Farming towards self-sufficiency

Izah Azahari

Since shining in the Youth Against Poverty programme, Kemari Farm has been realising its vision of making agriculture a viable career path for the youth in the country.

The Society for Community Outreach and Training (SCOT) and Standard Chartered Bank (SCB) Brunei, who co-organised the initiative last November, paid a visit to the farm recently to check up on its progress eight months on.

Among them were SCB Brunei Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Pengiran Aki Ismasufian bin Pengiran Haji Ibrahim and SCOT Chairman and Founder Anwar Mohammad.

Kemari Farm CEO and Co-Founder Mohd Hafizuddin bin Haji Awang Damit said the farm’s main goal is to show that agriculture can be a viable career option for the youth while simultaneously aiding Brunei in realising the vision of self-sufficiency.

He said the farm has been supplying to a number of small and medium enterprises (SMEs). “We’re not able to supply to supermarkets yet,” he said. “We focus on SMEs to help them grow as we grow.”

For now, the farm’s main cash crop is lettuce, which Mohd Hafizuddin said the farm has every intention to expand from the current hydroponic method of cultivation to irrigation as the next step for the company is to grow asparagus.

Kemari Farm is currently focussing on lettuce as its main cash crop. But there are plans to move on to asparagus with the farm expanding its current hydroponic method of cultivation to irrigation. PHOTOS: IZAH AZAHARI
Visiting group with the Kemari Farm team

Prior to receiving a grant from the Youth Against Poverty programme, Kemari Farm joined an initiative by the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports (MCYS), Ministry of Primary Resources and Tourism (MPRT) and the Youth Development Centre to expose the youth to the idea of farming.

“They had built a greenhouse and invited interested parties to use it,” he said. “But no one took up the offer; so we did.”

A week after establishing themselves as a company, Legislative Council (LegCo) member Yang Berhormat Nik Hafimi binti Abdul Haadii and Fatin Arifin of the Youth Entrepreneurs Association of Brunei (YEAB) brought to their attention the Youth Against Poverty programme, which prompted them to pitch their idea, and subsequently receive the grant.

“We really want to make Brunei self-sufficient by 2035,” said Mohd Hafizuddin. “And hopefully produce enough to be able to export to other countries.”

He said the grant has provided the much-needed capital injection for the business. “Without the grant, we would’ve had to spend quite a bit of time raising money to start the farm,” he said.

Meanwhile, Pengiran Aki Ismasufian said the idea behind the Youth Against Poverty programme was to look at potential start-ups and see how the bank and SCOT could support in terms of growth, not just from a business perspective, but also from the standpoint of employment opportunities.

The banker said, “We want to continue to support Kemari Farm not just financially but also sharing knowledge on the basics of finance so they are able to manage their business better.”

“This is my first time visiting the farm since it won the grant last year,” he said. “It’s a very impressive establishment, and I see a lot of potential for them to grow further.”

The SCOT Chairman echoed the sentiment: “I’m quite happy to see (Kemari Farm) grow. It goes to show that programmes such as Youth Against Poverty make an impact among entrepreneurial youth.”

On the initiative, Anwar Mohammad said it is a three-day programme to identify young entrepreneurs who have sound business ideas with the potential for change, such as poverty reduction, job generation and new market creation.

Last November’s Youth Against Poverty was the fourth of its kind organised by SCOT and the first collaboration with SCB Brunei. It attracted 10 young aspiring entrepreneurs to pitch their ideas for a chance to receive the much-needed capital to start a business.