AGRICULTURAL MISSION OF THE CHURCH

Right from the beginning, missionaries encouraged their converts and their children to undertake agriculture in order to uplift their economic lot as well as their general well-being. The planting of cash crops was practically non-existent before the coming of the first Rajah, as commence was mostly confined to internal barter trading involving jungle produce. The planting of cash crops to support mission work was encouraged in many mission stations. Bishop Hose was reputed to have ‘smuggled’ the first two rubber seeds to Sarawak and planted them one near the bishop’s House and the other at Rock Road.

In the various jungle schools, students were taught useful livings skills, like gardening and carpentering, to prepare them for a more fruitful life in the longhouses. In Sabu, Howell encouraged the planting of coffee to support the mission school there. When the price of coffee fell, Howell encouraged the planting of rubber in most of his outstations, including the 7- acre mission land at Mali, Skrang. Thus, Howell’s mission was self-supporting. The school at Merdang was supported by a chicken farm and a fruit orchard.

It was only in the 1950s that the Church began to participate in a large scale agricultural mission, in cooperation with the Government. In 1957, the Padawan Community Development Scheme, the brainchild of Peter Howes, was started as a Government project. The Church, however, supplied the personnel. It was Howes’ dream that this Scheme, involving 15 villages, would help assist development in the very poor areas around Padawan. Howes was seconded to the Government and was appointed officer in charge. To assist him, Howes recruited Sister Gwynedd Nicholl and George Green. Later the Scheme was completely run by the Government.

Another Scheme that the Church participated in, was the Lamanak Development Scheme. A priest, Erik Henning Jensen, was seconded to the Government and was put in charge of the Scheme.

With the opening of the road from Kuching to Simanggang it was decided that a Church Farm School be established for students who could not further their education. Originally it was to be sited at Abok but was later moved to Sg. Pinang. It was financed by Inter-Church Aid. To look after the project, the S.P.G. recruited an agricultural scientist who was also a priest, Edward Patrick Rowley. He arrived in 1962 and was put in charge of the Farm School. Later, this Farm Institute (as it was then known) was also handed over to the Government by Bishop Allenby.

After independence in 1963, with agricultural matters completely taken over by the Government, the Church ceased to play any active role in the development or encouragement of agriculture in the country.

Agricultural mission