But first, what is SALY-B all about and how does it empower young people as green entrepreneurs?
The best people to ask are our Volunteer Facilitators Corin, Aurelia, Nadia and Harriet. They’ve spent the last seven weeks working with the SALY-B participants on their business plans, living with the community of Rumantai, and being fully immersed in the programme.
Corin describes SALY-B as “empowering young people to start their own sustainable businesses in the most rural areas of Sabah. As Volunteer Facilitators, we support and guide the participants through this journey.”
Volunteer Facilitator Aurelia adds; “We work on hard skills, like business management, cash flow analysis, marketing, finance and planning, as well as soft skills like teamwork, communication, adaptability and presentation skills. For us as well, as Volunteer Facilitators, we’re learning a lot; from communicating across language barriers to learning flexibility, building our confidence and our cultural awareness.”
All this work by participants and Volunteer Facilitators culminates in business pitches delivered by each participant to a panel of judges. They are the ones who decide which ventures will be awarded seed funding to get started.
What are the pitches put forward by the participants?
After seven weeks of training, group work, discussions and a fair bit of preparation, the participants were ready to pitch their business ideas. Harriet says; “We’ve come such a long way – it’s been a busy seven weeks and thinking back, the participants have developed so much since we first started. We’re all really proud and happy to have been part of their journey.”
Many of the SALY-B participants come from agricultural backgrounds, and the programme has helped them to leverage this existing knowledge to build a sustainable business plan which will provide for their families in the future – allowing them to reduce their reliance on palm oil and rubber for income.
Romeo: Bull Frog Farming
Romeo’s idea is to set up his own frog farm. He completed some insightful market research which showed that there was demand for bull frogs from Chinese restaurants. However, most frogs were imported as there were no suppliers in the region between Telupid and Ranau. He identified this as an opportunity, and SALY-B has helped him to build the skills needed to make the most of it. He plans to sell his frogs at nearby markets as well as directly to restaurants.
He’ll be using environmentally friendly food for the frogs, and will use green processes for pond cleaning. He’ll be helping to grow the local economy, while cutting down the carbon footprint of supplying frogs. As the business expands, Romeo hopes this will provide a model for frog farming that could alleviate the pressures from hunting wild frog populations; species which are already under threat from climate change.
Andy: Nuluhon Rainforest Café
Andy’s plan is to open a café selling locally-sourced food and handicrafts. He has previous experience of running a café, and has used SALY-B to build on this existing knowledge. He has used the business training to help him uncover new insights; instead of serving a whole range of different food, he’ll be concentrating on just a few menu items and making sure each is high quality and uses locally-sourced ingredients. He hopes this will give him returning customers from the local villages, and will create a steady stream of passing trade from tourists and regular travellers on the main road.
He’s also seen the need for a unique reason to get people to stop at his café. As well as having ‘5 star tandas’ (toilets), he’ll also be offering Wifi – which will encourage repeat and passing trade. SALY-B has helped him to identify these different opportunities, and helped him to put together a sound business plan to make the most of them. Andy’s ultimate aim for the café is for it to become a hub for ecotourism in the area, networking visitors with the experiences available, and providing information on the wildlife and culture of his community and the surrounding forest.
Stanley: Fish Farming
Stanley was an especially dedicated participant, attending every single session despite a 90 minute walk to and from his home. After leaving school at 14, he had to work especially hard to develop his business plan, overcoming communication and literacy barriers to deliver an excellent final presentation that really demonstrated the progress he’s made.
His business plan is to start a fish farm on his family’s land. He’s been helping his father with farming since leaving school, and after completing the SALY-B programme he’ll now be able to contribute his business skills to establishing a new fish farm. This will mean local people can buy sustainably farmed fish rather than depleting the local river stocks.
In the future, Stanley is also looking to complete courses run by the Department of Agriculture to continue his learning and further build his business.
Koro: Organic Vegetable Farming
Koro is looking to start an organic vegetable farm on previously degraded palm oil plantation land; a new concept for the Telupid region. After completing market research, Koro found there was demand from local populations, alongside government plans to promote this type of farming due to its positive impacts on the environment.
Koro will be repurposing part of his family’s land, currently used for palm oil, and will be using organic fertiliser and natural pesticides. In doing so, he’s aiming to shift his family income away from palm oil and towards more sustainable and environmentally friendly incomes. This could also prove to be a pioneering model for how to restore degraded land through an alternative livelihood. Koro will be documenting every step of the way so that he can hopefully teach his methods in the future.
Rexon: Natural Pig Farming
Rexon knows that it’s hard to buy pork in the Rumantai region, and so is using this as a business opportunity. He’s going to be the first person in his area to start farming pigs. He’ll be using organic farming techniques; feeding his pigs bananas and tapioca, and using a natural drainage system to filter the waste. This will help to protect the local environment while keeping his pigs healthy without the need for chemicals. The waste will be used as fertiliser for the tapioca and bananas, creating a sustainable and organic cycle of production.
He hopes his new pig farm will grow to the point of reducing his family’s reliance on palm oil, and may also provide him the technical and business skills to expand it to farming bearded pigs, thereby reducing pressure on the wild populations which are under threat from hunting.
Suzika: Chicken Farming
Suzika has also used her local knowledge and new business insights from SALY-B to identify an opportunity: selling eggs to the local communities from her new chicken farm. She knows people must travel a long way to buy eggs, so she’s going to set up her own business to meet that need closer to home.
Her farm will help to reduce the carbon footprint of those buying eggs, as the product will be right on their doorstep. She’ll be feeding her chickens organic food, and will be selling their waste as fertiliser. As well as helping her to develop her business plan, Suzika has enjoyed SALY-B as an opportunity to improve her confidence and communication skills.
SALY-B has helped each and every one of the participants grow their skills in order to come up with a viable and sustainable business plan. The programme has built on their local knowledge and has helped them to see there are many ways to build their income without relying on palm oil.
As Aurelia says, “SALY-B is about helping our participants start sustainable businesses, but also has a multiplier effect. Not only in helping the environment and spreading awareness, but also demonstrating to the local population that there are many ways of creating income.
We hope that the successes of our participants, and the skills they’ve learnt from SALY-B, will inspire more local young people to take part in the programme – and will continue empowering young people in rural Sabah.”
Words by Emily
Photos by Saoirse and Emily