Sg Lalit agricultural area in need of young farmers

National 2 minutes, 18 seconds

BELAIT

RETIRING farmers at the Suburban Agricultural Development Farm (KPLB) of Sg Lalit in Sg Liang are struggling to find replacements, with the popularity of farming beginning to wane amongst the community’s younger generation.

Hj Mohd Tahir Mohd Yussof, the head farmer of KPLB Sg Lalit, said the KPLB has less than 40 active farmers, down from a peak of 226 in the 1990s when residents began farming in the area.

Land allocated to farmers who have since retired or moved out has yet to be rolled out to new farmers said Hj Mohd Tahir, who claimed the land had yet to be transferred back to the Department of Agriculture and Agrifood (DAA).

“Most of the farmers who began planting in the (1990s) were already more senior, some of whom were retired,” he said.

He added: “Now that it's been 20 years, many have moved out and their children have yet to take up the mantle.”

KPLB Sg Lalit is categorised into two areas, spanning 148 hectares in total. Belait’s only other KPLB is in Pak Natu, located nearby in Mukim Liang.

During a visit this week, the KPLB Sg Lalit farm was mostly unattended, with wild grass growing extensively around many huts that were previously used to store harvest.

The exception was the Sg Lalit Communal Cooperative Farm which was planting corn, bitter-gourd, chilli and eggplant in addition to having older fruit trees.

Hj Mohd Tahir, who is also heading the flagging cooperative, said the only way to revitalise the area was for DAA to take back plots not farmed and offer them out to the community.

“There are definitely some out there who would be interested in developing the unused land for farming, even if farming isn't as popular as it used to be (in the surrounding community),” he said.

“Right now things are slowly dwindling. And we have yet to receive indication from DAA of any new developments (to the KPLB).”

He added that most farmers have opted for fruit trees instead as they require less frequent attention, in comparison to growing vegetables or even padi, which requires an almost continuous supply of water.

The previous minister of Industry and Primary Resources said that they were planning to withdraw any KPLB site that is not active across a specific period as these areas “are considered valuable and needed for agriculture”.

However there has been no publicly disclosed update since.

As a more community based initiative, KPLB differs from the Agricultural Development Area (KKP), which has been officially gazetted by the government for commercial farming purposes.

According to Hj Mohd Tahir, Sg Lalit's KPLB farmers do not pay rent.

Latest statistics available from DAA listed KPLB Sg Lalit A and B to a have 181 registered farmers in 2014, 82 who are active.

The Brunei Times