Indigenous people are one of the groups that are far from the source of national development. Their presence in rural and inland areas makes it difficult for modernization to reach there as a whole. Despite these constraints, the government still protects their rights and welfare through the Department of Orang Asli Development, the Orang Asli Youth Council and various relevant government agencies. Participating in the effort to help this group is Yayasan Inovasi Malaysia (YIM).
In December 2017, YIM conducted the first phase of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) program in the Orang Asli community in Perak. This program emphasizes the development aspect of innovation, in line with the main thrust of YIM’s work. The implementation of this program was also participated by the International Youth Center (IYC) and the Malaysian Orang Asli Youth Council (MBOAM). Both agencies are involved in efforts related to the development of indigenous youth, the empowerment of young women and addressing youth issues in rural areas. This collaboration allows YIM to identify problems that are often faced by indigenous communities.
SDGs also involve the Malaysian Remote Sensing Agency (ARSM). For this first phase, YIM and the agencies involved went down to the field to see the indigenous villages for themselves. ARSM acts to provide mapping of areas and physical routes to facilitate the representatives of the participants involved in tracking the village. A total of five villages were successfully visited, one in Tronoh while the other four in Tapah. Denak Orang Asli Village is in Tronoh and Ampang Woh Orang Asli Village, Tew Bah Mat Orang Asli Village, Bah Belit Orang Asli Village, and Teming Orang Asli Village are in Tapah.
Through this SDGs program, YIM focuses on six main objectives namely;
- Bridging the gap of difference, economy, communication and dropout among the indigenous community in Malaysia and other communities.
- To see the potential of tourism and economic generation to help empower the indigenous community in Malaysia.
- Seeing the potential for innovation can be utilized by the Orang Asli community.
- Strengthening the function and role of IYC in supporting the efforts of KBS Strategic Plan 2016 – 2020 as one of the national youth channels;
- Exposure to global networks, knowledge and skills as well as planning and intensifying programs that feature youth internationalization based on current global scenarios and trends.
- Encourage more participation of these three target groups in quality programs as a channel to play a role and contribute more significantly and showcase and highlight the country’s youth talent through various programs at the international and local levels by adapting current technology and innovation.
Visits to selected villages were attended by representatives from each agency. Representing YIM are Mr Tany Anthony Kiob, CEO; Mr. Raynold Cladius, Chief Financial Officer; Mrs. Sharmila Mohamed Salleh, Senior Deputy President of YIM and Nastassja Nicolette Mojitoh, Senior Executive. Also present were representatives from IYC, Mahsa University, Beyond Boundary Hospitals and Bluebear Holdings.
Through this visit, there are several challenges and opportunities that have been successfully identified. In general, indigenous villages in Tronoh are more vulnerable to development based on the existence of infrastructure facilities such as KEMAS nurseries, public halls, FELCRA halls and playgrounds. Meanwhile, the aboriginal village area in Tapah is only supplied with water treatment tank facilities. More attention should be given to the indigenous villages in Tapah as the villages here do not have electricity supply. The lack of kindergarten and school facilities has contributed to the percentage of aboriginal people here who do not go to school. However, there are a few of them who can finish their studies at the primary school level. The nearest school is Sekolah Kebangsaan Batu Tujuh which is located about 10 km from this village.
Apart from that, there is a facade under the supervision of the Perak Water Board (LAP) in the area of Kampung Ampang Woh. Surveys show that the area is located in compartments 5 and 81 Bukit Tapah Forest Reserve which is a water catchment area. This catchment area is within the forest district of South Perak and under the management of the Perak Forestry Department.
Based on observations, this area has a strong current river suitable for rafting or white water rafting activities. However, further research and discussions need to be held with the authorities as this area is a water catchment area.
Apart from the potential for water sports activities, this area is also the main route for the climbing trail to Gunung Batu Putih. This area is seen to have the potential to be developed as an ecotourism area to highlight climbing activities as one of the sources of income to the local indigenous community. The proceeds will be included in the Eco-Forest Park and State Park Management System developed by the Malaysian Remote Sensing Agency (ARSM) under a collaborative project between ARSM and the Peninsular Malaysia Forestry Department (JPSM).
Looking at the source of income of the indigenous people in Tapah, most of them depend on forest products. Petai and rattan are among the products that get demand from outsiders. Based on interviews with indigenous people in this area, there is a case of theft of Karas wood (Gaharu) here. This problem persists due to the high demand and abundant resources available around this area. This type of tree is already on the list of protected trees (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) and stricter enforcement is required by the authorities.
Based on visits and discussions with indigenous villagers, there are some preliminary conclusions that can be drawn. First, there is a lot of space and opportunity to develop the indigenous economy here. This area has the potential to be a tourist area for the purpose of economic generation and help empower the indigenous people in Malaysia. Yayasan Inovasi Malaysia will strive to provide awareness of innovation and creativity to continue survival and upgrade the economy through appropriate innovation products.
Second, the role of relevant parties to upgrade the lives of indigenous people. The role of JAKOA and JKM needs to be further enhanced to assess in more detail the needs of the indigenous community. The development of basic facilities such as road facilities, electricity and a good piping system is very much needed to improve the quality of life of the indigenous people. At the same time, IYC and related bodies can assist in terms of early education, religious education and health and hygiene awareness. This measure is an added value to the efforts that are and will be carried out by the government.
In addition, IYC can play a role as a facilitator to reach out to indigenous peoples in a practical and holistic way. The three elements that will be applied are science, innovation, and technology to ensure that the issues faced by them get a sustainable solution. YIM will work with IYC to implement programs in the context of national youth development, especially among indigenous peoples. Ongoing discussions will be held from time to time with indigenous peoples and stakeholders to ensure that the SDGs program runs smoothly.