Sunday, October 17, 2010

A Short Journey to Semenchu

Our visit to Semenchu is part of the students assignment to assess the  sustainability of the community using a set of indicator. We planned to stay there for two nights, starting the journey from UTM Campus  on Friday, October 16,  at 3 pm  and returned on Sunday. There were 12 students involved  –four  Iranians, one Nigerian, one Pakistani, one Saudi and the rest local. We went by two students’ cars and a faculty  vehicle-4WD Fortuner. This was the first time  I drove the Fortuner which  was purchased by the faculty early this year. But, I found  easy to drive  it since my car is  also Toyota  brand with automatic gear and has almost similar  setting  such as the gear, signal , wiper, and lighting switches. On the way we stopped at a restaurant in Felda Ari Tawar 5, before  proceeded to the Semenchu. We arrived in Semenchu about 5.30 pm.
Master Students, Urban & Regional Planning 2010
Semenchu is a settlement  developed by the Federal Land Development Authority (FELDA).  The scheme includes farmland, infrastructure and amenities (housing, basic facilities, road and utilities), processing and marketing. It was aimed to provide opportunities for the poor rural people to improve their standard of living  through agricultural, industrial and businesses activities carried out professionally and profitably. Each settler was allocated 10 acres farmland   and  a housing plot of a quarter acre. Those eligible people  in rural areas were selected to become settlers after screening (based on criteria such as experience in farming, income, marital status, dependents) and interview processes. In Semenchu, most of  them came from within Johor State such as  the districts of Muar, Batu Pahat and Pontian. The first group of settlers  entered the scheme in 1976 and last batch 1981. Altogether, there are 628 settlers/houses in the scheme, sub-divided into 27 blocks (each block have around 24 houses).

The new variety of palm oil take only three years to bear fruits. The oil content is about 26 percents of its weight.

The homestay program in Semenchu started in 2004 and  102 of the settlers  participated. We stayed at four of the homestay houses. From our experience the facilities of the homestay were good, with clean toilet, well maintain rooms and furniture in the houses. Students have opportunities to visit farms, palm oil factory, participate in sports and culture performance.  We were also invited to attend  the marriage ceremony.

Cutting across the palm oil fruit. The fully pollinated one have four layers.  
In May 2010, a group of UG students did a survey on FELDA Settlers' Satisfaction. The survey covered 12 FELDA settlements in Johor. Members of settlers' household were interviewed including Settlers, Wives, Children and Grand Children. The survey was part of the study undertaken by FELDA to find out the perception of settlers' population on various programmes that has been implemented to improve standard of living.  I did supervise the students' survey, and while students were conducting the survey I took opportunities to travel around the settlement and talked to a few people including the Felda officials and settlers. Generally, the settlers were satisfied with their living condition and the programmes implemented by FELDA. Some of the issues raised related to replanting scheme undertaken by the subsidiary company of FELDA (Technoplant), including weaknesses in the management of the plantation (earlier phase); delay in transferring of land title, and fractionism  in certain scheme related to differences in political view/affiliation. Most of the settlement schemes has to employ foreign labourers to work in plantation because the original settlers are already too old to undertake the job. While young people in the schemes tended to work in cities which are more suitable for the nature of education they received. Many of the younger generation permanently migrated upon getting job outside or married, but some did commute to places of work.
Group of UG students that conducted the survey
During the survey in Tenggaroh students stayed with the settlers

Facts about Palm Oil Cultivation

Each Felda settlers own 10 acres of plantation land and a quarter acre of house plot
Number of tree per acre: 55
Production for 10 acre: low season- 3 tons per month; high season- 8 tons per month (August to October)
Fertilizer: 2 kg per tree and 4 times per year/ 4 tons per year for 10 acres
Cost of fertilizer (FELDA): RM1100 per ton
Labour cost for harvest: small tree RM20 per ton/ big tree-RM30 per ton
Cost of transportation of fruit to factory- varies from RRM25-RM35 per ton depending on distance.

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