Malaysia's Orang Asli want to have food resilience


By SL WONG

Rice and aid packages for the Orang Asli being delivered by boat along Sungai Telom, Pahang, Malaysia. — JEFFRY HASSAN

When the media reported that Malaysia's indigenous people, the Orang Asli, were moving “back to the jungle” during the Covid-19 lockdown and blockading their villages to stop the spread of the virus, 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 in addition, many have stopped subsistence farming. Instead, they are plugged into and rely on the modern economy for their livelihoods.

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