Tag Archives: Orang Asli

Orang Asli and Poverty

VIRTUALLY all the Orang Asli households in the peninsula are in the income bracket of the poorest 40% of Malaysians, says NGO the Center for Orang Asli Concerns.

The centre estimates that 54,600 or 99.29% of all Orang Asli households earn below RM4,000 a month, putting them in the B40 category.

The poverty trap is hard to get out of, according to a 2013 paper, ‘Orang Asli in Peninsular Malaysia: population, spatial distribution and socio-economic condition’ (Masron et al).

Customary land

The main reason is the dispossession of their native customary land, which has been the source of their livelihoods.

“Deprived of their land, they are increasingly pushed from a subsistence economy into the prevailing cash economy,” the paper reports.

Except for a very small number of groups who are semi-nomads, official reports estimate that around 60% of Orang Asli actually live in or close to urban centres and most are connected to contemporary economies.

According to Masron, some groups have actually done so for hundreds of years.

Economic activities

Currently, the communities’ main economic activities are harvesting and selling forest products such as petai, durian and rattan; managing and selling products from rubber, oil palm or fruit and vegetable smallholdings; and wage jobs in towns and cities.

Still, the majority is not integrated into mainstream society, either by choice or lack of choice due to discrimination and lack of education.

Because of malnutrition and poverty, Orang Asli are also vulnerable to diseases. Access to healthcare remains challenging.

No options

As a result, the government’s pandemic lockdown hit a lot of them hard. “With no income, no access to alternative avenues of income, and no natural food source, their hands are completely tied,” stated the COVID-19 Collective for Orang Asli, a group coordinating Orang Asli Covid-19 relief efforts.

Post MCO, the collective is continuing to raise funds for the Orang Asli. The site has a map with all the village locations and groups helping to provide relief.

Photo: Pos Lanai Orang Asli transport their forest durian to urban centres for sale. Revenues that Orang Asli earn from these activities are enough only to put them in the bottom income bracket. (Credit: Jeffry Hassan)


Ref: Masron, T. & Masami, F. & Ismail, Norhasimah. (2013). Orang Asli in Peninsular Malaysia: population, spatial distribution and socio-economic condition. J. Ritsumeikan Soc. Sci. Hum.. 6. 75-115.


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Back to the jungle? The myth of indigenous community resilience

Indigenous people in Malaysia and the world over isolated themselves from society to avoid Covid-19. But do they have enough food resilience to do so? Macaranga looks at the issue as part of its Taking Stock series.

WHEN MEDIA reported Orang Asli moving “back to the jungle” during the Covid-19 lockdown and blockading their villages against outsiders, the stories fed a prevailing romanticised myth that indigenous communities are self-sufficient.

But in reality, most Orang Asli cannot harvest all they need from the forest and have in addition, stopped subsistence farming. Instead, they are plugged into and rely on the modern economy for their livelihoods.

(Photo: In Pahang’s highlands, Muri a/p Jerhuk tends to her hill paddy plot. Pic by Jeffry Hassan)

Continue reading Back to the jungle? The myth of indigenous community resilience

Taking Stock

THE ENVIRONMENTAL sectors of Malaysia, like the rest of the country, have been shaken by two major events: the Covid-19 crisis and a new government who has yet to set direction.

From activists and scientists to indigenous communities and tour operators, the sectors have and continue to experience uncertainty in the foreseeable future.

In the face of this double challenge, Macaranga is taking stock of environmental sectors in Malaysia in the next few months. We consider the impacts on their operations and plans for the year and their responses to these impacts.

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In Defence of Orang Asli Rights

On Sept 25, the court heard an injunction application to stop private entities from logging and farming in Temiar customary land in Kelantan. This is the latest hearing related to the first legal action taken by the Malaysian federal government on behalf of Orang Asli regarding land rights. SL Wong and Darshana Dinesh Kumar report.

CAN YOU imagine having to barricade your home to prevent its destruction? That is what forest-based indigenous communities in Sabah and Sarawak have had to resort to for almost 40 years.

In Peninsular Malaysia, the Temiar Orang Asli community were forced to do so for the first time in 2012. The Gua Musang, Kelantan, communities started setting up barricades after repeatedly failing to resolve land use conflicts with the state government, federal agencies and companies. 

(Photo: The Pos Simpor community at the July Kota Bharu High Court hearing of the Kelantan state government’s application to strike out the AG’s suit. Courtesy of Siti Kasim)

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