Thursday, November 13, 2008

Disabled man becomes successful aqua farmer in Malaysia

From The Star in Malaysia:

PEKAN -- Parents with disabled children are bound to despair over their future.
Thoughts of the hardships awaiting their children will haunt them.

Such was the predicament for Othman Ali, 75, and his wife Juliah Ismail, 71, from Kampung Tanjong Pulai, whose son Mohd Khairi (pictured) was born with incomplete limbs.

Now aged 31 years, Mohd Khairi is physically challenged with stunted hands and legs. But he has never been deterred by his limitations in leading an independent life.

He has proved to his parents that they have no reason to worry over his future.

His parents sigh in relief as their son is not only able to take care of himself, but is also a promising entrepreneur.

One may be surprised by how a man with physical limitations can venture into aquaculture, which involves significant physical ability.

It started eight years ago when Mohd Khairi was persuaded by his cousin Abdul Rashid Nordin to try aqua farming in Sungai Pahang.

His love for angling spurred him to borrow a fish enclosure from his cousin to breed tilapia. Mohd Khairi continued in this undertaking and today owns 17 enclosures full of tilapia and ikan patin.

He said, on every breeding cycle, he could harvest 600kg to 700kg of fish worth RM4,000. The fish is sold at markets in Pekan, and each cycle takes five months.

Though his average monthly income is only RM800, it makes a big difference for Mohd Khairi as he has an income to help him and his aged parents.

His daily routine begins with a wheelchair ride to the riverbank, where he uses his arms and thighs to descend the steps into the water and reach the enclosures.

He feeds the fishes by holding a food-pallet container under his armpit. He even carries the sacks of food pallets to the enclosures.

Other than feeding the fishes, he cleans the breeding area of debris washed into the enclosure. The feeding and cleaning is conducted daily in the mornings and evenings.

“Due to my physical limitations, there are many hurdles to overcome, but I’m used to it,” said Mohd Khairi.

He seeks assistance from friends and relatives in harvesting and selling the fish.

Another disabled person, Mohamed Mahidin, 38, from Kampung Kiambang in
Ganchong near here does not see his disability as an impediment to venturing into aquaculture.

A former silver-medal winner in the high jump event at the 1998 Asian Paralympics in Bangkok, he has 18 enclosures with tilapia and patin.

Mohamed, who has a deformed right leg, took up the venture six years ago and earns between RM1,000 and RM1,500 monthly.

He said his fishes were in demand, especially in the Kuantan wet market.

Speaking about enduring hardships, Mohamed said he had no choice but to face it.

“I was brought up in a kampung environment and am used to rivers,” he said.

The biggest challenge, he added, was the wet spell when aqua farming had to be stopped temporarily.

Mohd Khairi’s and Mohamed’s achievements stand as testimony that being handicapped poses no hindrance in getting on with life.

Their venture has received the attention of the Malaysian Fisheries Department.

On Oct 23, the department’s aquaculture development division director Ismail Abu Hassan provided the duo with assistance through the Aquaculture Support Services Scheme.

The aid will not only help them alleviate their financial burdens but also expand their venture through better infrastructure and support services.

Mohd Khairi is confident that he is on a better footing to increase his fish output while Mohamed is planning to venture into downstream activities like frozen fish products, pekasam (fish pickled in brine) and keropok (fish fritters).

Both of them overcame their physical shortcomings and turned into successful entrepreneurs as described by the adage: Where there is a will, there is a way.