KUCHING: The state Agriculture Department is expecting a total of 6,982 women from the rural areas to participate in its activities throughout this year.
Modernisation of Agriculture Assistant Minister Datin Fatimah Abdullah said it was the department’s main objective to see more women entrepreneurs, and to rebrand the women entrepreneur section (Weda).
She said the department had the potential to eliminate poverty among rural people, improve the economic status of women as small and medium entrepreneurs, and develop local products.
“This is in line with the federal government’s call for local entrepreneurs to bring in an income of over RM250,000 per annum,” she said at a press conference yesterday.
Fatimah, who is also Social Development and Urbanisation (Women Development) Assistant Minister, added that last year, 65 per cent of 421 entrepreneurs were women living in rural areas of Sarawak.
She expressed her hope that the numbers would continue to increase.
“Weda will help market the products from local entrepreneurs after it has been branded and packaged according to standard,” she said.
She announced her decision to set up two more product distribution centres in Mukah and Miri this year to achieve the standard quality.
“We want to develop local and agro-based products in rural areas,” Fatimah said.
The products that Weda wanted to develop on a larger scale include rice-based products in Sri Aman, Lingga and Stumbin, ‘dabai’ in Sibu, Bario salt in Miri, ‘ikan tahai’ in Limbang, ‘sesar unjur’ in Sarikei, ‘pua kumbu’ in Kapit, coconut in Samarahan, ‘gula apong’ in Betong and Kabong.
According to her, Weda was also setting up an Entrepreneur Skills Development Training Centre, scheduled to complete in April this year.
She said the centre is located at Semenggok Agricultural Centre, and equipped with freezing and bread making equipment.
“The state and federal government have allocated RM1.6 mil and RM3.6 mil, respectively to the state Agriculture Department to run various activities this year,” she stressed.
The department was also working with Amanah Ikthiar Malaysia (AIM) to assist rural entrepreneurs in terms of securing loans, she said, adding that the government will do its best to eradicate poverty in the state.
Agricultural Department director Paul Vincent Ritom was among those present.