ALOR GAJAH: Affected by the enforcement of the Movement Control Order in March which caused many business sectors to be closed for almost three months to curb the spread of Covid-19, five kindergarten operators who felt the impact decided to venture into farming.
The decision was made after assessing the risks they would face if the kindergartens, which had been operating for so long, had to be shut down due to economic uncertainties. Also they had to find an alternative source of income.
In fact, the group of five entrepreneurs also provided an opportunity for ex-prisoners to join them in carrying out agricultural activities at a former rubber plantation site in Brisu, near here.
The shareholder of Mokpek Agro Sdn Bhd, Chahaya Abdul Manan, 59, said she and four friends agreed to set up an ecotourism concept farm in Brisu and combine, namely agriculture, livestock breeding and fisheries.
“When the kindergartens closed in March due to the spread of Covid-19, we all wondered what would happen if it continued, and looking at global developments we came to the conclusion that agricultural activities could survive in a challenging economy.
“So in June, we decided to take up farming by purchasing a 2.02-hectare rubber plantation in Brisu worth RM290,000. The shareholders are from Melaka, Selangor and Johor,’ she told Bernama here, recently.
Chahaya, who is also the chairman of the Malaysian Reading Promotion Organisation, said among the activities carried out were the planting of ajwa dates, vanilla, black turmeric, bentong ginger as well as the breeding of kelah (golden mahseer), tilapia and catfish, the rearing of deers, pigmy goats, ponies and production of honey from stingless bees (kelulut).
“The proceeds from these agricultural and livestock activities will be sold as some products such as vanilla, black turmeric, bentong ginger and kelulut honey are in high demand. This farm also has the potential to be a training centre for children and villagers who want to learn about agriculture in addition to being suitable as an eco-tourism area,” she said.
She said they applied for loans from SME Bank and used their personal savings to realise their dream to open the farm.
“So far, the farm has successfully completed the ‘Kelulut Walk’ which has 66 kelulut nests even though it has only been operating for five months while agricultural and livestock activities are being carried out from time to time. We expect to be able to harvest in the next few months,” she added.
Chahaya said the farm also offered opportunities to reformed former prisoners who wanted to turn a new leaf by allowing them to become shareholders.
She said so far two former prisoners, aged 27 and 49, have been accepted as shareholders in the company.
She said the five of them agreed to give the prisoners a second chance to turn their lives around and be better human beings regardless of their past.
“They will be given shares and need to work together with us on the farm because they are not paid, but the profits from the agricultural products will be divided equally,” she said.
Finance Minister Tengku Datuk Seri Zafrul Tengku Abdul Aziz, when tabling the 2021 Budget in the Dewan Rakyat on Nov 6, was reported to have said that the government would give additional tax deductions to employers who provide employment opportunities to ex-prisoners and former drug addicts as well as integrate these groups into society. — Bernama