AN AREA FARMERS' ASSOCIATION
ITS STRUCTURE. ACTIVITIES, ACC0MPLISHMENTS
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
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
- 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
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
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
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
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