January 14th, 2020, 09:25 AM
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Encouraging entrepreneurship in Orang Asli communities
Published on: Saturday, January 11, 2020
REMBAU: About 15 kilometres from Port Dickson is the beautiful and tranquil village of Kampung Orang Asli Bukit Kepong in Pasir Panjang.
Its scenic surroundings provide the perfect setting for a homestay and ecotourism business. Recognising the village’s tourism potential, one of the Orang Asli villagers Faarezan Radzali and her family started offering a homestay programme about two years ago and have since never looked back.
The Orang Asli, particularly those communities dwelling not far from urban and suburban areas, are becoming increasingly receptive to modernising their livelihoods and this is exactly what the Department for Orang Asli Development (Jakoa) is aiming at.
Its objective is to improve the incomes and well-being of Orang Asli communities all over the country and create a new generation of educated and dynamic individuals, without sacrificing their heritage and cultural values.
Negeri Sembilan and Melaka Jakoa director Haslin Abdul Razak said the Orang Asli are now making an effort to change their way of life as they do not want to be shackled by poverty.
Referring to the homestay venture in Kampung Orang Asli Bukit Kepong, she said the family built a few chalets out of wood sourced locally and their homestay was attracting many foreign tourists as well.
“The lodgings are comfortable and the atmosphere is beautiful. We monitor it as it is considered a tourist village,” she said.
Haslin said one of the ways the Orang Asli can upgrade their living standards is by involving themselves in entrepreneurial activities.
“Their desire for change doesn’t mean that they want to leave their (traditional) villages and culture. All they want is to keep pace with the changing times in terms of their daily activities and livelihoods,” she told Bernama.
She observed that the Orang Asli who truly desired change were those in the 20 to 50 age bracket.
“When they come to our department seeking our assistance to develop their existing businesses, then we know they genuinely want to improve (their economic status). However, there are some who give up due to their failure to overcome the challenges they face,” she said.
The majority of the Orang Asli in Negeri Sembilan hail from the Temuan ethnic group, with the remaining comprising the Semalai group.
Statistics compiled by Jakoa show that in Negeri Sembilan, a total of 49 Orang Asli entrepreneurs were created during the 10th Malaysia Plan (2011-2015) and 40 during the 11th Malaysia Plan (2016-2020).
Fashioning crafts out of natural resources has long been associated with the Orang Asli and today, they are using their creative skills to make furniture as well. Hence, it is only natural that when given the option to start a business, they would want to consider a venture involving the making and selling of crafts, souvenirs and decorative items.
Besides crafts, some Orang Asli are also pursuing businesses in the homestay, livestock, agricultural and bridal make-up sectors.
“Those offering bridal make-up services started by offering the service to their own community but now they have some Malay clients as well.
“There are also Orang Asli involved in rearing goats and ducks, and offering tailoring services. One Orang Asli operates a bus transport service,” said Haslin.
She said Jakoa has implemented an entrepreneurship development programme to create more Orang Asli entrepreneurs.
According to Haslin, the programme was beneficial as it helped to elevate the income status of the Orang Asli to the middle-income or M40 group.
“It focuses on helping the Orang Asli to develop their business and market their products,” she said, adding that her department renders aid to those individuals who already have ongoing business ventures.
“We only want to help those who are serious about developing their business. We don’t want them to be coerced into doing business.”
Among the type of aid given to them are make-up tools for those providing bridal make-up services; stock for goat rearers (Jakoa also builds goat pens for their farms); and ducklings to duck farmers who rear them for their eggs.
Jakoa also collaborates with the Agriculture Department to conduct courses for the Orang Asli farmers to teach them the correct techniques to improve yields.
“We also provide courses for those who don’t know how to manage their accounts,” said Haslin, adding that whether or not the entrepreneurs succeed in overcoming various challenges that come their way would depend on their resilience and competence.
Jakoa also holds a yearly carnival to showcase the products of Orang Asli entrepreneurs.
“By participating in the carnival, they can sell their own local products to outsiders, including tourists,” Haslin said, adding that courses on online or digital marketing are also conducted for entrepreneurs to teach them to sell their products via Facebook and other online platforms.
She said she is happy to see the Orang Asli, especially youths, involving themselves in business as it is a channel for them to highlight their unique qualities and inherent abilities.
“No matter what kind of talent they possess, we can help them to hone it. This way, we can develop a new generation of Orang Asli who don’t have to depend on their families and can independently generate their own income,” she said.
The state Jakoa, she added, has high hopes of producing a bigger number of Orang Asli entrepreneurs in Negeri Sembilan in the near future and hoped that the federal and state governments would continue to extend the necessary help and support to them. – Bernama