Kampung Kilim's Residents Are Better Off Today

By Kamarul Ariffin Md Yasin

KUAH (Langkawi), Jan 2 (Bernama) -- There was a time when fishermen of Kampung Kilim had to depend solely on the sea to make ends meet.

To ensure that younger generations have a better future, the fishermen decided to start a business.

Thus in August 2010, 80 fishermen from Kampung Kilim established Koperasi Komuniti Kampung Kilim Langkawi Berhad with managing tour boats going around Kilim Geoforest Park and nearby areas being their first business undertaking.

AN EFFORT THAT HAD STARTED EARLIER

The cooperative's chairman, Ahmad Nizar Hanapiah, said efforts to develop the village began in 2000, with the establishment of the Fisheries Resources Management Community (KPSP). Through KPSP, the Langkawi Development Authority (Lada) managed the Kilim Jetty and collected rent.

In 2008, they set up an enterprise, but Lada advised them to establish a cooperative instead, to create more business opportunities.

"In 2010, a cooperative was established with 80 fishermen. We started operations on Jan 1, 2011. We were keen on improving the livelihood of locals. Kilim, being a part of the Langkawi Geopark, was a blessing in disguise," he told Bernama at the Kilim Jetty.

STARTED WITH THREE BOATS

Initially, the cooperative began with three boats, and the number of boats expanded rapidly to 80. The boats generally transport tourists to mangrove areas, including Gua Kelawar and to activities like feeding the eagles.

"The feedback has been positive. We have ample business opportunities during school holidays. During school holidays, 80 boats are not enough. There was a time when we had to make 300 trips. We could not meet the demand," he said, adding that close to 20,000 people visit Kampung Kilim alone.

Boats are available for up to four hours. The minimum duration is one hour. The cost of hiring a boat is between RM200 and RM500.

FISHERMEN HAVE MORE INCOME NOW

Before the cooperative was established, the fishermen of Kampung Kilim had no fixed income. They could only earn between RM600 and RM800 per month.

However, by providing tour boat services, they can earn up to RM1,800 per month.

Cooperative members who own boats can earn more than RM2,000. They can earn up to RM10,000 during the holiday season.

Ahmad Nizar noted that apart from providing tour boat services, the cooperative has widened its business activities to include fishing and floating restaurants, which offer fresh seafood. In addition, cooperative members also operate souvenir shops to increase their income.

"Our members have become tour boat operators and restaurant owners. Some of our members are also working as tour agents," he said.

EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITIES FOR YOUNG VILLAGERS

The cooperative has created many employment opportunities for youths in the village, where 1,700 people reside.

"There are no unemployed youngsters in the village. Many of them are not highly educated, but by participating in tour boat activities, they have learnt English. There are some youths who can converse in Arabic due to the rising number of Arab visitors," he said, adding that villagers participating in tourism-related activities also undergo courses organised by the Ministry of Tourism.

As tourism activities are moving into high gear in this resort island, the cooperative wants to see active participation in the sector.

"We want to expand further. We can see our future in this industry. We are in the midst of acquiring 0.2 hectares of land to provide accommodation for visitors. The number of visitors taking boat tours is on the rise. Therefore, it is a good idea to provide accommodation for visitors. We are keen on opening a supermarket too," he said.

GOVERNMENT'S ASSISTANCE REQUIRED

Ahmad Nizar said the success of the cooperative is dependent on the government's assistance. With the help of government agencies, including Lada, the Cooperative Commission of Malaysia (SKM), the Fisheries Department and the Fisheries Development Authority, the cooperative can be developed further.

"Our business has been established recently, and we need the guidance of SKM. We do not have experts in our cooperative, and we cannot afford to employ an expert. Therefore, we have to depend on relevant parties," he said.

The organisation has been successful because the villagers are cooperative.

Meanwhile, a cooperative member said the idea of transporting tourists was developed when the members witnessed fishermen using their boats to transport tourists.

"He cleaned up the boat's interior to make it look pleasant and offered his services to increase his earnings. The attempt was successful. Soon others followed suit like what is seen today," he said.

-- BERNAMA