MAY 26 — Food safety has grow to be a degree of debate amongst Malaysians as they begin to really feel the ache of spending more cash buying the identical quantity of meals gadgets. However, as there is no such thing as a correct land and spatial planning from the earlier and present administrations for meals manufacturing, this resulted within the give attention to business (together with residential) and industrial makes use of.
Compared to 1980, arable land in Malaysia diminished from 3.1 per cent (1,027,140 hectares) to 2.5 per cent (826,000 hectares) in 2018. The lowering measurement of arable land is also attributed to soil erosion/degradation and deforestation attributable to local weather change.
The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) defines arable land because the land presently used or probably able to getting used to develop seasonal crops.
EMIR Research has highlighted how little the state governments have accomplished to allocate land for meals manufacturing in “Malaysia entering a serious food security ‘conundrum’”, The Malaysian Reserve (May 21, 2022).
Although Malaysia has launched quite a few initiatives such because the Urban Community Farming Policy (UCFP) and National Agrofood Policy (2021-2030) to encourage native meals manufacturing over these two years, a number of boundaries have prevented smallholder farmers from involving in group farming.
While there is no such thing as a official definition of group farming, the time period may embody the follow of farmers trying into the basics by including natural contents to the sand. The sand will flip into dwelling soil for agricultural manufacturing.
A yogi, mystic and visionary often known as Sadhguru who has led the Save Soil motion for twenty-four years mentioned that the minimal natural content material needs to be between 3 per cent to six per cent for the traditional agricultural soil.
But, as it’s, many smallholder farmers nonetheless face constraints on the land difficulty. They are solely eligible to acquire a Temporary Occupation License (TOL) – a type of land license that needs to be renewed yearly. If the federal government or builders wish to reclaim the land within the following yr, the farmers don’t have any selection however to return the land.
As such, many farmers are usually not motivated to take a position more cash and different assets (i.e., expertise and manpower) into their farms. At the identical time, in addition they couldn’t buy further land (if it belongs to the federal or state authorities) to increase their farming websites inherited from their households.
A employee is pictured at a vegetable farm in Cameron Highlands June 13, 2021. — Picture by Ahmad Zamzahuri
In addition, the Department of Agriculture (DoA) and different associated authorities businesses don’t present adequate coaching alternatives to farmers who want to enhance their skillsets and grasp technological functions that will increase their crop productiveness. As a end result, some farmers discover it difficult to provide high-quality meals crops resulting from restricted technical data in finishing up agricultural actions.
Aside from the Malaysian Good Agricultural Practices (MyGAP) certification requirement, farmers who wish to follow natural farming have to use the Malaysian Organic Certification Scheme (MyOrganic), making certain the agricultural merchandise are free from chemical substances and pesticides apart from being suitable for eating.
Such a measure not directly locations further hassles to native farmers who aspire to provide extra meals crops for the advantage of the nation. The Malaysian Agricultural Research and Development Institute (MARDI) indicated via its journal article publication titled, “Organic Agriculture in Malaysia” in 2016 that farmers need to follow natural farming for 2 years earlier than the farm will be awarded with the MyOrganic certificates.
In the primary two years, farmers can not apply “organic” labels for his or her finish merchandise. They need to promote at normal market worth, just like the merchandise that undertake the traditional farming strategies.
In distinction to natural farming, standard farming manages useful resource inputs (ie, fertilisers, soil amendments, irrigation water, pesticides) uniformly, ignoring the naturally inherent spatial heterogeneity of soil and crop situations between and inside fields.
Moreover, the validity of the MyOrganic certificates solely lasts for one yr. The renewal of the certification needs to be accomplished inside six months earlier than the expiry date, based on the official portal of the DoA.
Furthermore, the federal government doesn’t present satisfactory monetary assist starting from soil conservation to manufacturing price, labour price, packing and storage services. The ongoing Russia-Ukraine battle which has contributed to the rising price of feeding elements and the brand new minimal wage increment of RM300 monthly per worker would finally lead farmers having to cost retailers/customers increased promoting worth to interrupt even.
The elevated frequency of utmost climate occasions additionally would discourage farmers from increasing their present farming operations. The uncommon rainfall in December final yr (greater than 2500 mm of rain, equal to the annual rain fall of 2020) has finally resulted in extreme flooding in eight Malaysian states. Around 5,000 livestock breeders and farmers had been affected, inflicting almost RM67.72 million in losses to the agro-food sector.
Hence, to advertise curiosity in group farming amongst Malaysians, the present administration must resolve the overdue land points, an absence of upskilling alternatives and monetary incentives, except for the complication of making use of MyOrganic certificates amongst farmers.
Once the welfare of farmers is taken care of, the federal government can then look into methods to encourage the residents to be concerned in group farming via schooling programmes and consciousness campaigns.
Following are a number of the coverage suggestions from EMIR Research for the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Industries (MAFI), because the lead ministry, to look into:
1. Modify Taiwan’s “Land-to-the-Tiller” programme to restrict land possession in Malaysia. At the very least, the farmlands won’t be purely dominated by a small variety of rich people or corporations. When the federal government may purchase again the excess land by compensating huge landowners who owned giant parcels of land, smallholder farmers would have a better likelihood acquiring the government-owned land.
To guarantee affordability, the federal government additionally may decide the lease ceiling for the allotted land. Thus, landless farmers and smallholder farmers may lease secured land at a lower cost for farming functions.
In addition, the federal government may promote everlasting land rental contracts for smallholder farmers. When land safety amongst farmers is assured, they might begin adopting superior expertise functions and sustainable farming strategies which typically require a big sum of cash within the early implementation part.
2. Organise seminars and gala’s for farmers to grasp and apply the ideas, advantages, related dangers and strategies of adopting group farming.
The DOA and state agricultural businesses may implement group farming as pilot programmes to facilitate data sharing and human assets improvement.
They may provoke a collection of seminars a minimum of twice a month amongst farmers.
Some subjects together with on the way to self-produce fertilisers free from chemical substances and pesticides and the way to flip obtainable gadgets (i.e., recycle plantation pots, kitchen waste composts, and many others.) from the encompassing atmosphere into agricultural instruments, for example, may very well be the potential themes of debate.
MAFI may host the nationwide agricultural gala’s and seminars a minimum of annually, giving farmers the chance to attach with related stakeholders from the non-public sector, authorities and schooling establishments and many others.
3. Identify extra hotspots that aren’t susceptible to disasters in each Malaysian state (together with the Federal Territories – Kuala Lumpur, Labuan and Putrajaya) to determine extra Permanent Food Production Parks (TKPM) in each the city and rural areas.
Nonetheless, the federal government have to have a correct meals manufacturing ecosystem in place – processing, warehouse storage, post-harvest dealing with, distribution and advertising – to make sure the freshness of agricultural merchandise.
4. Introduce a three-month agricultural expertise incubation programme for entry-level or smallholder farmers to be taught expertise functions associated to agro-food commodities, biodiversity, biotechnology and meals processing.
MARDI could lead on the initiative whereby the farmers have the chance to brainstorm for advertising and monetary methods – to advertise and popularise group farming.
Tax incentives and grants (eg, matching ringgit for ringgit) can present farmers the chance to enhance soil well being and situation via trendy applied sciences functions just like the Internet of Things (IoT), Big Data and synthetic intelligence (AI), except for pest administration and water administration.
After the graduation of the incubation programme, MARDI may help farmers in establishing strategic collaborations with related authorities businesses, the non-public sector and NGOs to market their agricultural merchandise. In the long run, this initiative would improve the meals provide within the nation and not directly contribute to the long-term worth stability of meals gadgets.
To conclude, group farming could be the perfect manner of selling local weather resilient soil regeneration and sustainable livelihoods amongst Malaysians. With vegetable gardens and fruit bushes inside a 5km radius of an city or rural atmosphere, individuals may chill out their minds by strolling or jogging across the group farm. Smallholder farmers additionally would have the power to earn increased revenue as soon as they achieve the required data and expertise to plant nutritious meals crops.
In due course, the present administration has to reveal a powerful political will in stimulating group farming tradition in Malaysia. It would allow Malaysia to step by step scale back their reliance on different international locations for meals imports, enhancing the standard of lifetime of the individuals.
* Amanda Yeo is Research Analyst at EMIR Research, an impartial suppose tank centered on strategic coverage suggestions based mostly on rigorous analysis.
**This is the non-public opinion of the author and doesn’t essentially signify the views of Malay Mail.