Majen Minos, 62, still looks slightly dazed when talking about the beautiful bungalow he built with dividends earned from his oil palms. The tiled flooring and spacious interiors fitted with modern conveniences like electricity, piped water, flush toilets, washing machine and gas stove are common to city folks, but they are a stark contrast to the dirt floor, thatched hut which Majen grew up in.
Like many other villagers, Majen had grown rice and pepper in small plots of land, and later worked as a driver with a RM700 salary. He later received a Class F license for small contractor jobs in construction. In his spare time he operated a food stall. In 1995, Majen heard about land redevelopment schemes under the Sarawak Land Consolidation and Rehabilitation Authority (SALCRA) during a series of meetings held with the local communities.
“I listened closely to the arguments presented by some villagers over their fears of having their land seized, but the explanations and guarantees given by SALCRA were reasonable and assuring.”
“Our land title is perpetuity and everything is done through documents. Of course I was nervous, but I don’t want to stay poor forever if I don’t take a risk.”
Majen used all of his savings to purchase 43 ha of land spread over eight parcels, most deep in secondary forests or over hilly terrain that was undesirable for agriculture. In 1999, he earned RM10,000 in dividends from the first two parcels of land that were developed. In 2002, he received a further RM10,000 from four parcels and in 2007, RM70,000 from all eight parcels of land that were planted.
In 2013, Majen pocketed RM120,000. With the profits earned, he invested in his own 60 ha plantation and built his dream home for his wife Jelumie Sangau, 57, and their three children. His eldest child was able to finish tertiary education and has a stable job with a multi – national bank in Kuala Lumpur today.
“Many people have the misconception that they would lose their land to SALCRA but today, they regret not participating when they had the opportunity. It was a risk I took. I went around and bought land that others did not want.”
“People are envious. But they were not around to see how poor we were back in the 1960s till the 1990s when we finally had a chance to earn a profit from the land. I never dreamt that I could one day live in such a big house with water and electricity. For those of us born into poverty without any opportunity to go to school, this was something impossible.”
Majen is one of the 300,000 smallholders in Malaysia cultivating oil palm who collectively contribute over 18 million tonnes of the palm oil exported annually. These smallholders cultivate some 40% of the land, owning plantations of between four and 40 ha in size.
Majen is among the landowners whose lives have been transformed by SALCRA schemes that were part of an ambitious plan to optimise vast tracts of under – developed native land in Sarawak since 1976.
|Majen and his wife at their newly built home which epitomises the success of an oil palm smallholder under the SALCRA scheme|