Frithjof Kuhnen.

This paper is a case study of a Malaysian Ares Farmers' Association and informs on its organization, activities and performance. This FA, however, is by no means representative for Area FAs in Malaysia. There is no "typical" Area FA. Factors like cropping pattern, performance of General Manager, time of existence, etc. differ so much in the various FAs that there are hardly two alike. When one reads a paper on an Area FA, after each paragraph, the question immediately comes up: "Is that a specialty, or is that com mon to all FAs?" In order to give some hints to the reader, the writer has inserted comments on the situation outside the FA under study here. This might enable the reader to get detailed information on one case study and, at the same time, an idea of the general situation.

The Farmers' Association was founded by farmers in 1958 as an economic organization to perform multipurpose functions such as agricultural extension, credit, supplying and marketing services, for their benefit and this, with the direct participation and cooperative efforts of farmers to achieve the following objectives:

  • to promote the farmers economic and social interest, economic and social interest,
  • to advance their intellectual and technical status,
  • to increase their production and income,
  • to improve their living standard,
  • to develop the rural economy and social well being of the farming community as a whole through the direct participation of the farmers.

The organic area of the FA is of about 3,400 acres, i. e. the area is big enough to form an economically viable institution, allow the employment of a professional staff and be above the intravillage rivalries.

Most Area FAs are larger; the size of the organic area varies with the type of cultivation and the degree to which plantation areas are spread in the peasants' areas. Some cover areas of 35,000 acres and the distance from head quarters to the end of the organic area is sometimes more than 15 miles. The desire of politicians to provide FA services to as many peasants as possible has led to a change in policy. While, in former times, an Area FA was founded only when enough staff was available and some mukims had to wait, today, a FA sometimes has to extend its services to a whole district, i. e. three or four mukims, so that all peasants are covered. This, naturally, at the cost of quality and intensity of services.

As a substructure, the FA is divided into 9 small Agricultural Units which form the basic units of the association and consist of the individual members of a kampong (village) or a similar social entity.

While the usual number of units is 10-12, some FAs have as many as 35 Small Agricultural Units. This is partly to be explained by the desire to have one unit for each traditional social entity under a chief in order to avoid conflicts. The former chief did not necessarily become the unit chief.

Within the organic area, there are approximately 1000 farm households, and, in 1972, the FA had about 700 members. Eligible for membership are owner farmers, tenants and agricultural labourers, and as the- one household- one member principle is observed about 70% of the potential membership hast been reached so far, Non-members are often part-time middlemen or persons who do not want to join the FA because of antagonism to elected officers.

The number of farm households varies with the size of a FA and the type of agriculture and some times there are as many as 12,000. Naturally, the percentage of members is the highest in FAs which have been operating for several years already, while newly established FAs have less members. Today, there are only a few cases where the number of members exceed 1,200. Generally, the staff is not keen an increasing membership because they feel unable to cope with the workload which a large membership would involve (membership procedure, book keeping, etc.). In order to avoid discrimination, some FAs offer most services to non members as well. The percentage of membership is much higher for Malayan peasants than for Chinese and Indian peasants.

The member's farms are small, usually between 3 and 5 acres, and hardly exceed 10 acres in size. The area is used for mixed tree crops and the members cultivate - in declining order of magnitude - coffee, oil, palm, pineapple, rubber, coconut, passion fruit and others.

Although most of the farms in Malaysia are small in rice areas between 2 and 5 acres, in tree crop areas between 3 and 15 acres there is a wide variation of cropping patterns. The larger part of the cultivated area is planted with different tree crops, sometimes mixed, sometimes with one or two types only. In certain areas, especially in the North and in the East, rice plays an important role. As will be discussed latter, the cropping pattern greatly influences the activity and performance of FAs.

The organization of the FA differentiates strictly between policy formulation and control an the one side and operation an the other. The first is vested in the Member's Representative Assembly and the Board of Directors, while the latter is entrusted to a trained, paid staff, i e. the General Manager and the Section Chiefs who are assisted by the Unit Chiefs.

The Member's Representative Assembly is the highest authority of the Association. Its members are elected at the member's plenary meeting of the Small Agricultural Units which takes place during the last quarter of the fiscal year. The duties and powers of the Assembly include election of the directors of the FA, screening membership applications, annual reports on services, income, auditing, etc., screening annual service plans and budgets and electing representatives of the FAs at the higher level. To fulfill these functions, the Assembly meets at least once a year.

The Board of Directors consists of nine members who are elected by the Members' Representative Assembly. It takes charge of making policies and supervising the implementation of the policies pertaining to the organizational and operational affairs of the Association. From among its members, it elects a chairman who is the legal representative of the FA and presides over the meetings of the Board as well as over those of the members' Representative Assembly.

The Board of Directors is supposed to meet once a month, but, actually, the meetings are not regular. For instance, during the first nine months of 1972, only six meetings had taken place. This is not due to disinterest on the part of directors; they are keen on meetings if for no other reason because of the 5$ allowance per meeting, and attendance is usually 100%. The main reason is the workload of the staff which is often too busy to prepare a board meeting.

The Board includes the Imam and the natural leader of the mukim and its members are considered to be richer than average. Their landed property, however, is in the range of 5 6 acres and nobody owns more than 10 acres.

The General Manager of the FA is a college graduate seconded by the government with the concurrence of the Board of Directors. He is responsible to the Board of Directors for the operation and management of all business and service activities in accordance with the policy making bodies. He prepares monthly and annual service plans, budgets for the approval of the decision-making bodies and is responsible lot the execution of their resolutions.

To perform its activities, the FA has several operational sections headed by a junior Agricultural Assistant (JAA). It falls to the economic section to purchase and supply production materials and provisions, to deal with marketing, warehousing, transportation and the processing of products.

The agricultural extension section is in charge of programme related to agricultural production, technical advice and training. It includes a branch for home economics headed by a female IAA.

The credit section is in charge of activities connected with savings (deposits), credits (loans) and is entrusted with rural financing and banking services.

The usual tasks of the administrative and accounting sections are performed by the personnel of other sections because the shortage of JAA has not allowed the employment of specialists so far.

The majority of Area FAs have one for every section but the situation varies from state to state.

The Junior Agricultural Assistants are graduates of Schools of Agriculture where they are trained for two and a half years, are employed by the Department of Agriculture but are seconded to the FA.
To increase the working capacity, three field assistants as well as two drivers and three labourers have been employed. Of these, one driver and one labourer are paid by the FA.

For each Small Agricultural Unit, a Unit Chief and a Deputy Chief are elected from among its members to assist the FA in carrying out its programmes. There is no institutionalized assembly of Unit Chiefs but they are invited to attend the meeting of the Board of Directors as observers. The FA pays their bus fare and they attend regularly. On project basis, Small Working Groups are established ad hoc to implement, under the guidance of the Unit Chief, such projects as have been decided upon by the Board of Directors.

In the federated system of Farmers' Associations, after the establishment of Area FAs, similar institutions have been formed at state and federal level with representatives of the Area FA in the policy making bodies. The State FA has been existing for a short time only (four states still have no State FA) and, therefore, the relation between the Area FA and the State FA is loose. By law, the FA has a share of 500$ in the Stale FA. The main activity of the State FA is supervision, but this is limited mainly to auditing the records while, as regards policy, the Area FA is independent as long as no additional finances are required. The State FA starts lo act as wholesaler in supply and marketing, but these activities are limited yet. If the State FA accepts tenders to supply seedlings to the Department of Agriculture or to other interested parties, the Area FA raises the plants to fulfill the obligation.

Although the FAs are non-governmental institutions, the government assisted substantially their establishment by furnishing generously a building with offices, store rooms, a meeting room and a shed for machinery, It supplied a lorry and a tractor while the FA bought a second lorry at its own expense. Until now, the staff is an the government payroll.

At the local level, the FA is Integrated in the activities of the local government for area development. The General Manager of the FA ex officio is a member of the District Action Committee and, often, the FA carries out measures decided upon by these bodies