Impact of Sago Crop Commercialization Programs on Gender Roles of Melanau Communities in Sarawak, Malaysia

  •  Siti Zanariah Ahmad Ishak    
  •  Malia Taibi    
  •  Ahmad Nizar Yaakub    


Melanau men are known for their significant roles in the cultivation of sago palm as smallholder farmers while the women take charge of processing sago-based food products. Melanau sago farmers play important roles in maintaining their rural livelihood as the ethnic minority group in the northwest coastal communities of Sarawak, Malaysia. In an attempt to contribute to the corpus of knowledge on Melanau gender roles and their unique farming practices, this paper adapts gender relations framework in order to assess the impact of sago commercialization programs that were established by the local authority since 1980s. The findings revealed that the changes of traditional gender roles among men and women are influenced by gender relations factors i.e. gender division of labour, access to or control of resources and household decision making. In addition, sago production promises a greater prospect of moving away from low to high commercial level of production only if human capital that makes sago crop difficult to commercialize are tackled in the Melanau community. This suggests that more attention to human factors is needed when authorities formulate policies relating to commercialization program. 

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