Village head Augustin Minin, 64, is busy tending to his dragon fruit plants which he grows to supplement his already healthy income from oil palm. He joined the SALCRA scheme in 1994 along with half of his village.
“Before the scheme, this entire area was pitch dark at night. We studied by the light of candles or kerosene lamps. We were so poor we couldn’t afford to even buy pencils. As such, many dropped out of school. Now, you can see three or four cars parked in every driveway. Our offspring are educated and have graduated from universities,” he says, adding proudly, “I am delighted that one of my six children is currently studying physiotherapy at a local university.”
Augustin initially used a small plot of his father-in-law’s land for oil palm. It proved lucrative, as this was flat, roadside land and not hilly terrain. He currently has 10 ha that yielded him RM41,000 in dividends last year. Three months ago, he registered a company, Augustin & Sons, after investing RM200,000 in an earth excavator and a lorry to carry out contract work.
Remember his difficult childhood, Augustin rewards every child in his village with RM50 for every “A” they score in exams. Under his leadership as village head since 1998, a clinic, church, two community halls, a primary and secondary school and a bridge have been built.
“Some villagers were initially terrified that if the surrounding forests were turned into agricultural land, they could no longer harvest fire-wood for cooking and bamboo for building houses. We explained that we don’t even need firewood if we have gas stoves and there is abundant food on the table. It took a while to convince them, but you can see the results today.”