By: Teguh Iman Affandi
Indigenous women show their resilience by making a concrete contribution to their community. The Covid-19 pandemic has not made them worse off, but it showed the public how resilient the indigenous women are. Since the pandemic, they have built a collective farm for self-sufficiency in food.
Meiliana Yumi or called Yumi is a traditional woman of the Penunggu People from Menteng Village Tualang Pusu, North Sumatra. Yumi is the driving force in her ancestral territory to manage their ulayat land. Currently, Yumi is active in PEREMPUAN AMAN, the organizational wing of the Indigenous Peoples Alliance of the Archipelago (AMAN). Her role is the National Council for the Sumatra region.
Yumi and indigenous women in the Rakyat Penunggu’s ancestral territory started a movement to manage ancestral lands in 2018. “Initially, not all indigenous women were interested in managing ancestral lands,” said Yumi. The reason is that not all indigenous women work in their villages. Yumi said many indigenous women work as labourers in the city, so they do not have time to manage ancestral lands.
The farm’s products, they produce, include vegetables, chilli, corn, rice, and fruits. “In my village, We plant a lot of vegetables, corn, and beans,” said Yumi.
In 2020, the first case of Covid-19 occurred in Indonesia. The government has also implemented social restrictions at every level of the administrative area, including Deli Serdang Regency, where the Rakyat Penunggu’s ancestral territory is located.
The indigenous women of the Rakyat Penunggu also followed the government instructions about preventing Covid-19. They suspended the religious weekly gathering. “We are aware of the virus, so we try to fence ourselves in,” said Yumi.
The impact that Yumi saw was massive layoffs. “Many indigenous women have been laid off from work,” said Yumi.
Amid a difficult situation, the collective farm echoed by Yumi and other indigenous women of the Rakyat Penunggu was able to become a solution to the food crisis in their Regency. “What we plant can contribute beyond our ancestral territory,” said Yumi.
The location of the ancestral territory, which is not far from the city, makes many city dwellers come to the collective farm to ask for food supply. “Yes, we allow them to have our food, as long as they do not sell it back,” said Yumi.