Agriculture can be defined as the science of production of goods through the growing of plants, animals and other life forms. Agriculture is the earliest commercial activity in the history of mankind, and started long before the word ‘job’ was first coined.
The word agriculture translates as pertanian in Malay, which is explained by DPB’s Kamus Dewan as:
1. perihal bertani (tanam-menanam); 2. perusahaan bercucuk tanam: tanahnya boleh digunakan utk ~.
Perhaps, the time has come for the definition of pertanian to be reviewed, as the commercially accepted definition of agriculture also include farming (penternakan).
The contribution of agriculture to the country cannot be denied, and the sector is credited with its role in becoming one of the pillars of the national economy. For it to continue as a pillar, it is imperative to address some of the issues facing this industry today.
Here are some of the issues:
Shallow thinkers would think, “Why environment, since trees and plantation consume carbon dioxide and release oxygen for life?” First, you must understand that in order for a plantation operation to start, forests which are rich in natural plants and trees are to be sacrificed. Big trees are chopped, and sometimes the whole forest is burned down.
You probably notice some furniture companies advertising their so-called commitment to environmental cause. They wrote in the brochures, “We cut one tree, we plant x number trees”. If you really think about it, it does not make much sense if saving the environment is what we are fighting for. How planting some x number of trees can immediately substitute a 10-year, 20-year, or perhaps 100-year old tree? It will take at least 10 years (and so on) for them to give back something they have taken today. Something is wrong in the calculation.
2. Scarcity of lands
Lands are scarce thanks to the rapid infrastructure, building and housing developments. In Penang these days, you can hardly buy landed properties, let alone acres of land to start a small agriculture business. Additionally, scandalous involvement by a number of minority groups have been discovered recently in a few parts of the country, where big chunks of lands are distributed through illegal and highly questionable deals. This makes the situation worse that it already is.
Agricultural projects, especially massive plantation investment require hundreds of hectares of lands. The problem is, with the increasing number of population, the need for new housing development and infrastructure rises. So one needs to be forgotten to make way for another.
4. Not a glamorous field
For a blue collar corporate wannabe, a real executive life style means wearing tie, matching t-shirt and a suit, drive a Camry, have meetings in Hilton, and appear in TV3’s The Exchange show. They forget that successful people like Virgin tycoon Richard Branson wears jeans, Air Asia founder Tony Fernandes wears caps, internet millionaire Irfan Khairi drives a Kancil and Google co-founder Sergei Brin sports round-neck t-shirt in their daily working lives. The days have gone where the appearance of people represent their wealth status.
You probably need to learn from Mohd Rizal, who quit his job as an engineer to start a successful goat farming business. His story was published in The Star earlier this year.
He quit his job as an engineer 10 years ago to venture into goat farming.
Mohd Rizal Mansor has no regrets making that daring decision. Today, he is a successful livestock breeder in Padang Serai, Kedah.
“Business is in my blood,” said Mohd Rizal, 38, who is the managing director of Maflink Engineering Sdn Bhd. Recently, he took delivery of 252 high quality doper sheep from Eti-wanda Sheep Farm in Cobar, New South Wales, Australia.
“The herd was transported by MAS Cargo from Sydney Airport and the shipment cost me about RM300,000. Mohd Rizal said with the new doper flock, his goat population was now more than 700 heads.
Apart from the doper species, Mohd Rizal also breeds the sought-after boer goat and the less well-known ferrel goat.
He also has the muscular and fiery-looked jamnapari goats in his pen located on a 1ha plot beside a paddy field.
Mohd Rizal said mutton, especially that of the Boer species, was sought after by Indian Muslim restaurants on Penang island.
As livestock farming is classified as an agriculture business, then we have another headache – diseases. We have seen in our very own eyes how catastrophic diseases can bring, and how swift they can come. Just think of JE, Nipah, Avian Flu, Mad Cow and others. Even harvested plantations such as paddy are prone to diseases. Once such thing happens, small time farmers can fold up, bungkus and would never rise again, while big corporations suffer big loss. These diseases, in turn affect the public health and raise concern in parliament.
Images: MRDS, The Star