Malaysia (Borneo)

An ancient mythology lies at the heart of Kadazandusun culture. A Kadazandusun creation myth tells how the supreme deities Kinohiringan and his wife Umunsumundu made the earth while Kinohiringan created the sky and the clouds. But the clouds were smaller than the earth and Kinohiringan was ashamed. To save his pride, Umunsumundu reshaped the earth, making it smaller, and thus created Mount Kinabalu, the mountain that we know today.

Map 1: Borneo is the name of the Worlds 3rd largest island. It is home to three sovereign nations; Indonesia, Brunei and Malaysia.(Wikipeadia/Borneo)

Population (total): 30,513,848 (2015); Sabah: 3, 500,000 (2015)
Total area: 329,847 sq km; Sabah: 73, 631 sq km
Capital city: Kuala Lumpur; Sabah: Kota Kinabalu
Currency: Malaysia Ringgit (MYR)
UNDP Human Development Index (HDI): 0.779 Sabah: 0.643
GDP per capita (International $, PPP): $26,600
Life expectancy at birth: 74.75 years

*Figures from CIA World Factbook.

The Malaysian territory on the island of Borneo is made up of Sabah, the easternmost state of Malaysia and Sarawak. Brunei and Indonesia also share the island and maintain a delicate management of their own exclusive economic zones (EEZ).

Lonely Planet has a good summary and list of articles that participants will find useful.

Always check SmartTraveller before traveling to see any travel warnings and pertinent information for your trip.

PACOS Trust: Local Films

An NCR Story: Bundu Apin-Apin demonstrates the struggle faced by one community of indigenous people living in Sabah, Malaysia, to attain recognition of their right to the land on which they reside.

A short story about a village called Imusan, a teacher who teach the children and the communities about importance of education and traditional knowledge, how they connect themselves through land, forest and rivers, and a basic education system in a community learning centre built by the communities themselves in a remote village, far from the city.

This was filmed, edited and compiled by four Macquarie University law students, namely Arielle Zinn, Jennika Woerde, Erin Turner-Manners and Emily Swanton, during their placement at PACOS Trust in Sabah, Borneo as part of a PACE International placement in conjunction with Australian Volunteers International. 

Ulu Papar, a lush forested valley located deep inside the Crocker Range in Sabah, is the ancestral home of the Ulu Papar Dusun. They have lived here for generations, and until today, continue to depend on the forests around them for their food, medicine and daily needs. 

The residents of Tampasak sacrificed their village for the benefit of the people of Kota Kinabalu. Tampasak was home to indigenous people, and fulfilled their daily needs with the availability of natural resources. It had also been supplied with basic amenities by the government.


  • Tongkul, F. (2002) Traditional Systems of Indigenous Peoples of Sabah, Malaysia: Wisdom accumulated through generations. PACOS Trust.

This book discusses the various changes in the lives of the Kadazandusun indigenous community of Kampung Tampasak in Penampang, Sabah, due to the construction of the Babagon Dam which resulted in their resettlement. The changes take many forms – social, economical, psychological and cultural – but none is so significant as the loss of their ancestral lands and natural resources. Includes an analysis of the effects of resettlement on women.

This essay is produced by GRAIN an international NFP that works to support local farmers and social movements for community controlled and biodiversity based food systems. The Asia-Pacific region has a rich diversity of plants, which have been used by people for generations. The majority of people in Asia-Pacific still rely directly on this diversity of plants, or plant genetic resources, for food and medicine. There is an abundance of local expertise in plant genetic resources that has been in use over a considerable period of time and is also constantly evolving.

Further Reading:

Into the Heart of Borneo, Redmond O’Hanlon
All Elevations Unknown, Sam Lightner Jnr
Where Hornbills Fly, Erik Jensen