Keepers of the Spice Trade: Langit Collective

Words by Priyanka Elhence

From its glory days along trade routes to pantry staples all over the world, spices have become so commonplace that we’ve taken them for granted. For these three trailblazers, however, spice is their livelihood and motivation.

*This is an extract of an article that first appeared in Wine & Dine’s 2021 ‘Spice and Aromatics’ issue

A social enterprise that works with small holder farmers in rural communities from East Malaysia, the collective is named after the sky in Lun Bawangs’ native language, Buri Tau. Founded in 2015, it was created with the intention of forming a sustainable livelihood for the indigenous farmers of Sabah and Sarawak that is modelled after regenerative agriculture.

A farmer inspecting lada bihis (pepper) (Image courtesy of Langit Collective)

It was an idea that came about organically. The team previously worked for a non-profit, coordinating different community-based projects in the Maligan Highlands in Lawas, Sarawak. Having spent so much time in the villages, they were eventually ‘adopted’ by families there and given local names to welcome them into the community.

As of 2020, the collective works with 69 individual farmers—three indigenous farming communities across nine villages—with their biggest partners being the heirloom rice and grains farmers grown by the Lun Bawang people in Sarawak. Other communities they work with include a Bidayuh farmer from Sarawak who grows single-origin and single variety peppercorn and Dusun farmers from Sabah who grow ground ginger. They give the indigenous farming communities access to the wider local, regional and international market.

Langit team (Image courtesy of Langit Collective)

Pre-pandemic, the team also organised annual Langit Experiences for people to participate in the traditional rice harvest and planting seasons. The hands-on opportunities were vital to giving the public a taste of a farmers’ daily

life in hopes of cultivating greater empathy as well as understanding the interconnectivity of people and nature.

*Read the full article in Wine & Dine’s 2021 ‘Spice and Aromatics’ issue. Available at newsstands and Magzter

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