ALOR STAR: MEET Zahari Zakaria. The 21-year-old from Tanjung Karang, Selangor, has just completed a special training programme aimed at making him a better padi farmer.
Conducted by Muda Agricultural Development Authority (Mada), the two-year programme was specifically designed to churn out "modern" padi farmers.
"My father is a padi farmer, but I want to be a better padi farmer," said Zahari, after receiving a certificate of completion from Mada deputy general manager Datuk Roslee Baharom, here, recently.
"Under the programme, I was taught ways to optimise the padi fields and all the resources available. I am confident the knowledge and skills I have gained will help improve my father's padi yield."
Zahari was among 23 youths who were chosen by Mada to undergo its rice training programme, the first such programme by the authority.
The students underwent rigorous training on good agricultural practices and methods that would boost padi yield.
Another graduate of the programme, Ashraf Fudhail Abu Bakar, 23, said he discontinued his studies at a polytechnic to take up the challenge of becoming a better padi farmer.
Hailing from Utan Aji in Perlis, he said he wanted to help improve his parents' and family's livelihood in padi farming.
"I was studying city and town planning, but when I learnt about this training programme, I convinced my parents that I could do more in the agricultural activity that they had inherited.
"We discussed with several Mada officers before my parents allowed me to join, and I am very glad I switched my studies to concentrate on rice farming," he said.
Ashraf Fudhail said besides planting and growing padi, they were also taught marketing and promotional skills.
"It is a well-rounded training programme and we learnt a lot in the classroom and outdoors. I will share the knowledge with my parents and I will also include the modern marketing skills that I have acquired," he said.
Meanwhile, Roslee said the training programme was also an effort by Mada to exploit the full potential of youths in padi farming.
He said considering the average age of padi farmers was about 60 years, Mada was seriously putting in place a plan to replace the farmers with not only younger, but more productive and highly-skilled workforce.
"We have started with only 23 youths, but we should be able to offer more opportunities to a larger group once we move to the Kolej Pertanian Malaysia complex in Jalan Langgar," he said.