Two indicators of genuine transformation are ownership and self-development. We see these, not just in the Orang Asli farmers at Kg Ulu Gumum where the OA Organics eco-farm project is, but a group of Orang Asli at Kg Melai.
Leadership training is conducted regularly for the Orang Asli farmers at Kg Ulu Gumum to empower them to be self-sustaining and to conserve their environment. We now witness maturing leadership amongst the Orang Asli since the OA Organics farm first started in December 2015.
This is seen in the way they handle disagreement and navigate group consensus. A case in point is their recent discussion on improving crop planning efficiency and reducing high vegetable wastage.
The farm committee proposed the solution of having a specialist team of seeders among them, but the farmers disagreed with the extra expenses involved. In normal circumstances, the leaders would have given up in frustration or helplessness at the lack of team cooperation.
However, we saw glimpses of visionary leadership in action. The farm committee suggested keeping the current status quo, and revisiting the proposal after two months.
The OA leaders’ response has demonstrated their understanding of the process of staged progress, and the need for patience and time for new ideas to be accepted. We are proud of their maturing leadership!
We see growing leadership amongst the orang asli farmers at Kg Ulu Gumum. Not only are they sharing their vision with the larger OA community – with Kg Melai, specifically – they are also mentoring those who wish to replicate the current farm model.
In May 2019 when Zariu and Nor were invited by the Kg Melai folks to share their farming experience, we saw leadership in action! They confidently answered many questions; they were like veterans at work, sharing their acquired valuable skills to help others.
Ibu Masenah was the star educator! She took it upon herself to teach and demonstrate to the Kg Melai budding farmers the farm processes. And she sent them home with some seeds to kickstart their farming journey.
Five months on, the Kg Melai’s farmers have made many regular visits to the Kg Ulu Gumum’s farm for coaching, and have experimented with growing their own small plots. They have now successfully grown and harvested their crops.
The produce from the Kg Melai farmers have added to the supply of vegetables sold at Jaya Grocer. Jaya Grocer has opened new outlets for OA Organics, growing our markets to eight outlets currently.
Farm production for OA Organics has grown and the Kg Melai farmers are ready to expand fast. Excellent indeed that this new farm is growing organically, with the OA leading the way. Orang Asli Boleh!
The Orang Asli are the natural guardians of the forest. They have a beautiful culture of partnership between people and the forest, nurturing and protecting the forest, and taking from it only what they need daily. But modernisation – irresponsible logging and the imposition of the market economy – has threatened the Orang Asli’s livelihoods, pushing them further into poverty.
The Guardians, filmed by Mediacorp Channel U, Singapore in April this year, tried to capture the plights of some Orang Asli in Pahang. Three “guardians” who have been working closely with these Orang Asli are also featured; this includes the Yayasan Kajian dan Pembangunan Masyarakat (YKPM) team that facilitates the OA Organics project.
The Orang Asli farmers of Kg Ulu Gumum will be showcased in an exhibition in New York! The eco-farm has been selected to represent Asia at the United Nations Permanent Forum for Indigenous Issues (22 April – 3 May 2019). The Forum, established in 2000, is mandated to deal with indigenous issues related to the concerns and rights of the world’s indigenous peoples.
The farmers clearly felt like celebrities, as they were photographed by professional photographer, Francesco Cabras a couple of weeks ago for the Showcase. They have no idea that Francesco is also a well-known Italian film director and actor.
The Orang Asli are certainly happy and proud that their village and the farm are being showcased at New York soon!