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Sunday, 23 February 2014

A head$tart for students

UPM’s various initiatives for its graduates are reaping results.

IN AN effort to help increase the number of free-range chickens in the market and perhaps bring the price down, a group of students under the Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM) Agropreneur Incubation Programme are rearing ayam kampung akar putra as part of their chosen module, this year.

The chicken breed is a hybrid between the ayam kampung (farm chicken) and the jungle fowl has been created by selective breeding and not through genetic engineering.

Student Nor Azzila Zawawi, said the hybrid chickens are a healthier option as the meat is leaner and they are not injected with hormones.

This year’s phase of the programme was launched by Education Ministry secretary-general II Prof Datuk Seri Dr Zaini Ujang.

The programme was first launched in 2012 and offered to graduates who possess a diploma.

The 2013 batch saw 33 out of the 48 participants opening up businesses, either individually or through partnerships.

The current programme has 67 students enrolled in five modules offered — growing rock melons, aquaculture, breeding ayam kacukan kampung (hybrid chickens), providing food services and ecotourism.

The programme will be carried out for six months until June at the UPM premises in Serdang, Selangor.

In the first two months of the programme, students are exposed to the entrepreneurship aspect of their modules such as effective business negotiations and business plan development.

The final four months will have them out in the field carrying out their chosen projects.

Students will be divided into groups and each group will receive a loan of up to RM10, 000 to start off their projects.

All participants will also become members of the Agriculture Graduate Entrepreneurs Club (MyAgrosis), UPM, that will enable them to obtain loans from Agrobank and Tabung Ekonomi Kumpulan Usaha Niaga (Tekun) to fund their projects upon completion of the course.

The programme has also attracted more than 16 private companies and the Selangor Agricultural Development Corporation as strategic partners.

UPM Faculty of Agriculture dean Prof Dr Abdul Shukor Juraimi said the launch was held at the Tilapia Fish Pond in UPM’s University Agriculture Park to expose participants to the real environment of their chosen modules.

“Although the weather can be really hot ... there is no running away from it. This is the reality. Sometimes it rains or it may turn cloudy,” he said.

Those in the aquaculture module for this year will also get to rear the tilapia fish within its natural environment and not in tanks, as in previous years.

Tourism in nature

Another student Alifah Nadirah Abdul Aziz said her passion was in ecotourism, which is why she chose it as her module.

She said she saw herself opening an ecotourism agency that would cater to both the local and international market.

For this programmer, her project would involve special tours to the Sultan Idris Shah Ayer Hitam Education Centre (SISFEC).

“The nature park has plenty of activities such as jungle-trekking and many people are interested in visiting the place,” she said.

As to why conducted tours into the SISFEC were necessary, Alifah Nadirah said that there had been cases of people getting hurt and lost.

“No one knew until it was too late as there was no record of them entering the park.

“It is only proper that visitors enlist our help to arrange guides into the area as their safety could be at risk,” she said.

At the launching ceremony, Prof Zaini said the varsity was in the process of creating a few programmes through the University Community Transformation Centre (UCTC), to help Malaysians cope with the rising cost of living.

“One of these initiatives is the implementation of the Urban Agriculture Projects that will have urban dwellers grow their own produce on small plots of land in their homes.

“They can grow different vegetables in their homes and exchange it with others.

“This would also help reduce their monthly green grocery bills,” he added.

Prof Zaini also said that since the country was rich in natural resources, Malaysians should capitalise on it especially in agriculture.

The programme also aims to address the the rising rate of unemployed graduates.

“This programme today aims to create graduates with entrepreneurship skills in the the agricultural sector.

“Through the programme, we can also address the issue of unemployed graduates,” said Prof Zaini.

He added that those undertaking the course could become entrepreneurs in their own right or gain employment as the skills and knowledge gained were invaluable.

Jebat Putra Mohd, who was in the 2012 batch under the biotechnology module had only praise for the programme.

His company Syarikat World Garage Resources sold bio compost created out of oil palm waste.

He also said the programme would benefit the students it as it would be easier to get loans to kickstart their businesses from AgroBank.

Tags / Keywords: Education , UPM


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