ifoam'96 ifoam'96
Book of Abstracts
11th IFOAM Scientific Conference
11-15 August 1996, Copenhagen, Denmark
EcoWeb Denmark

Organic World

Malaysia O11

Singh, Gurmit K.S.1, Noi, Tan Hwee2

1) Centre for Environment, Technology & Development, Malaysia [CETDEM],P.O. Box 382, 46740 Petaling Jaya, 2) Malaysian Organic Farming Network[MOFAN] P.O. Box 382, 46740 Petaling Jaya

Although organic farming of vegetables was systematically started by the CETDEM Organic Farm, Selangor, in 1987, it has been slow to spread to other sites. Currently, there is another Selangor vegetable farm claiming to beorganic, one training site in Sarawak and another 2 longhouse farmers beginning the organic switch, one fruit orchard in Negri Sembilan as well as part of a palm estate used for vegetable cultivation. In Kelantan, a federal agency is introducing some organic practices while an attempt at such farming has been made at a Penang site.
There is no government support for organic farming although the proposed National Environmental Policy mentions it as an option. No certification system exists and consumers have to rely on individual producer claims. MOFAN has existed as an informal network for 5 years and is trying to address this problem. Slowly, a niche market has developed, especially in the Klang Valley, through the CETDEM Organic Farm efforts. Public perception is still weak and even confuses it with with hydroponic products.
The CETDEM Organic Farm faced many problems from day one. In the absence of any technical support, it had to develop its own practices to suit the site and soil. Human resources have remained a major problem. The local villagers have shown little enthusiasm and local volunteers have been very scarce. The few foreign volunteers have been useful but most of the time it has been the Farm Coordinator and a couple of female paid helpers running the show. This has been the major constraint on the cultivated area exceeding 1 acre. Finding buyers has also been a problem - individual customers have been choosy, both in terms of paying high prices and variety of purchases. Even when a willing supermarket was located, there have been problems of packaging and display.
Media coverage has been patchy and there is little consumer protest against agrochemical-based vegetables and produce. Hence, nearby conventional farmers are unwilling to switch as they avoid risking any drop in their current comfortable incomes.
MOFAN and CETDEM believe that the numerous challenges to promote organic farming in Malaysia have to be overcome. The policy prejudices and institutional obstacles, have to be campaigned against, possibly in collaboration with other NGOs working on environmental, consumer and food issues. The National Environmental Policy, when adopted, could provide some leverage. With the help of IFOAM, a practical certification scheme has to be implemented and consumers made aware of it. Technical support will have to be organised, marketting strategies developed, and human resources increased. The CETDEM Organic Farming Coordinator will soon concentrate her efforts in promoting and providing training in organic farming to farmers, schools, urban communities, and individuals - sharing her experiences and skills.
The ultimate objective will be to increase the number of Malaysian organic farmers and have more organic produce, thus making it affordable, in our market. This would be our contribution towards sustainable development.