Spearheading organic farming: Koperasi Belia Islam

This is a project located in #Malaysia.

Related SDGs:

  • #SDG11 (Sustainable cities and communities)
  • #SDG15 (Life on land)

Data collection methods: Interview

Updated since: 2014


Koperasi Belia Islam (KBI) is a credit co-operative based on Islamic financial principles, started in 1977. It is the economic arm of the Muslim Youth Movement of Malaysia (Angkatan Belia Islam Malaysia, or ABIM) and generates income for its members and part of the expenses needed for the running of both organisations.

In the recent years, KBI shifted its services towards community mobilisation, and initiated its organic farming programme. The objectives of the programme are to generate additional income for households, to create wealth from waste by using low cost farming technologies, and to contribute towards food security, food safety, and food sovereignty of the country. It forges a smart partnership involving the land owner, the entrepreneur, the investor and the co-operative. Projects have been initiated in the below communities, in urban, rural and peri-urban settings:

  • Kampung Bidadari, Bintangor, Sarawak
  • Kampung Bukit Cerakah Jaya, Selangor
  • Felcra Resettlement Area in Pulau Banggi, Sabah
  • Felcra Resettlement Area in Batang Lupar, Sarawak
  • Kariah (parish) of Salahudin Ayubi Mosque, Kuala Lumpur
  • Kampung Lunas, Kedah

Communities are guided to plant vegetables organically for their own consumption. When the production stabilises, they are given guidance to form co-operatives to sell the vegetables. The projects are implemented through the recruitment and training of community mobilisers, who are able to identify support systems such as local organisations and institutions, local industries, natural and human resources. Box 1 delves deeper into a field visit of Kampung Bukit Cerakah Jaya, one of the organic farming projects initiated by KBI.

  • Approximately 10,000 members in the co-operative
  • Spearheaded six communities to start organic farming

Philosophy/Values/Traditional knowledge

KBI is founded and run based on principles of Islamic finance, which encapsulates certain values and ethics. For instance, profiteering based on usury and interest is strictly forbidden, and investments are made abiding by certain ethical standards. There is also an emphasis on social justice and sharing of profits and risks. In that, the organic farming programme is less concerned about financial returns on investment, and places more importance on community empowerment and education. Therefore, organic farming is marketed based on its health benefits first (through personal consumption of produce), and income generation second (through selling surplus produce).

The programme is also inspired by international movements such as the Growing Power movements in the US and La Via Campesina (International Peasant Movement), where goals extend beyond food production, into growing minds and communities. The Growing Power movement develops community food systems to provide high quality and affordable food for all; while La Via Campesina uses small-scale sustainable agriculture to promote social justice and dignity, and as a means to oppose corporate-driven agriculture and neo-liberalism.

Sustainability from the Triple Bottom Line

Environmental: Organic farming improves soil structure and has less impact on biodiversity. Not using chemical fertilisers and pesticides minimises air and water pollution, and reduces the carbon footprint of food production. Communities growing their own produce also lessen their food miles.

Social: There are many social benefits that accompany the environmental benefits of organic farming. There is positive impact on human health with less exposure to harmful chemicals while producing or eating organic food. People are empowered at the local level to have more control over what they eat, and are less dependent on external sources and cash for food security. KBI aims to alleviate poverty and increase social inclusion, by stimulating the development of micro-enterprises and creating jobs through the farming, processing, packaging and marketing of organic products. Communities are enriched by the increase of social capital through working together, and the increase of environmental consciousness amongst their people.

Economic: In terms of economic sustainability, KBI derives income from trading the organic produce that come from the projects that it has started. However, as the level of production is not very high, it is still supported by other money-making activities within the credit union.

Challenges faced

Some challenges cited include the difficulty in maintaining the projects without on-the-ground supervision, and the difficulty in getting younger people interested in organic farming. Working with local communities with some state funding, their projects are affected by the changing of political parties at the state level who may withdraw their support. At the federal level, government subsidies on chemical fertilisers and pesticides incentivise conventional farming at the expense of organic farming.

Welcome to SDG-SSE!
Sustainable Development Goals + Social and Solidarity Economy

sdg-sse.org is a crowd-sourced platform focused on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Social and Solidarity Economy (SSE). Find out more.