Bored by city lights, ex-teller banks on rugged farm life

Abdul Rahim Md Sharif wants to cultivate more land to increase his income.

TANJONG KARANG: Lured by the bright city lights of Kuala Lumpur, Abdul Rahim Md Sharif took up a job as a bank teller – only to find it boring compared to the sleepy padi fields of Kuala Selangor.

He had made the 60km journey to the capital in expectation of a better life, but he soon found himself missing his old life in the country.

A 9-to-5 job just didn’t suit him. “I can honestly say that working in a bank is boring. There’s a lot of pressure and I’m the type who can’t sit still,” he tells FMT.

He called it quits and returned to Tanjong Karang to work in the padi fields, and has not looked back.

“Ever since I was little, I loved being in the fields. This is where my heart is,” he says.

Now 29, he makes a living cultivating a 14-acre padi field as a tenant farmer, supplementing his income by maintaining the fields of others by fertilising and spraying pesticides.

Abdul Rahim Md Sharif has no regrets leaving the big city.

“I can earn as much as RM400 a day (fertilising and spraying pesticides),” he says.

He earns RM60 for every three acres he either fertilises or sprays with pesticides. Each task takes him two hours to complete.

The padi he cultivates returns a clean profit of around RM1,000 per acre, earning him between RM14,000 and RM15,000 for each harvest, with a side income from maintaining the fields of others.

“When I was working in the bank, my gross salary was RM2,000 a month,” he says. “That’s only RM24,000 a year. If I work in the fields, my nett income per year can reach RM30,000.”

Rahim says he does not miss the comforts of an air-conditioned office but finds solace in the rugged life outdoors.

Between 7am and 9am, he sprays pesticides, then takes a break before applying fertiliser from 2pm to 4pm. If he is up for it, Rahim continues working the fields after Asar prayers, around 4.30pm.

“I’d like to plant more padi and if there are people who want to rent out their land to me, I’m ready. I hope to cultivate more fields so I have the chance to increase my income.”

He says he understands why youngsters want to leave their village to work in the city, as life in the fields is hard work.

“They can’t take the heavy lifting. Fertilising and spraying pesticides is tough work, and it’s dirty,” he says while adjusting the stained cloth protecting his head from the searing heat.

Abdul Rahim Md Sharif in his ‘uniform’ in the fields.

“They want a job where you can dress stylishly,” he adds.

With only a handful of other young people in the business, Rahim says his chances of cultivating more land are good due to the lack of competition.

“Farmers are getting older, and when they can no longer work the fields, they will look for others to cultivate their land. There’s my opportunity.”

In his drive for higher earnings, he has also turned to his hobby of fishing for giant freshwater prawns, which can fetch more than RM80 per kg.

Although others of his age may laugh at his career choice, Rahim says he is grateful as life in the village offers opportunities to those who seize them.

Plus, he says, the cost of living in the village is much lower than in the city.

“There is so much work in the village that even Bangladesh nationals are cultivating the land.

“If anyone says there is no work in the village and they are looking for work, I can help them. I’m ready to help them gain experience.”