CHAI Chuen Tat’s trips to China always left him feeling envious of the farmers there.
The modern farming practices there were an eye-opener, he said as he recalled a 1km-long farmland beneath an elevated highway during one of his trips.
“The farms are so well-organised. They have a modern irrigation system to counter erratic weather changes.
“With the land and facilities in place, the farmers only need to work hard for a good future,” said Chai, who is the chief of Kampung Baru Kanthan Baru, that comprises a predominantly agricultural community.
The new village can be reached within a 30-minute drive from Ipoh city centre.
Chai, 48, a third generation in the village, said farming on land without a lease saw at least 300 farmers in the Chemor area, including from his village, lose their source of livelihood over the last 10 years.
This, he added, involved some 1,214ha that were acquired in the name of development.
Chai is a wholesaler for corn, a popular crop in this part of Perak.
He lives with his mother, his wife and a 14-year-old son in the village.
There are about 500 houses in the village which were set up during the Emergency (1948-60).
Proud of his village, Chai said it was famous for Hakka food like yong tau foo and traditional Chinese desserts, thanks to the recipes handed down by their ancestors.
“You must come to our village to try our food,” he said.
Chai is sad to see some of the ageing community spending their remaining years in loneliness.
Many of the youngsters have no choice but to leave for cities like Kuala Lumpur and Johor Baru as well as Singapore in search of higher income.
“I attended a funeral of a 103-year-old villager the other day, and I just received news of the demise of another elderly villager around 80,” he said.
Chai believes that opportunities in modern farming will help draw the young people back to the village.
“Give the young people a helping hand and they can do well in farming. This has been proven in Taiwan and China,” he added.
He also said that the village was plagued by pollution from a factory that boiled used engine oil to produce low-grade oil over the past year.
“The factory is less than a kilometre from our village.
“It releases a gaseous smell and we worry that this is bad for our health,” said Chai, adding that complaints to the authorities had fallen on deaf ears.
Now he plans to raise the matter with the Department of Environment in Putrajaya.
Another environmental pollution in the village, he said, came from a cement plant about 2km away.
Cement particles settled on the windscreen of cars, added Chai.
Following the May 9 general election, Chai is hoping that the new Government will bring in a breath of fresh air to the village and solve some of their problems.
Topping his wishlist, he said, was for more economic opportunities for the young, so that they could return and settle down at the village.