Harnessing Rural Treasures
The RD NKRA’s various initiatives are aimed at improving the economic prospects of rural communities, and demonstrating that highincome opportunities are available to them, if they are willing to take the chances and put in the effort. Mohd. Ridzwan Ishak from Bujang Valley in Kedah is a sterling example of such a man, whose hard work and perseverance has paid off handsomely.
A born-and-bred resident of Kampung Sungai Batu Besi, which is situated along Sungai Merbok, the 45-year-old Ridzwan is the owneroperator of an oyster farm (of which there are only 10 in Peninsular Malaysia). Despite its remote location and limited accessibility, the farm nonetheless receives anywhere between 60-100 tourists a year. He cultures up to 60,000 oysters, harvesting 1,000-3,000 every month.
However, Ridzwan was not always an aquaculture aficionado. A former fisherman by trade, his oyster farm has been the result of a knowledge transfer process courtesy of Universiti Sains Malaysia’s (USM) Associate Professor Dr. Aileen Tan Shau Hwai from the School of Biological Sciences. The university, together with Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation (MOSTI) and Ministry of Higher Education (MOHE), provided research funding to both operate the knowledge transfer, as well as open an oyster hatchery in Balik Pulau, Penang. One of two such hatcheries in Southeast Asia, this hatchery is the source of Ridzwan’s oysters.
The oyster farm, which cultivates only food oysters (as opposed to the pearl oysters cultivated by most farmers in Sabah, for instance), also plays host to a steady inflow of conservation volunteers (many of whom are regulars) who wish to see how clean aquaculture works. According to Ridzwan in an interview with the English daily publication The Star, these volunteers help him with agitating oyster cages, cleaning the cages and sorting the oysters by size, amongst other chores.
Ultimately, Ridzwan believes that it is possible for the ecotourism potential to be economically rewarding for a villager like him.
Source: National Transformation Programme Annual Report 2015