YAP Proposal #413: Lessons from my grandfather (Liang Chun, Malaysia)

 

LiangChunpng

My name is Wan Siti Nur Aishah binti Wan Zuki and I come from a family of farmers in Kelantan, Malaysia.

Back in the 1980s before I was even born, my grandfather was given the title “Kelantan’s Best Farmer” in recognition of his success in adopting conventional agriculture and promoting it among local farmers by setting an example. 10 years ago, “Kelantan’s Best Farmer” died in the hospital after decades of suffering from skin rashes and chest pain.

Doctors found toxic substances in his blood and speculated that he might have ingested some of them while he was farming. Indeed, he never complained about the use of pesticides, herbicides and chemical fertilisers on his fields. And this was the irony; the one who was supposed to feed others ended up poisoning himself in the process, and most probably he wasn’t the only one.

Kelantan isn’t the most affluent state in Malaysia. We don’t have in our largest city, Kota Bharu, two identical towers standing tall and proud to awe the world. Lying next to the South China Sea means that when you’re celebrating Christmas, we’re most probably busy preparing for the annual monsoon downpours.

Every now and then, we get hit by a huge flood and experience property damages that take years to recuperate from. Our farmers today mostly practise conventional agriculture, just like my grandfather, and most of them take farming instructions from agricultural extension officers that seek to carry on the Green Revolution.

While safety regulations regarding chemical use are tighter now than before, farmers still tend to err on the side of “more is better”. As a result, many agro-ecosystems are destroyed and pest and disease outbreaks have become more common as of late.

Like all other 23-year-old, soon-to-be university graduates out there, I want to change the world. You’d have to blame my Aunty Salwati for planting that idea in my head. With her help, I’m setting up an enterprise to build a supply chain for organically grown rice in Kelantan. We’re calling it the “SRI Lestari Centre.” (Lestari means sustainability in Malay).

LiangChunAs the name suggests, I am building the business on the premise of SRI- System of Rice Intensification. To give you the gist, SRI basically implies carefully selected seeds, younger seedlings transplanted with more space between them, less water, more compost and regular weeding. As a result, using fewer or no conventional inputs, farmers can expect to double their yields after one season of proper management of water, soil and crop quality.

So what’s the catch? Under SRI, farmers need to be observant and diligent because they are acting as managers of an ecosystem of insects, worms, birds, microbes, weeds, crops and farmers themselves, in order to synergise beneficial interactions between these organisms.

Basically, we’re offering a more complex job description to local farmers. Instead of taking orders, like an assembly line worker, from somebody who probably stops by only once a month to check on their work, we are training local farmers to be entrepreneurial and innovative. We give them working theories of SRI and IPM, and they tell us if the theories are working or not.

In other words, we provide the bullet points and farmers write the descriptions.

In that spirit, SRI Lestari Centre aims to support local farmers who dare to take that first step towards producing safer and healthier rice for local consumers. So far I have been working with Aunty Salwati to encourage more farmers to switch to organic farming by giving them technical training and guiding them from seedling preparation, transplantation, water and pest control, weeding, composting and harvesting.

Our priority has been to increase the number of farmers who practice organic farming or SRI, regardless of how much land they own. We’ve asked each farmer in our network to try organic methods on at least half an acre of land and throughout the process, we’ve been putting together on-the-ground mini-workshops based on the Farmer Field School approach.

Basically we just have a lot of fun making ambiguous-smelling compost and weighing our yields after each season. The mentor-mentee system has worked wonders and after slightly more than 1 year of training farmers in SRI, we now have 25 farmers who can confidently pass the knowledge onto the next batch of farmers.

Now that we have gathered a critical number of farmers who are committed to growing rice using SRI, we need to think about processing and marketing to truly make SRI a sustainable venture. This is why I’m applying for this grant of US$5000 – I would like to use it to put our organically grown rice on supermarket shelves and in restaurant meals.

Our plan is simple: SRI Lestari Centre would be a one-stop milling, packaging and marketing hub that serves all practitioners of SRI in Kelantan. We’d buy unmilled rice from local farmers at RM2.50/kg as opposed to RM1.25/kg that they would normally get should they sell to conventional buyers.

We could afford this higher margin because organically grown rice in Malaysia can fetch up to RM10.00/kg as opposed to RM5.00/kg which is the average retail price for conventionally grown rice.

To ensure our success in capturing market share, we are targeting organic retailers and restaurants in major nearby cities such as Kuala Lumpur, Georgetown and Ipoh.

We are also harnessing the growing reach of social media among Malaysian youth to raise brand awareness, partly because most of them don’t actually know we have locally produced, organically grown rice, and I’m sure a wise person once said: “You can’t love what you don’t know.”

How would we spend the money, then? Here’s a simple breakdown:

Miller: US$2800
Social Security (4 pax): US$1000
Promotional Materials (Social Media/ Outreach Events/ Marketing): US$500
Supervision/ Logistics/ Transportation: US$500
Maintenance/ Contingencies: US$200

Our business model is unique in our approach to introduce inclusivity in our corporate ownership structure. For every 50 tonnes of rice sold to SRI Lestari Centre, a farmer would gain a 1% share in the company. At the moment, we would cap this form of corporate ownership at 30%, equivalent to 1500 tonnes of rice. However, our main purpose is to allow farmers to have decision-making powers regarding the setup of the supply chain.

To measure our success, we want to look at the increase in farmers’ incomes by selling unmilled rice to SRI Lestari Centre due to lowered input costs and higher purchase prices, the return on our sales at SRI Lestari Centre which is estimated to be as high as 30%.

In addition, we plan to run a survey after gaining success in our first cycle in order to see how many farmers would like to participate in the upcoming cycles.

My grandfather would probably be proud of me and Aunty Salwati, knowing that we’re keeping farmers from suffering from the same fate as him. Together we’ll fight for a better future.

 

Blogpost and picture submitted by Liang Chun (Kelantan, Malaysia) – liangchun.lim[at]sciencespo.fr

The content, structure and grammar is at the discretion of the author only.


This post is published as proposal #413 of “YAP” – our “Youth Agripreneur Project”.

The first selection of the winners will be based on the number of comments, likes and views each proposal gets.

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139 thoughts on “YAP Proposal #413: Lessons from my grandfather (Liang Chun, Malaysia)

  1. Engaging & instilling interest in food & Agriculture among youth is vital. More so, providing and facilitating safer and sustainable alternatives in food production is not only the responsibility of government but also the society.
    Apart from meeting consumer demand for safe & nutritious food, safer & healthier working environment for farmers & food producers is the basic form of social protection we can provide.
    I applaud the initiative shown in this post here, invoking passion among youth for safer food & Agriculture. #GCARD3 #APRC33

    1. Thank you , we understand that our society’s must work together not only depends on government. We have to make sure what we are doing are benefit to people.

  2. Congrats, Aisyah and Salwati! You are right up there where we want to see young people supporting our farmers to embrace agroecology, SRI, and have roles throughout the supply chain. And power to women too in leading this noble effort of involving young farmers in sustainable agriculture and using the latest technology in the way of ICT and social media to enhance your social business entrepreneurship. I would certainly do my best to support you and others who would do the same. I am thinking of using your work and your involvement in YAP as a showcase for SRI-Mas ICT for Girls program to be held on 22-24 April 2016 in Mengkarak Pahang. A number of young women and a bus load of Ekorelawan UKM volunteer core will be involved in this program.
    Hope you win this YAP challenge. Many more Malaysians should have joined this contest. Your work is inspiring
    Once again, Kudos to you.

  3. Impressive proposal. I Identify with your situation having grown on a farm with my mother. This farm provided everything we needed for our livelI hood.

    I’m a proud product of the works of my mother

    1. Thanks, everybody must proud in what they are doing because they know they are doing the noble job. I’m also…think positive help us to be always on the right track.

    1. Who want to help empowered our community in Kelantan are most welcome. I need help from all of people who are very concerned about health and environment to help us. Thank you.

  4. I have made a comment earlier but was put under moderation status far too long. So here goe again. Congratulations Aisyah for entering this YAP competition. Sustainable agriculture based on agroecology is the future.

  5. Thanks a lot to all of you..we work hard to make sure our dreams come true..credit to mamasri n salwatiblog.. ^_^ btw thanks again for support us..

  6. This work should become one of the most seminal contributions to the SRI and agroecological work in Malaysia , really important work to do. We have to support this project! Bravo Aisyah

    1. Thanks Mr FEBRI, we love to get support from others, we really need support from NGOs , government agencies and also corporate. We hope we also can run CSR program one day. With all the support will make farming sexy to the youth. Youth are our main target!

  7. congratulations aishah,i also come from kelantan.i really appreciate ur idea and i strongly support ur project.may success will be yours

    1. Hi nfmm! Come together with us, u will enjoy doing this work. You will promote us to your friends and we do the work together. I really appreciated it. Thanks for your support.

  8. Brilliant! This hardwork will surely ease the finding of organic food that is so hard to find nowadays.. And it will be much cheaper as this will create a bigger competition among organic food seller..

    1. Thanks lutfi, actually now we are growing organic farmer, I make farmer field school to teach them to become organic farmer. It hard and difficult work. I’ve took about 6 years to transfrpm about 30 conventional farmerfarmer to be organic farmers.

  9. This indeed an important project. The rice milling iniative has merits. Especially when they’re using SRI and agroecology approach as their channel in running the project.

  10. Good job 👍🏼. I’m totally support this project that will help our local farmers to a better life in future. Hopefully more farmers will use the organic farming, SRI for growing rice to produce and provide the healthier rice for our community.

  11. for the sake of our people having 100%-guaranteed healthy food, totally agree and support this project.
    All the best and good luck!

  12. Good job 👍🏼 . I’m totally support this project that will help our local farmers to a better life in future. Hopefully more farmers will use organic farming, SRI for growing rice to produce and provide the healthier rice for our community.

  13. I’ve never been to Kelantan before, but I feel grateful that I had the chance to work in SRIMAS and had the chance to explore the other spectrum, work with these wonderful people. I have met really cool farmers that able to build himself a bungalow all by himself in the middle of padi sawah, I can call them first hand scientists that experiment and even innovate healthier rice products for us, I am amazed by their passion in fighting for food security for all of us, so please do support them ! One of my seniors once questioned :” you know your family’s doctor, your hair stylist but do you know your Farmer well ?” It’s quite a weird question as first , but when I finally got the chance to visit the farmers, I really interested about their stories and we should really have a platform form them to advocate what they are fighting for!

    1. Ahmiich, so true. We need to know the hands that feed us, ie the farmers. One day, when Sri Lestari Centre is running smoothly with their own equipment, I will take you to Kelantan and give you a personal tour.

  14. The article written by Wan Siti Nur Aishah binti Wan Zuki presents a potentially good solution on how to solve the problem of using toxic chemicals in farming. Having gone thought his grandfather’s death – which was a result of him inhaling toxic substances, and inspired by his Aunty Salwati the author wants to change the world. He attempts to set up an enterprise with aim of establishing a supply chain for organically grown rice called SRI Lestari Centre. SRI Lestari Centre will help local farmers produce healthier, and thus safer, food by familiarizing them with working theories of SRI and IPM as well as by encouraging them to switch to organic farming during on-the-ground mini-workshops that base on the Farmer Field School approach. The author explains that in order for the final product to be available in stores he needs a financial support that amounts US$5000 and for which he is applying. Additionally, he also explains that his business model is unique and adds that, if his plan worked out well, he would be able to pay local farmers more for the unmilled rice.

  15. Very inspiring project and definitely a sustainable one for the farmers and also the country. Hope to read more updates about the project in the future.

  16. Amazing!…We must support SRI for agroecology in sustainable agriculture to have healthy food. SRI is able to maintain a good balance between the populations of pest, beneficial insects and other insect`s community. so no insecticides….healthy ecosystem. Together, they can increase their income through `SRI Lestari Centre`. Good luck.

  17. The demand of organic food is high this day. This project is definitely something when it comes to produce more healthy food supply via SRI. Lets support this initiative!

  18. I do agree that the green revolution is failed. We need a new approach in producing healthy food. Yes SRI can produce healthy food with less input. I support this. Please help Aisyah to win this competition!

  19. The essence of this project is try to promote and produce organic rice via agroecological method namely System of Rice Intensification or SRI. This is really great project. We need more young people to have same effort like Aisyah.

    1. Yes, we try to promote and produce organic rice..tell your friends come together with us, u will enjoy doing this work. You will promote us to your friends and we do the work together.

  20. Dear Aisyah,
    Perhaps this is one the best project I have read amongs other YAP proposals. The responsibility to produce healthy food is not only on goverment hand. This kind of project prove that everyone has responsibility in ensuring food that have been produce are healthy.

  21. Congratulations! It is always inspiring to read of young entrepreneurs having a vision and working towards realising your goal. Wishing you all the best.

    Just a brief suggestion. Perhaps US 500 for promotional materials is insufficient? For something new/revolutionary in a small town/city/ country, where organic is still not the culture of everyday living, I would think you may need bigger space in mainstream newspapers and television. Look at how international/national products that become big….promotion is priority.

  22. Good job, Aisyah! Kudos to your aunt Salwati for starting you off on this journey. I wholeheartedly support your proposal and appreciate the efforts you have undertaken to get more farmers on board this sustainable organic rice farming project. I wish you all the best and look forward to seeing your product on supermarket shelves soon.

  23. Great proposal. Hope more young Malaysians will follow your steps. We need more young farmers to solve our critical food security situation.

  24. It is good to see there are people who still care for the environment while busy doing businesses. I totally support this project for the best of our future and next generation. All the best, guys and keep up the good work.

  25. Well done, Aishah for this awesome undertaking! I totally support your proposal. Kudos to both you and your aunt for your noble efforts in bringing on board farmers in Kelantan on this sustainable organic rice farming project. All the best! I hope you will win the grant.

  26. Kelantan is one of the most important , traditional and unique agriculture state in Malaysia.

    Famous with their women activism, entrepreneur and leadership.

    Now a small group of young women farmes ,lead and teach others how to farm without dangerous chemical and pesticides. Show how to interact with other creatures with love and harmony.

    Let all of us support this project for our better future.

  27. Good job.. fully support this project.. i believe this project will success.. return to organic, saving our mankind by saving our food.. best of luck..

  28. Nice idea.. i believe this project will success.. best of luck all of you.. Save our live, by saving our environment and food security..

  29. Good of limitation job!!! I’m always support anything work which gain better safety food production in our country.

    #GCARD3

  30. Never thougt that this aggro ecological work would big such a big thing till i read this. Thanks for sharing. 🙂

  31. Such an amazing project to run. I felt positive that this project will attract many youngs in the future to involve in agriculuture!

  32. The rice milling iniative proposed by Aisyah is good innovation to help small scale farmers to become more reselient towards food crisis! Good job

  33. I have gone through the GFAR website and found that this one the best proposal right now! Very authentic and unique in term of the goal of the project

  34. The involvement of young generation in addressing food security is clearly something special for me. That’s the reason why I support this project

  35. Nice work! May your effort of raising awareness about the effects of using pesticides as well as the importance of using organic products can be spread by gaining the US$5000 grant. 😃😃

  36. All the best and good luck!! I’m totally support your project with my whole heart. Hopefully this project will help our local farmers to a better life in future. InsyaAllah

  37. A great iniative by a young rice farmer. We have to support her to realize her dream. This effort will have big impact in the future.

  38. I simply can not say no for this proposal. It offers solution for providing organic rice to community. More than that, they use SRI for growing the rice plants. It’s awesome

  39. A great initiative by Kelantanese organic activist. You offers solution for providing healtier, better and chemically-free product. Organic also promotes a good behavior to interact with other creatures. Every single elements have their roles and parts. Lets treat them with love and harmony.

    We are responsible to save our food, earth and our life. Lets support this effort as it is one of the miles step to save the world.

  40. Let there be a change for the better. As change is alway there for the better.
    Let the young with ideas like Wan Siti Nur Aishah, the brave Pn Salwati, the ever present LC in SRI -Mas (a Malaysian NGO) efforts have their chance to change Malaysian paddy farmers to better their life in line with agroecology practices.
    Best regards.

  41. Congratulations Salwati & Aisyah for entering this YAP competition. Sustainable agriculture based on Agroecology should be at the top of our food security agenda the sake of our future generations. I wish you all the best…

  42. Everyone who cares for good health shall never say no to this project. From the article we can see how both Pn Salwati and her niece have put their great effort to run SRI Lestari Centre and sincerely relayed the important message by sharing the family’s personal ‘unfortunate’ experience pertaining to the effects of using dangerous chemical substances in planting ‘padi’.
    I believe, they did it simply to help enhance the people’s health and better life in the future.
    Good luck to Wan Aisyah, insyaaAllah you will succeed and be granted with USD5000.

  43. Happy to note many are supporting Aisyah’s venture. Together, let’s find ways to get more young women like Aisyah to be involved in agriculture.

  44. Good luck and congrats on your new venture into SRI. For so long our farmers have been fed by the conventional system thru subsidised fertilizers and inputs which damaged the natural ecosystem with no significant improvements in yield. The SRI agroecology practices that yield higher yield and income to farmers need to be clearly demontrated to attract more farmers to implement the system for the benefit of farmers n the rice economy.
    Gud luck. Cs.

  45. Agroecology that empowers the small farmers like Aishah & Salwati is the sustainable way for the future and for our food security..let us put our efforts together to make this a reality for all..

  46. Good job my cuzie and auntie Salwati…Let commercialize these organic method of farming..Say no to chemical pesticide..Lets go green…

  47. This is a brilliant idea. I hope many young women think the same like Aishah. I endorsed this proposal.

  48. The iniative to bring more income to the rural community in Kelantan through SRI and organic farming are going to be tremendous breakthrough in Malaysia. Bring it on!

  49. Great work! We need to increase sustainable food production, especially rice. And SRI is a solution for a safer rice production for farmers without toxic chemicals. Also we should demand for food that is produced sustainably, for our health and for the conservation of our environment.
    This we should support this great work by Salwati nand her niece and their effort to set up the SRI Lestari.
    Centre.

  50. What a wonderful endeavour this is. Malaysia needs more young women like you, passionate about agroecology!

  51. Aisyah is the pride of Malaysia in this GCARD competition. The participation of youth is what Malaysia needs badly. LC, Aisyah, Febri and Salwati leading the way forward. We thank you profusely.

  52. Good .. good .. very good!! I support you guys Aishah & Salwati.. Congratulations to you guys and I hope Malaysia have more person like them.. Agriculture most important in our life. Good luck !

  53. System of Rice Intensification is based on low input. It is environmentally friendly and sustainable in the long run. With SRI, a rice field spoiled by long time use chemicals and pesticides can quickly return to its productive ecology. Fishes, beneficial insects and microbes can now occupy their rightful places. What a wonderful thing to happen.

  54. Thanks to all for supporting us in doing something valuable to our planet. Do pray for us . I learned a lot from this competition. Thanks to the organizers. Hope this will awake young people to be more passion in agriculture.

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