Modernization in two Bidayuh villages

Abdullah, Abdul Rashid

South East Asian studies
February 1993

Thesis or dissertation

© 1993 Abdul Rashid Abdullah. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the written permission of the copyright holder.

This is a study of agricultural modernization and socio-cultural change in two Bidayuh villages of Serian District, Sarawak, East Malaysia. Traditionally the people of Engkaroh and Tian were shifting cultivators producing mainly to meet their subsistence needs. Shifting cultivation is a traditional farming system and in Sarawak it has been associated with backwardness and poverty, especially by the policy makers and planners. Thus the national agricultural policy's goal of promoting agricultural commercialization is also targeted at this group of farmers. This study sought to understand how communities which practise such a system respond to change.

This study demonstrates that Bidayuh agriculture in Engkaroh and Tian had evolved into a semi-commercial system and that the Bidayuh farmers were not constrained by tradition in accepting change. However, they changed in accordance to their perception of the local economic, socio-cultural, and political realities. In the field of economics, change was significantly influenced by the local pattern of change - an adaptive strategy which minimized the risks to the farming households. In the socio-cultural and political aspects, change occurred in a manner which did not jeopardise the integrity of the community.

A comparative study of the two villages also shows that there were significant differences between them in their resources and relevant socio-cultural and economic environments, although they were situated in the same district and belonged to the same ethnic group. This had contributed to the difference in the responses to change of the farmers in the two villages. This finding also has important implications for the validity of centrally planned change in Malaysian government development strategies.

Department of South East Asian Studies, The University of Hull
King, Victor T.
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