Profiling agricultural activities through GIS

Profiling agricultural activities through GIS

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The Federal Agricultural Marketing Authority of Malaysia uses GIS to understand the needs of the rural population and ascertain the number of agricultural producers and the volume of produce near rural centres

The Rural Transformation Centre (RTC) is an initiative of the Malaysian government to optimise the potential of rural areas and streamline development activities for the benefit of the people. RTC is a mechanism under the Rural Transformation Programme which was initiated in 2011. The objective was nationwide establishment of RTCs to expand economic activities that were previously concentrated in urban areas such as the Klang Valley, Penang and Johor further into rural areas.

RTCs had the aim to serve as centres of logistics integration, processing and distribution of agricultural products, and were equipped with facilities such as banking and insurance, training centres, clinics and retail space. This programme was implemented through eight initiatives: skills training for rural people, setting up of information kiosks, encouraging value-added agriculture, processing of agrofoods, managing the agricultural supply chain, providing financing facilities, food safety and pharmaceutical services, and cooperation of higher education institutions.

Profiling the players through GIS
In order to understand the needs of the rural population and have outreach programmes for their benefits, it was necessary to gather data about the current situation and the expected outcomes.

Accordingly, a study carried out by the Federal Agricultural Marketing Authority (FAMA) of Malaysia in 2012, sought to obtain the locations and profiles of various target groups within a radius of 15 km from the Perak RTC. Among the information that needed to be mapped were locations of agricultural produce areas, FAMA marketing infrastructure, government departments/agencies, local authorities, financial institutions, marketing institutions, higher learning institutions and demographics.

This mapping would facilitate government departments and agencies in reaching the specific target groups that needed their assistance. During the process of determining the research framework, it was decided that GIS tools would be utilised as GIS has the capability to synchronise the information from spatial databases with attribute databases. This would enable the visualisation of the information collected in an easy-to-understand format and provide all the details required by policymakers.

This study was carried out from January 6 to February 10, 2012, involving 12 officers divided into four groups.

The division of labour was instrumental in ensuring that all the important areas were covered in the lowest possible time and costs.

The methodology involved mapping in the areas identified. Handheld GPS devices were used to plot the coordinates of locations of the activities as set out earlier in the scope of the study.

Data processing flow of GIS
The data plotted were divided into a few categories:

  • Producers such as individual farms, cluster farms, contract farms and small and medium enterprises
  • FAMA marketing infrastructure such as farmers’ markets and fresh fruit stalls
  • Offices of government departments/ agencies and local authorities
  • Financial and banking institutions
  • Marketing institutions such as hypermarkets, markets, night markets, day markets, retail outlets, wholesale outlets, restaurants and eateries, bakeries, mini markets, catering services, fruit shops and nurseries
  • Demographics such as housing areas and villages

Basic background data of the respondents such as names, telephone numbers and addresses were also collected and entered into the devices for records and future reference.

Conclusions
After the location coordinates were collected, the relevant data were transferred from the GPS devices to computers and then processed, which involved differential corrections on distance estimations. Maps were then produced to assist in disseminating the information to would-be-users and decision makers.

From this study, FAMA was able to successfully map 949 plots, covering a radius of 15 km from RTC Gopeng in Perak region.

Out of this total, the biggest number consisted of marketing institutions with a total plot number of 510. There were 123 learning institutions, 108 offices of government departments/agencies/ local authorities, 18 financial/banking institutions, 31 demographics (housing areas and villages), 154 agricultural producers and 5 FAMA marketing infrastructures.

As a result of this study, FAMA was able to identify the activities in the surrounding areas and devise strategies to reach out to these target groups in order to hasten economic growth in the vicinity of the RTC. It was also possible to ascertain the number of agricultural producers and the volume of produce which may be tapped to establish supply linkages with the RTC. In addition, the data was shared with other government departments and agencies which were involved with the RTC programme.