Economic boost for 2nd-generation Felda settlers

Felda Bukit Aping Timur in Johor has implemented a pilot entrepreneurial project for its 2nd-generation settlers that involve the cultivation of red chillies using the fertigation system

By KURNIAWATI KAMARUDIN / BERNAMA

MANY a Federal Land Development Authority (Felda) settlement is encouraging its second- and third-generation settlers to pursue agro-based business ventures to improve their socio-economic status.

Among them is Felda Bukit Aping Timur in Kota Tinggi, Johor, which has implemented a pilot entrepreneurial project for its secondgeneration settlers that involve the cultivation of red chillies using the fertigation system.

The Felda Bukit Aping Timur settlement opened 45 years ago and it now has a population of 2,487, out of which 1,500 belong to the second generation of settlers who are keen to switch to cash crops due to the fluctuating prices of traditional Felda crops, like oil palm and rubber.

The settlers are currently earning about RM1,000 to RM1,500 a month from oil palm. Previously, when palm oil prices were high, they earned about RM3,000 to RM5,000 a month.

Chilli Cultivation
Felda Bukit Aping Timur’s red chilli project kicked off in April 2019 with three participants given a total of 350 seedlings of the Sakata 461 chilli variety. Planted in polybags, the chillies were cultivated via the fertigation process, an agricultural technique that maximises crop yields through controlled application of water and fertiliser.

Felda Bukit Aping Timur headman Fadzil Ramlan, 52, who is himself a second-generation settler, said the settlement’s Village Community Management Council (MPKK) contributed RM4,000 to fund the pilot project.

“Last August, after four months, the chillies were ready for harvesting with each plant yielding about 2kg of chillies. The first harvest generated a sales revenue of about RM4,000, which fell below our target.

“We are now improving on our cultivation techniques to enhance yields,” he told Bernama. He said through the pilot project, the three participants learnt how to cultivate chillies using the fertigation method.

“Equipped with the know-how, they started their own chilli cultivation ventures,” he added.

The pilot project entered its second round of cultivation recently with five new participants.

Successful participants of the pilot project are each given 100 polybags of chilli seedlings and the necessary fertigation tools worth about RM2,000 by MPKK to embark into commercial cultivation of chillies.

And after each harvest, RM1 from every kilogramme of chillies sold will go to MPKK, said Fadzil.

“If the chillies are sold at RM10 a kg, the farmer will get RM9, while RM1 will go to MPKK, which will use the money collected to help other settlers who wish to participate in the project,” he said.

Collaboration with UPM
Meanwhile, the success of this Felda settlement’s pilot project has prompted the Department of Agriculture (DoA) to provide a total of 2,000 polybags of chilli seedlings to two of the participants who took part in the first round of the project for commercial cultivation purposes.

Fadzil said the DoA and MPKK’s efforts have been an eye-opener for the settlers, especially the second generation, who are now viewing chilli cultivation as a new way to supplement their income.

Fadzil (second from left) with other MPKK committee members at the chilli cultivation site. Fadzil says the MPKK contributes RM4,000 to fund the pilot project

“All that idle land around our village can be put to good use by cultivating chillies or for other entrepreneurial projects.

“If this project turns out to be a big success, they (chillies) may become our main source of income, and oil palm, our side income,” he added.

Meanwhile, Felda Bukit Aping Timur’s chilli cultivation and other agro-based entrepreneurial projects implemented by the settlers have attracted the attention of Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM) which in November 2019 roped in the settlement under its Service Learning Malaysia-University for Society (Sulam) programme.

Sulam programme head Dr Mohd Roslan Rosnon, who is a senior lecturer at UPM’s Faculty of Human Ecology, said by collaborating with the settlers on their entrepreneurial projects, the university hopes to provide them with the necessary knowledge and skills to develop their existing ventures, as well as explore new agricultural pursuits.

Such efforts, he said, are necessary to further develop the small and medium enterprises operated by the second generation of Felda settlers.

“We’ve to support them to develop their settlements and improve their socio-economic status,” he said, adding that many of them lacked entrepreneurial knowledge and expertise.

“We wish to empower the Felda community, so that they can see and tap the greater opportunities out there.”

Transfer of Knowledge
Mohd Roslan said Felda Bukit Aping Timur’s involvement in the Sulam programme would be from November 2019 to 2021, and that it would cover four phases.

The first phase involved identifying the needs of the settlers and focusing on changing their attitude from negative to positive.

The second phase will see experts from UPM assisting in developing the potential of agriculture; the third phase, monitoring the settlers and identifying stakeholders who can assist in the financial and marketing aspects; and the fourth phase, empowering the local community who in turn can inspire other communities to develop their agricultural potential.

Mohd Roslan said Felda Bukit Aping Timur was selected for the Sulam programme as it has potential for the development of more agro-based entrepreneurial projects that involve the second-generation settlers.

“Some of them are already cultivating mushroom, while others are operating their own stingless bee farms and rearing freshwater fish,” he said, adding that the lack of knowledge and skills was among the challenges they faced.

He said UPM experts would help to develop their agricultural ventures through the transfer of knowledge, while the university’s Faculty of Human Ecology would assist by motivating the second-generation settlers and encouraging them to adopt a more positive mindset.

“It’s not just about physical transformation, but also mental transformation for the second-generation settlers. Various (business) opportunities must be created to encourage them to remain in their Felda settlements,” he added. — Bernama