The recent visit of His Majesty, the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam, to Bangkok marks a new era for Agriculture farming in the Sultanate. According to one reporter, agriculture development was a top agenda item during the royal visit.Farming is one of the pillars of Islamic civilisation. Civilisation began with farming and no human communities can ignore its importance. Regrettably many urban societies have forgotten the role of agriculture farming. They need to understand that the land must not be empty as it is a gift from Allah (SWT) to mankind to be effectively utilised in order to produce food and generate income.
The status of the Muslim world in terms of food security is a matter of serious concern for many practitioners, academicians and policy makers because most of these countries can't feed their citizens and rely on agriculture imports that will face many challenges in the future. Any initiative towards the development of rural economy will definitely generate employment opportunities for a country and Brunei is no exception.
A research study initiated by myself (as professional in rural farming with 33 years of Islamic banking and academic experiences) with the help of five students of Islamic Finance, Faculty of Business, Economics and Policy Studies of Universiti Brunei Darussalam, has highlighted various challenges faced by the Sultanate in the field of agriculture. These are:
(1) All the farms visited were run by senior citizens and pensioners. This trend needs to change if the government wants to make farming as rural entrepreneurship.
(2) Shortage of land that is suitable for cultivation and a lack of electricity, clean water and a proper drainage system.
(3) Poor irrigation system in some areas that makes the life of farmers hard and poor roads connecting farms with the market.
What needs to be done?
Government of Brunei needs to create conducive environment for youths and graduate students so that they can go back to villages and get involve in agriculture farming.
The government has to give priority to soil and water. Soil maps need to be checked to see what really lies below the grass cover because soil health is vital to show a property has top grade soil suitable for agriculture farming. Similarly water supply is very important.
The government will have to build eco-friendly homes which are comfortable for youths to live in rural areas. These homes are constructed from sustainable energy resources such as wind and solar energy. If the government is keen to target the youth or graduate students then it is important to hire a consultant to undertake a comprehensive need analysis.
The research has shown that interest free loan with Salam & Musharakah financing can have far reaching implication in rural farming in Brunei.
Firstly, department of Agriculture can provide interest free loan for those students who have good ideas to develop farming in Tutong area such as growing rice, red tomato in green house or varieties of vegetable based on dripping irrigation. These quality business proposals would be assessed by university senior lecturers to establish whether it is viable financially and economically. After the green signal from the experts, the Department of Agriculture (DOA) can provide interest free loan to the students.
These students should also be trained properly. Once the students complete the applied course in rice plantation, they can start growing the rice. Once the crop is read for harvesting and marketing, a new group of students should take over the role of marketing. They need to receive cash money to assist them to promote the rice at local and regional markets. I believe these practices will build confidence in students.We are of the option that these practical processes will see new breed of youth entrepreneurships come to the country who are risk takers and are willing to go down to develop food processing industry in the country, something that the government of Brunei is looking for.
Brunei should not rely on one country (like Thailand) to seek advice from regarding agriculture farming, fisheries, livestock and land development but rather the country needs to go far beyond that. According to the author of this article who spent six years of experience in the Sultanate, Bruneian youths want to make farming as lifestyle and are keen to cultivate their own land since the government creates the conducive environment and provide them financial incentives so they can excel and be successful entrepreneurs through Islamic microfinance enterprising. But first they need to be equipped with modern applied skills of agriculture farming that New Zealand can offer. New Zealand is known internationally for advancement in rural farming and fisheries, livestock and halal meat as well as its friendly and welcoming nation, something that what Bruneian youths and fresh graduates from ITB and UBD will definitely appreciate.
Dr Saad Al-Harran
International Business Consultant, Islamic Microfinance Enterprise and Youth Unemployment Reduction email: email@example.com
Tuesday, July 10, 2012
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