Every year the monsoon season brings significant challenges and destruction to Orang Asli (OA) communities living in rural Pahang. As the impact of climate change grows, these OA communities have developed coping strategies and techniques through a process of innovation and adaptation – based on personal experience and past lessons learned.
Linggi Ali, a 65-year-old villager from Kampung Melai is a modern-day Noah. He watches the weather patterns and predicts when heavy rainfall will come. Months prior to the monsoon, Linggi is already building a boat to survive the storm.
During a flood, the boat will give Linggi protection from rising water, offer him a means of catching fish for his family’s survival, and allow him to earn some income.
I have a boat ready to catch fish for consumption and a source of income during flood season. I also gather firewood from the forest in preparation. – Linggi Ali, 65
In Kampung Melai, Linggi’s household is not the only one that has a boat. Suhana Linggi, 33, also has a boat ready for use when the need arises. Additionally, Suhana stockpiles food with a longer shelf-life, drinking water and money as part of her preparation.
I always prepare ahead of time before the rainy season comes – usually at the end of the year. I have to make sure there is enough food and money and that my boat is ready to be used. – Suhana Linggi, 33
Safe shelter, sufficient food and clean drinking water, basic medical supplies and clothing are important requirements to survive a flood.
When Cut Off, Collective Help Comes
It has happened that OA communities have been left to fend for themselves when access to the villages has been destroyed or when help has been delayed in the event of a flood. When that happens, the greatest worry for OA villagers is food supply and medical assistance.
What worries me the most during flood season is the lack of food leaving us to starve in the cold. – Linggi Ali, 65
In an emergency, Linggi and the OA community will reach out to the Angkatan Tentera Malaysia (ATM) for rescue efforts. Due to the lack of access to OA villages such as Kampung Melai, assistance can only be provided once the area is considered safe.
Additionally, Kampung Melai relies on the Jabatan Kemajuan Orang Asli (JAKOA), non-governmental organisations, and the Chini assemblymen for support and help.
The assistance that we have received in the past includes groceries and money for those whose homes have been submerged in the flood. –Suhana Linggi, 33
Tallying Loss And Damages
As soon as the floodwaters subside and the sun shines again, the residents of Kampung Melai will once again rebuild their homes and lives.
Suhana recounts a time when she witnessed the agricultural devastation caused by a flood. Her painstaking labour and hours spent on her farm were all washed away.
My vegetable farm was carried away by the floodwater. It was a devastating loss for me. – Suhana Linggi, 33
The loss of her farm meant a loss of income and food supply for her family. In addition, her home’s roof was destroyed by the floods, so it also needed to be rebuilt.
Post-disaster efforts are absolutely necessary to ensure that communities get back on their feet as quickly as possible. Based on experience, Suhana voiced her hopes for post-disaster support.
It would be great to have zinc for my house roof and fertilisers supplied so I can start farming again. –Suhana Linggi, 33
For Linggi, a man who has lived through several floods, his hopes are for mitigation efforts to ramp up. Linggi observed that the drainage in their village is in a sorry state and requires repair work immediately.
We hope that the village roads and drainage can be fixed and maintained immediately.The badly maintained drainage could have been the cause of a severe flood. – Linggi Ali, 65
Floods bring hardship to the OA community who have lived with the bare minimum, leaving many in the situation of “sehelai sepinggang” (only having clothes on their body).
It is possible to ease the impact of floods on flood victims’ lives and homes by channelling funds to the following verified organisations:
- IMARET (IMAM Response & Relief Team)
- MERCY Malaysia
- Global Peace Foundation
- Jabatan Kemajuan Orang Asli
- Yayasan Kajian dan Pembangunan Masyarakat
- Malaysian Care
- Persatuan Orang Asli Semenanjung Malaysia