Borneo

The Dayaks of Borneo

6 Dec , 2014  

Borneo, the third largest island in the world, is located on the equator in South East Asia. The province of West Kalimantan is part of Indonesia, and has one of the lowest literacy rates in that nation. The majority of the population belong to different tribes of the Dayak group. While their origin is unclear, they have inhabited this region for more than 2000 years. The Dayak culture is still deeply rooted in animism; many still bring blood offerings to their gods and seek guidance from omens and witch doctors. They Dayaks used to be both famed and feared as headhunters. Many of them live very simply, with an income of less than one euro per day. Traditionally they gather fruit and vegetables from the jungle. Most farmers have not yet learned effective methods of raising poultry, pigs or fish. They earn money by cultivating rubber and pepper, more recently by working for the palm oil companies which are aggressively buying up huge pieces of land from the natives. In the face of the clearing of the rainforests for palm oil or rubber cultivation, the Dayaks are in danger of losing their land and becoming labourers on the plantations. Their traditional culture and social order is threatened by these rapid changes. In many villages there is no medical care. Electricity, water and sewage systems are often lacking. Sealed roads are very uncommon. Transport is mostly by light motorcycles (often shared) on muddy paths, or by boat over the rivers.

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