Pineapple farmer Sebiah Ladsou face lights up everytime she talks about her favourite pair of gold earrings.
The 64-year-old Kiau Nuluh native has been eyeing the same piece of jewellery since childhood, but could only afford buying it recently.
“I had my sights set on the earrings for the longest time. But with my meagre earning as a farmer, they were out of my reach.
“But I continued hoping,” she related.
Sebiah lives in Kampung Kiau Nuluh, a pineapple-producing community, where she raised 14 children, and was blessed with grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
When the 6.0-magnitude earthquake struck her village on the foothills of Mount Kinabalu in June 2015, it traumatised the villagers and crippled the local economy.
The pineapple farmers, including Sebiah, stayed away from their orchards located far from Kiau Nuluh for fear of after-quake tremors.
The plunge in pineapple prices only exacerbated Sebiah’s financial woes further.
Fortunately, life took a positive turn for Sebiah when she was selected by her community to participate in a project by Good Shepherd Services (GSS) to facilitate the trauma-recovery process in Kiau Nuluh.
She was among 11 women trained to produce pineapple jam and chutney during the pilot phase conducted from August to December 2015.
At the end of the pilot phase, Sebiah received dividends from her share in the business, now known as Koonduan Kiau Nuluh Enterprise (KKNE).
With the money, Sebiah was finally able to realise her long-held dream.
“The first thing I did with my dividend was buy the earrings…I never expected to achieve this in such a short time!
“I have been planting and harvesting pineapples my life, but I was never able to reach my goal until now,” she said with a smile.
Sebiah also sees the earrings as a symbol of hope, success and resilience of the human spirit in the face of adversity.
“I bought the earrings to commemorate this proud moment in my life. It’s a reminder of how far I’ve come since the earthquake.
“I’m grateful to our friends at GSS for giving us the opportunity to work as a community of women,” she said.
Sebiah’s story is just one example of how KKNE has improved the livelihoods of the women running and managing it.
In 2016, the team tripled in size to comprise 39 members. They produced and sold about 3000 bottles of pineapple jam and chutney that year.
In 2017, KKNE expanded their range of merchandise to include pineapple chutney bilis and pineapple juice.
They also secured a grant of RM136,000 from Sabah Credit Corporation for the construction of their own factory in the village.
By the end of 2017, the now 58-strong team has sold more than 11,000 products and far exceeded their initial sales target of RM70,000.
This year, KKNE has plans to further develop their range of products and market channels.