I was invited to join a group of students and lecturers from the School of Geography, Politics and Sociology, University of Newcastle, United Kingdom on a field trip in Kuching. I functioned as their ‘local’ academic resource person. The trip was to expose the students to geographies of globalisation in Kuching, especially in relation to how the palm oil industry has affected the process of globalisation here.
We visited a SALCRA (Sarawak Land Consolidation and Rehabilitation Authority) plantation and palm oil mill in Setenggang, about an hour away from Kuching. This was a great opportunity for the students to experience a real functioning organised palm oil operation, from plantation to mill.
We also had the opportunity to visit Mongkos, a traditional Bidayuh longhouse and village about two hours away from Kuching. Here, we were able to see an alternate perspective, that of the smallholders who either work on the land themselves or have leased their land to SALCRA.
Other than that, the students had the chance to experience traditional Bidayuh culture and hospitality at the longhouse. We also visited the orangutans in Semenggoh Wildlife Centre to learn about the important conservation efforts happening there.
Towards the end of the trip, I gave a short lecture about transboundary haze governance to the students, and we also conducted an interesting roleplay activity where the students had to take on various stakeholder roles at a public hearing about a proposed palm oil development in Sarawak.
I am very grateful to Dr Alison Copeland and Dr Kate Manzo from the University Newcastle for this experience.