Sunday, August 12, 2007

Villages without People

Some years ago we talk about poor villages in the rural areas and poor villagers. Now, while poverty has been successfully reduced to about 4% (let's not quibble about percentage and what it means), we can see another problem emerging: villages in distant, rural areas, without people except for the very old and very young.

The able bodied men and women have migrated to the towns and cities, buy up a modern house (or houses), and visit their home-village once in a blue moon. May be every Hari Raya if the parents are still living or have not decided to follow them.
The young ones are often left with the parents in the vilage if they're not well established in the towns or cities as yet or if they have one too many to take care of in their tender years!

What becomes of the village where most of the young people have migrated to the towns and cities? Rural Development Programmes (RDP) and the Village Development C'tee (VDC) may have brought in a lot of infrastructural and social facilities, but there are many beautiful traditional houses left to rot when the elderly occupants passed away and the young don't return to stay. In the deeper rural areas, secondary jungle soon starts to swallow up the unoccupied homes.

Rice fields once lush and green, turning brown and laden with golden grains during harvest season, gardens and orchards once protected and wellcared for, small rubberholdings which had been very productive, become deserted and forlorn. Thickets and wild bush take over as fewer and fewer people give the village its life and vibes. The once-in-a-while visit made by the young during holidays ( balik kampung time) is not enough revive the old vibrancy of the village.

Are their days numbered? The attempt to redevelop the ricefields on a commercial basis does not seem to involve the old villagers nor interest the young. Only villages around urban or suburban areas seem to hold out some promise - to finally become urban! So....the villages will still have to go, ultimately. Is that it? My own home-village seemed to be left with just 4-5 old men. My uncle and aunt moved out and stayed with their daughter in a suburb, for they could not count on getting any help from others if they fell sick. Old widows are also moving out for some foul characters have begun to visit the village,

If this is happening in many of the distant, rural villages in Malaysia, we'll soon have many villages without people. We'll have
not many "poor village-people" but "people-poor villages." How's that for an interesting twist in our development effort?

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