For years, the Global Peace Foundation (GPF) has helped transform lives in Malaysia’s rural farming communities. GPF’s development and service model provides education and support to empower local people to become moral and innovative leaders who make the solutions for their communities. The following article from GPF tells the story of how volunteers and GPF staff have helped inspire villagers to improve their quality of life and provide much-needed resources for their communities.

Nothing encapsulates the feeling of familiarity and comfort like a home-cooked meal prepared by the women in our families. However, women’s roles do not just stop in the kitchen. Making up 43% of the global agricultural labor force, women are central to farming and play vital roles in food security and nutrition at both the household and community levels.

Throughout the years of working with Orang Asli (original peoples of Malaysia) communities, we are continuously inspired by the passion and drive of Orang Asli women as they strive to improve and diversify their livelihood through various income-generating opportunities. However, despite their interest and hard work, many of them continue to face complex challenges, such as a lack of knowledge, resources, and capital.

Syntropic Farming for Food Security

To address some of these challenges, we kickstarted a Syntropic Agroforestry project with the Orang Asli farmers. This food farming project aims to rejuvenate the ecosystem to allow a diverse variety of plants to grow. In the long term, we hope that these farms will become self-sufficient, providing villagers with nutrient-dense and organic food, as well as additional opportunities for income generation.

It has now been over one year since we started the Syntropic Farming project, and many of our Amai (“aunty” in Jakun) farmers have successfully harvested a variety of vegetables and fruits ranging from chili, corn, and ginger to bananas, sweet potatoes, and lemongrass.

Economic Empowerment: From Farming to Selling

However, as farmers begin to harvest their vegetable and fruit crops, they are now faced with another challenge–market access to sell their produce. Many farmers have difficulty selling their produce to nearby towns or markets due to the remoteness of the villages and lack of transportation. 

In order to bridge market access barriers, we set up the KebunAmai to support our farmers in marketing and selling their fresh produce.

Just last month, we partnered with a local consumer cooperative in Malaysia, to support the Orang Asli to sell their fresh produce in organic markets across the Klang Valley area. Selling an assortment of vegetables and fruits such as bananas, ginger, sengkuang, lemongrass, and more, this partnership not only brings renewed hope for the Orang Asli farmers but also opens the door for additional opportunities for income generation.

Through connections with wholesalers, grocers, and the communities within the Pahang and Klang Valley area, we hope to empower and support the farmers’ livelihood through income generation.

Meet Amai Normah and Amai Yati

In addition to selling their fresh produce, several Amai have also started experimenting with producing homemade products using harvested vegetables and fruits. As many of them expressed interest in making homemade chips, we organized a food production training session with the farmers. Additionally, we also provided the farmers with basic equipment to help them kickstart their homemade chips journey!

Amai Normah, an Orang Asli farmer from Kg. Pinang surprised our team with her creativity and initiative as she showed us her mouth-watering assortment of banana chips.

“Before this, I was disinterested in making chips and losing motivation in entrepreneurship. But after attending the chips making training, I tried to do it myself. I hope to start a mini market that focuses on selling chips with different flavours, and to innovate different variants of chips.” – Amai Normah, Kg. Pinang

With flavors ranging from sweet, salty, spicy, and even one with turmeric spices, Amai Normah uses the harvested bananas from her farm to make her homemade banana chips. The quality and taste of the chips are so good that even the team from Yayasan Hasanah could not resist buying Amai Normah’s banana chips after having the opportunity to taste them. 

Similarly, Amai Yati from Kg. Bukit Biru also specializes in homemade chips. Working diligently on her farm, Amai Yati is passionate about using her harvested produce to make chips. Since the food production training session, Amai Yati has made a variety of chips, though, her yam chips definitely take the top spot for best tasting!

New Hope for Orang Asli Amai 

There’s no better feeling than seeing the proud smiles of the Orang Asli Amai, as they boast fruitful farms and a renewed hope for the future. In the long term, we hope that the KebunAmai initiative will foster greater women’s entrepreneurship amongst the villagers, thus, opening the door for boundless opportunities for income generation.

The original post appears on Global Peace Foundation. Global Peace Foundation is an international non-sectarian, non-partisan, nonprofit organization, which promotes an innovative, values-based approach to peacebuilding, guided by the vision of One Family under God. GPF engages and organizes a global network of public and private-sector partners who develop community, national, and regional peacebuilding models as the foundation for ethical and cohesive societies. Dr. Hyun Jin Preston Moon is the founder and chairman of the Global Peace Foundation.