad I am here in Semenanjung.

Philip said...

sarawakiana: Thank you very are always so supportive. I know, like me, you have a special kind of love and attachment with anything nature and human.

steve: Sad that you couldn't join us. We can go again this week, I am sure there will be more harvesting going on as the weather is good already.

bengbeng: Thank you.Although I wore rubber boots and long sleeves, I was still stung by insects. It is so itchy on the legs and arms.

victor said...

That's a great opportunity. Nice shots!!

Nelson said...

machinery must be provided and taught how to use by the respective government departments.

Philip said...

victor: Yes,it was a great opportunity. I took more than 800 photos all together!

nelson:Do you think the use of machinery for harvesting is viable for small farms? Don't know what happen to the RM50 million given to Sarawak government by KL not long ago for rice cultivation.

nelson said...

there are small machinery for small scaled farms. but it is better for them to unite and manage a big farm.

well, corruption level in msia is still very high. i think it will take another century to reduce it to near zero.

tanngu said...

I am very impressed by your photos. You remind me of my child hood memories.We harvest our padi as the way you show in your shots. Those were the days when we lived in the kampong in Sg Sian. Now that I stay in the city, I just can't forget the hard time that we were last time. now that our parents were gone, left only the memories -- sweet memories of yesterday. TQ so much--- rubber seed. I don't actualy know who you are, but you inspire me so much of my kampong life.

Philip said...

tanngu:I am so happy to see your comment here. Yes, so many of us toiled the land especially in the 60s and 70s. I never planted padi before but I understand how hard life was as a farmer in those days.Nature and culture always call me back to the rural areas where I can always relax and get inspirations.Sarawak is a wonderful country, but our natural resources are depleting at an alarming rate.I hope to travel and see many more places throughout the state before they are all gone.Thank you very much for dropping by.