Sondang Erika, 27, is a mother of two. Together with her husband, Ayen, the couple are farmers with OA Organik in Kampung OA Melai, Pahang. Sondang worked as a small-scale rubber tapper before becoming a full-time farmer, and at one point, both husband and wife worked as security guards in an oil palm plantation.
After becoming a parent, Sondang realised the need to be present and involved in her young children’s development. Bin and Cun Cun, 6 and 3 years old respectively, are part of the next generation of Orang Asli (OA) growing up in Malaysia.
Over the years, OA students have been lagging behind in education resulting in the inability to compete in modern employment. In 2021, only 42.29% of Orang Asli students completed form five education.
After working in an oil palm plantation, Sondang and Ayen returned to Kampung Melai to live near a local school to ensure their children could complete school. They believe that education has the potential to transform their children’s future.
At the same time, the couple needed a sustainable source of income. Inspired by her mother, Maimun, a farmer with OA Organik, Sondang decided to get into farming.
After Sondang joined the community farm in February 2022, she learned various organic vegetable planting methods and developed the auditing skills of recording daily vegetable harvest and printing out delivery orders (DO).
I use a laptop to type the quantity of vegetables every harvest day and print the Delivery Order (DO). – Sondang Erika
It is common for rural women, like Sondang, to be burdened by household duties while juggling full-time or part-time jobs. Many overlook women’s participation in the workforce, and Sondang is among them.
Providing rural women with job opportunities while allowing them flexibility and accessibility to attend to household chores and be close to their families is the key to improving their socio-economic standing. This also empowers them to be productive members of the nation’s workforce.
As a farmer with OA Organik, Sondang is awarded the priceless gift of time. She is now able to spend time with her children and community freely.
I used to be all focused on work or life as a security guard. Now since becoming a farmer, there is a lot of free time that can be filled by going fishing with the family, a lot of time with the children, and more socialising with people physically.– Sondang Erika
That’s not all! Sondang’s small family is reaping more benefits as Ayen is currently obtaining his Goods Driver’s License (GDL) so he could transport fresh and packed harvest to the stores for sale. Once he qualifies, Ayen will be the OA Organik’s first full-time truck driver and farmer.
Even though Ayen and Sondang have only been with OA Organik for a short time, they have grown as a family and Sondang has even bigger dreams ahead.
I would like to increase my family’s income. The education of our children remains a priority. But I do hope that we’ll be able to acquire a vehicle for the whole family. – Sondang Erika
Their journey with OA Organik has reignited a new sense of hope and aspiration for the couple. Sondang’s story is about a mother’s desire to make sure her children receive a good education – and this has led to a job that provides for the family, an opportunity to develop new skills and the privilege to be fully present with her children. OA Organik is about building people, families and communities – always with a vision for a better future.
- Sinar Harian. (2021). 42.29 peratus murid orang asli tidak tamat sekolah. Sinar Harian. Link