Academic journal article Borneo Research Bulletin

Food Resources and Changing Patterns of Resource Use among the the Lundayeh of the Ulu Padas, Sabah

Academic journal article Borneo Research Bulletin

Food Resources and Changing Patterns of Resource Use among the the Lundayeh of the Ulu Padas, Sabah

Article excerpt

This paper gives an account of the food resources and diet of the Lundayeh of Long Pasia and Long Mio at the end of the twentieth century. I describe the diversity of resources used and patterns of resource use, investigating the importance of different habitats as sources of food. This research is placed in the context of central Borneo by comparing my own findings with those of researchers who have done similar studies elsewhere in the region. The Lundayeh have experienced rapid social and environmental changes in the last decade. I examine how people have responded to these changes, as reflected in their resource management practices. On this basis, I consider what lessons can be learned from the Lundayeh by those attempting to develop a more sustainable management strategy for the region.



The Lundayeh communities of Long Pasia and Long Mio are situated in the Ulu Padas region of southwest Sabah. These are the only two highland Lundayeh villages in Sabah. The majority of the Sabahan Lundayeh live in the lowlands, particularly in the Sipitang region. However, they still see themselves as essentially a highland people. The Lundayeh regard the Kerayan-Kelabit highlands in Kalimantan as their heartland. It is from here that they are thought to have originated, migrating throughout the region where the states of Kalimantan, Sarawak and Sabah meet, over the last two centuries (Harrisson 1967).

Long Pasia is a village of about 400 residents, and Long Mio about 120 residents. The villages are at an altitude of 1000m, and are surrounded by undulating hills, and beyond these, mountains. The vegetation close to the villages is a patchwork of fields and secondary forest of varying ages, a consequence of people's long history in the region, and their practice of swidden agriculture. Further afield, the region was, at least until very recently, covered by one of the last extensive areas of old-growth forest remaining in Sabah (Payne and Vaz 1998). This forest is a mix of heath and montane forests. (1)

The Lundayeh of Long Pasia and Long Mio are primarily swidden agriculturalists, although wet rice cultivation is also important. Cash crops are extensively cultivated, with coffee and tobacco having met with particular success during the time of this research. As well as cash-cropping, the other main source of income is from wage labor. Many people go to work in the logging camps, and in towns and cities in Sabah and further afield. Since 1997 the villages have been linked to Sipitang by a logging road, a journey that takes about four hours. The arrival of the road enabled expansion of cash cropping, and easier availability of processed goods. In addition, it encouraged a number of families to return to the village. The population of both villages has grown in recent years, and seems likely to continue to do so. The arrival of the road also marked the beginning of extensive logging activities in the region. These have been going on around the villages, with noticeable impacts on the availability of forest resources and on river quality. However, in spite of the many social and environmental changes which the Lundayeh have experienced in recent years, forest resources continue to make an important and highly valued contribution to their subsistence.


Research was conducted from September 1999 until November 2000 as part of a wider Ph.D. study. Hunting and dietary surveys were conducted to investigate the diversity of resources being used, their importance in the diet, and the relative importance of different environments as sources of these foods. During five seven-day periods in each of the villages, a member of every household was asked to record the foods being eaten within their household. These surveys were conducted at roughly two-month intervals throughout the year, so that any seasonal variation in the diet could be observed. During one survey period, I asked the children to keep their own food diaries, to enable a comparison to be made with that of the adults. …

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