As new business model rolls in, Felda settlers urged to change mindset

Felda director-general Othman Omar (right) and his deputy Anuar Malek inspect the site for the Felda Settlers Day celebrations at Felda Selancar 3 in Bandar Muadzam Shah, Rompin, Pahang. (Bernama pic.).

ROMPIN: The new business model for the Federal Land Development Authority (Felda) will take centre stage at the national-level Felda Settlers’ Day celebrations to be held tomorrow at Felda Selancar 3 in Muadzam Shah here.

Themed “Peneroka Mandiri Felda Lestari” (Self-Reliant Settlers, Sustainable Felda), the event is to give settlers a better understanding of Felda’s new direction and the opportunities for higher and more consistent earnings under the new model.

Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad is expected to attend the event, being held for the first time under the Pakatan Harapan administration.

The new business model was among the proposals outlined in the Felda White Paper tabled in Parliament on April 10 to ensure sustainability of the scheme and increase settlers’ income.

About 10,000 settlers are expected to take part in the Felda Settlers’ Day celebrations.

Felda director-general Othman Omar said the main objective of the new economic model is to create additional income streams for the settlers so they no longer have to depend entirely on oil palm.

“Palm oil prices are so unstable these days and that’s why our settlers have to look for new sources of income,” he told reporters after visiting the site for the Felda Settlers Day celebrations in Felda Selancar 3.

He, however, cautioned that the ongoing transformation will not be productive if the settlers do not change their old mindset of expecting handouts from the government

“Giving them handouts is akin to giving them fish instead of the fishing rod,” he said.

He said that instead of handouts, the settlers should be shown the pathways to economic activities that can generate good returns over the long term.

Othman said there were about 17,000 settlers in the low-income bracket who were heavily in debt and totally dependent on their income from oil palm.

“The new business model is focused on helping this group to reduce their reliance on oil palm products, make them more dynamic and rid them of their dependency mentality,” he said.

The new business model will see Felda collaborating with agencies like the Department of Agriculture, Malaysian Agricultural Research and Development Institute (Mardi) and Federal Agricultural Marketing Authority (Fama) to develop a more complete ecosystem to ensure the success of the settlers.

“We will provide various mechanisms through the new model for settlers to manage their smallholdings. They can either lease out their land or increase their income through the modules we’ve developed for them,” he said.

He said the new business model will appeal to the older settlers – almost 70% of them are aged 56 and above – who can lease their land to Felda for up to 20 to 30 years.

“This way, they will not have to borrow from Felda. Instead, Felda will pay rental for their land every month.

“By leasing out their smallholdings, they can focus on other initiatives with Felda’s help. These include rabbit breeding and cultivating Bentong ginger or the ‘misai kucing’ herb, which can be done in the compounds of their homes as it doesn’t require much land,” he said.