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Malaysia comprises three regional entities, namely Peninsular Malaysia, Sabah and Sarawak located on the northern section of Borneo Island. Although recognized as a developing country with a high per capita income, the use of aggregated GDP per capita masks serious disparities not only between these regional areas but also within their respective local communities. Thus, among the poorest and most marginalized communities in Malaysia are the indigenous peoples (IPs) of Malaysia, namely the Orang Asli (in Peninsular Malaysia) and the Orang Asal (Sabah & Sarawak), many of whom live in the deep interior rural areas of the country.

One key reason for the marginalization and impoverishment of Malaysian IPs has been their wholesale physical displacement from their lands and forests. Since 1960s, intensive logging, land grabs by large plantation corporates, mining and massive hydropower dams have seen the IPs from all over Malaysia marginalized, displaced, resettled. They have been cut off from their farmlands and their forests via state-sanctioned legal land grabs and have thus lost access to their means of production and thus their livelihoods.

Malaysia Programme

The GLA programme in Malaysia will focus its efforts on working with and assisting the Orang Asal of Sabah and Sarawak to address their loss of Native Customary Rights (NCR) lands and forests and loss of biodiversity because of logging and its subsequent conversion into large monocrop plantations (Oil Palm) and massive hydropower dams. In doing so, we hope to reverse deforestation and localized climate change and return IP lands and forests to their rightful owners.

Apart from leveraging upon our collective expertise and synergies for the success of our respective local programmes, collaboration shall extend to liaising with the Asian Social Forestry Network, the Sabah Association for Social Forestry (SaSOF), the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), and researchers in Kyoto University.

We are confident that all these collective efforts will benefit the work of GLA partners in Malaysia in broadening civic space, aiding reforestation efforts and empowering IPLCs in Malaysia.

Programme partners

The GLA Malaysia partners are: NTFP-EP Malaysia, the Sarawak Dayak Iban Association (SADIA), and SAVE Rivers which are located in Sarawak. In Sabah, the partner is PACOS Trust.

NTFP-EP Malaysia works to empower forest-dependent communities (especially, Penan) via community conservation and resource management; indigenous foods and health; tenure rights and good governance; and sustainable community livelihoods development.

The Sarawak Dayak Iban Association (SADIA) is an Iban community-based association dedicated towards the defense of all NCR lands in Sarawak. It is a permanent member of the IP Council in the Forest Stewardship Council.

SAVE Rivers leads a local network of Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities (IPLCs) in campaigns against hydro-electric mega-dams. It supports and empowers rural communities in Sarawak to protect their land, rivers, forests and watersheds through capacity building, networking, research, education, and advocacy.

The Sabah partner, community-based PACOS Trust, supports over 100 IP community organizations and 23 community learning centres (CLCs). PACOS also manages a model organic/nature learning centre farm (Kivatu Nature Farm) and a School of Experiential and Entrepreneurship Development (SEED) for out of school youths. Its strengths lie in providing gender-awareness and capacity-building training; and technical support on social forestry and community protocols.