Integrated Farming is the Answer to Food Safety and Sovereignty
Hud Sulaiman, as Managing Director of the Malaysian Institute of Sustainable Agriculture (MISA), has been conducting a variety of environmental and agroecological activities for the past 10 years. The objective of the organisation is to promote sustainable agriculture through education, science and welfare.
In the 1990s, in the midst of the Bosnian War, Hud went to help in the war-torn regions of Uzbekistan and Bosnia.
Despite the devastation the war had caused, he noticed that the suffering of the rural people was less than that of the urban folks, solely because the rural area continued to receive its food supply through its ever-fertile farming land, while in the urban areas the food supply was disrupted.
The rural people were physically and mentally strong. That was my first lesson on food safety and sovereignty. No matter how developed a country is, without its own food production, it can never progress in a real sense,” said Hud.
“Those days, our education system was different. During our school days, in the morning, we were taught how to plant vegetables, tend to them and water the plants. There was a daily dose of excitement in seeing the plants emerge, bloom and return their bounty to you. Such morning activities, unconsciously, instilled in me the urge to grow and nurture nature,” recollected Hud.
Hud, previously a programmer in his own IT company, said the transition from programmer to farmer was smooth owing to the cherished moments of farming that are etched in his mind.
The ¾-acre land that Hud cultivates at Gombak, Kuala Lumpur, which belongs to University Islam Antarabangsa (UIA), is rented out to him and was previously a swamp.
“When promoting organic produce, we need to touch the core of the people. During a casual conversation with the rural folks, I raised questions about how many of their friends and family members were afflicted with cancer. From there on, I developed the topic of the importance of toxin-free food,” says Hud.
All these years, Hud had been persistent in his effort to convey this message, and he could see significant changes in the thinking of people as more and more joined him in the pursuit of safe food. In the past 2 decades, Hud has reached out to farmers, educational institutions, social organisations, urban dwellers and communities in his efforts toward sustainability.
There is an increasing demand for rabbit meat among the Malaysian population. Rabbit meat has a distinct taste of a blend of mutton and chicken, and consumers believe that it has less cholesterol compared to other meat varieties. A doe produces up to 7 young each time it gives birth.
Currently, Hud rears 150 rabbits and sells them in the market after they reach 2.5 kg in weight. It fetches a price of RM35 per kg on the market. So, according to Hud, rabbit breeders have a promising future.
The rabbit is fed with pellets, greens, napier grass and ketum ayam (scientific name: Trichanthera gigantean). Ketum ayam is a plant with a high protein content. So, I grow a lot of them in my garden and feed them to the rabbits and chickens,” explained Hud.
On Hud’s farm, pests are effectively managed with a combination of neem, chilli, garlic and wood vinegar spray. After years of experience, Hud had come to the conclusion that indigenous microorganisms (IMO), fish amino acid, and compost are sufficient to fertilise the soil and maintain a healthy farm.
“As for now, I am learning black soldier fly composting as it is one of the fastest methods to compost any organic waste,” he revealed.
With agroecology as the focus of his initiatives, Hud has aimed to inspire many to start community gardens.
Anybody Can Grow, Says Hud
For many, especially senior citizens, growing plants is a gruelling task, purely for the reason that it involves forced body movements such as bending the limbs, squatting, lifting and so forth.
Not anymore, says Hud. He created this easy method for those facing such impediments. All one has to do is get an old, used table (or any other raised surface that does not require one to stoop), cover it with a weed mat, on top of it spread soil for up to 4-6 inches, and then plant your favourite vegetables.
This method is suitable for leafy vegetables that do not require deep root penetration. As for watering, one has to be extra careful not to drench the table and create a mess.