When the development of Forest City commenced, it came under fire by many including the surrounding communities. This is because of the concerns regarding the impact to the environment as well as the negative publicities fed on how livelihoods would be affected. But my recent article has put that to rest.
Despite having only 245 registered fishermen in a community of 11,000 Country Garden Pacificview (CGPV) finds it of utmost importance that the fishermen would be able to continue conducting sustainable fishing in the waters off Forest City and its surroundings.
Kelab Alami, an NGO concerned with environment conservation, was born out of these concerns in 2008. CGPV works hand-in-hand with Kelab Alami by funding its awareness and research activities.
For 2018, Kelab Alami have lined up a series of activities including the spreading of wider awareness pupils in Sekolah Kebangsaan Tanjung Kupang and Sekolah Kebangsaan Tanjung Adang, both in Gelang Patah.
Kelab Alami founder Shalan Jum’at, 30, said plans for 2018 also include mussel farming, habitat documentation and monitoring of various marine species found in the surrounding area of Kampung Pendas and the other nearby villages.
“With development such as Forest City, which is near to Kg Pendas, it is a boom in eco-tourism. The project have presented challenges as well as the potential of the natural wonders in the sea and rivers that lie just at our doorstep,” said Shalan Jum’at.
“Development has changed the face of Tanjung Kupang for the better and spurred the birth of Kelab Alami, which provided opportunities for the local fishermen to diversify their skills as well as given the children a chance to become citizen researchers as well as act as eco-tour guides to tourists and visitors to the villages here,” he said.
Muhamad Sofi Juhari, 19, who joined the club when it was first set up, said he would have been a youth without any goal in life if not for the club.
“I currently work at a motorcycle repair workshop, which is managed by Anak Alami Enterprise. Shalan showed me the ropes in acquiring entrepreneurial skills. Business is good at the motorcycle repair shop with about 300 customers a day,” Muhamad Sofi said.
“Kelab Alami not only helps me to gain self-confidence and knowledge about the natural wonders of the surrounding environment, I also get to hone my entrepreneurial skills and am able to earn an income that I can contribute to my family,” he added.
Another club member, Mohammad Irfan Yazid, 19, who joined Kelab Alami when he was 7 years old, has a different passion. He operates a ikan bakar (grilled fish) and burger food stalls near Muhamad Sofi’s workshop.
“I can sell about 100 burgers and about 10 grilled fishes per day. With more people coming to work in Forest City, my food business is also improving by the day,” said Mohammad Irfan.
“Forest City has also funded Kelab Alami which has organised activities such as youth ranger training and entrepreneurship seed funding as well as fishermen’s seed funding, among others,” he added.
Another member Muhd Arif Aiman Fazail, 17, who joined Kelab Alami at age 11, said he has forged friendship with the other neighbourhood children through club activities.
“I have learnt to appreciate the different species of snakes, lobsters and other creatures of the sea since becoming a club member. Former club members who have left the village in pursuit of higher education come back to see us whenever they can to share their experiences and knowledge with us,” Muhd Arif said.
Meanwhile, Datuk Md Othman Yusof, executive director of CGPV, who visited Kelab Alami in Kampung Pendas Laut recently, applauded the efforts and achievements of Kelab Alami.
“Kelab Alami can also organise community workshops which offer skills to make handicrafts or build items such as wooden chairs and tables. We can emulate Thailand by manufacturing souvenirs in a local cottage industry to present as gifts to visitors. This would generate income for the village where the profit can be enjoyed by the local community,” Md Othman said.
Md Othman, who was at the clubhouse to hand over a cheque of RM194,450 to the non- governmental organisation, also spent some time to chat with the kids of Kelab Alami.
Md Othman, impressed by the knowledge of these youths and confidence exuded by them, was encouraging them to keep up their good work and continue to strive for a brighter future.
Meanwhile, 90 students of Sekolah Kebangsaan Kampung Simpang Arang who come from low-income families, were treated to to a ‘Back to School’ shopping spree at Giant Hypermarket in Tampoi, courtesy of CGPV.
CGPV corporate communications director Aeron Munajat said the Back to School programme is intended to alleviate their families’ financial burden as they prepare for the new school term.
“We do not want the local folk to feel left out due to the development around their village,” she said.
Aeron added that it was an eye-opening experience for some volunteers who were employees from China.
The programme also allows volunteers to interact with the local community, giving them exposure to the lives of the indigenous people.
Chen Hao, 27, who is an assistant legal advisor at Country Garden Pacificview’s legal department, was among the volunteers who overcame the language barrier to communicate with the Orang Asli children.
“We did not speak the same language, but the children and I found ways to communicate through body or sign language. The children would point at something they wanted to buy for school, (for instance). It is my first time meeting Orang Asli children, and I find that they are as bright and bubbly as any other child I know,” said Chen, who has been working at Forest City in Johor for the past two years.
The treats were not limited to Giant Hypermarket, as the Orang Asli children were also treated to lunch after their shopping excursion.
Country Garden Pacificview plans to adopt SK Kampung Simpang Arang next year, making it an addition to the five primary schools it has adopted since 2015.
The five primary schools are SK Morni Pok, SK Tanjung Adang, SK Tiram Duku, SK Tanjung Kupang and SK Pendas Laut.
Besides youth development and education, Forest City focuses on two other pillars, namely societal development and environmental awareness.