Hunter-gatherers' culture, a major hindrance to a settled agricultural life: The case of the Penan Benalui of East Kalimantan

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Does the set of social characteristics of hunter-gatherer societies with "immediate-return systems" evolve when these societies adopt new livelihood systems? We report the case of the Penan Benalui of East Kalimantan (Indonesia). They settled in fixed villages and adopted upland rice farming between the 1950s and 1970s. Based on diet and household economic data and observation of social relationships in a Penan Benalui village, we concluded that the society is still in a transitional stage. The villagers face four major problems: (1) insufficient rice production mainly because of inappropriate planning for labour allocation, (2) absence of savings because of excessive spending and extensive sharing, (3) low level of formal education, and (4) high child mortality. Forest products, along with paid jobs and government projects, partly compensate for economic problems, but difficulties still remain. Most of these stem from the remnants of a hunter-gatherers' culture, which prove they are not adapted to a farmer's livelihood.

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