Bangkok, Thailand, 15 Oct 2012 -- Today Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn presented FAO awards to four Asian farmers from Malaysia, Mongolia, Sri Lanka and Thailand for their outstanding achievements in agriculture and food production.
Model farmer and frozen food producer from Malaysia, Misripah Marjan
When Misripah Marjan finished secondary school in Selangor, Malaysia, she longed to go to university. But her farmer parents did not have the money to send her. Misripah may have lacked means, but she did not lack spirit. An entrepreneur at heart, she saved her money until she could buy a small plot of land, far from her family home, where her husband Kasbolah bin Kordi could farm bananas and palm oil. Misripah, meanwhile, turned her attention to business.
She began cooking tempeh, a delicacy made from fermented soybeans, and selling them at a local market. She baked 100 at first, but before she knew it, she was churning out 3,000 tempeh patties a day, had hired six workers and was selling them at the local wholesale market.
With what she saved, she was able to buy land back in Selangor and moved her family back near her parents’ farm. Having gained some experience in the food business, she began baking a variety of traditional Malaysian frozen cakes. All her ingredients came from the family farm: sweet potatoes, bananas, and other fruits and vegetables. She had never read a textbook with the term, but her business was ‘vertically integrated.’
Once again, she started small, but quickly expanded as demand for her cakes grew. She received help in the form of small loans from Ministry of Agriculture and the Rural Development Agency to buy modern equipment and machinery. “Learning to use modern machinery without losing the authentic home-made quality of our recipes was a challenge,’’ she says. She received technical assistance from FAO and government agencies so that her production processes all abide by the strictest standards for food safety. A cooperative spirit was one cornerstone of her success.
Having received help, she also extended help to the people in her village by creating jobs for them with her small company Cik Tipah Frozen Food. Misripah instilled in them an entrepreneurial spirit and the knowledge of how to run a business using what they harvest from their farms. She has shown them how to add value to what they produce, expanding their horizons. Because of her the community is stronger.
Misripah’s business may be relatively small – she produces 4 000 cakes a day – but it has a big reputation. Travelers from as far north as Penang have visited her shop after hearing about her delicious cakes.
Misripah’s frozen food company is now so successful that she can afford to give her daughter Emi what she could not obtain for herself so many years ago – a higher education. Emi is now studying culinary arts at university and is planning to pursue a master’s degree in gastronomy.
“I never imagined we would be so successful when we started. It’s like a dream,” Misripah says. Having fulfilled her dreams, she does not rest. Her ambition remains strong. Misripah is still cooking up plans to scale up further. In doing so, she believes she can share with the members of her community in Malaysia the ways they can scale up their own dreams, and their own success.
The award ceremony was part of today’s Asia-Pacific observance of World Food Day - the 67th anniversary of FAO’s foundation in Quebec, Canada on 16 October 1945.
HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn presided over the ceremony. The Thai minister of agriculture and cooperatives, other senior Thai government officials, Bangkok-based members of the diplomatic corps, UN organizations and civil society were in attendance.
The observance also included a welcome statement by Mr Hiroyuki Konuma, FAO Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative for Asia and the Pacific and a keynote address on Agriculture in a growing economy and the role of agricultural cooperatives: Focusing on Japan’s case, by Dr Hisao Azuma, former Vice Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries in Japan and the former Senior Vice President of Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and now Senior Advisor, Japan Association for International Collaboration of Agriculture and Forestry (JAICAF).