Rurality began working with Bell Mill in June 2016.
The mill does not own any estate land and relies fully on smallholders for its supply of Fresh Fruit Bunches (FFB). In March 2017, Rurality completed the Rural Dynamic Diagnostic, which identified significant gaps in farmer knowledge in regards to better farming practices and over-reliance on palm oil as a cash crop. This also found a disconnect between the mill and farmers. Bridging this gap and enabling a new, capacity-building channel of communication between producer and buyer is now the focus of Rurality's transformation phase.
Forging connections between farmers and the mill
Rurality has initiated farmers’ gatherings at FFB collection centres, helping to strengthen the bond between smallholders and the mill. These meetings allow a crucial flow of information, for example on the mill’s policy on grading quality or its payment system, that before was lacking.
Collaborating with local stakeholders
Rurality is working with stakeholders who are helping smallholders improve their production standard and facilitate diversification of income through a range of approaches (including the provision of seedlings, fertiliser, tools and more) throughout the region.
Introducing effective tools for farm best management practices
Rurality initiated intervention to improve farmers’ crop production by engaging farmers with agro-input dealers and introducing mechanised and effective tools for Best Management Practices of farm plot.
Most farmers the area depend wholly on palm oil for their income. By helping farmers identify alternative sources of income, Rurality is strengthening their resilience.
Improving farming practices
Farm maintenance and harvesting practices are gradually improved through field visits with the farmers. Working with farmers in this way allows Rurality to understand where farmers need assistance, coaching or access to tools.
Empowering farmers through trainings and government extension programmes
Rurality sees the opportunity to empower farmers through diversification of income activities by connecting them with trainings and extension programmes of government or other organisation such as the Pertubuhan Peladang Kawasan Lahad Datu (Area Farmers’ Organization of Lahad Datu) that has the potential to improve their productivity and livelihood.
Identifying market opportunities
A crucial step in broadening farmers’ income is identifying markets for their goods. Rurality is carrying out market studies for livestock farming and short-term crops. This project has also sought to create direct linkages between down-stream brand-owning funders of Rurality’s work and the the up-stream processors and producers. It is hoped that this will further boost the market incentive of processors to engage smallholders and communicate success.
"We depend on palm oil as our main income generation activity and we never thought about any other potential activity to venture into. When we participated in the goat rearing training coordinated by Rurality, we learned the basics of how to initiate it and gained knowledge of the potential market opportunities as well. The good thing is, someone has already started and he has already generated income from it. It would be good if we can also start but the problem is we do not have enough capital, resources and of course we still need technical assistance. I am motivated to start but of course there are challenges and I hope Rurality can still assist us in the journey."
Jakaria bin Sansi, Village leader
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