Fri, 19/02/2010 – Jude Fanton
In the Cameron Highlands of Malaysia we interviewed an immigrant agricultural labourer, Mahmoud Rahid, from Bangladesh about the difference between local organic and conventional growing methods. He described he often had to spray conventional crops with what he called “medicine”, but he also did not like how organics are grown with so much plastic.
Mahmoud spoke with us as he sprayed glyphosate weedicide along pathways of the guesthouse where he works. Mahmoud gave us insights into the pros and cons of organics and conventional growing. He has been in Malaysia nine years, six in the cauliflower fields, the last three as a guesthouse gardener.
IMAGE: Mahmoud with his spray equipment
Mahmoud says that, while it is lower in yield, organic produce tastes better than “medicine” (chemical) produce.
However it is not all good news with organics. Farmers lay wide strips of black plastic on the ground to control both weeds and pests. First they shallowly dig in the manure and then water it in, spread out the long rows of black plastic, punch holes into it and transplant the seedlings. The plastic hugging the soil cuts down on the incidence of weeds by stifling any growth between plants and reduces attack from pests because they do not like such an artificial environment.
It seems a huge pity to use single-use black plastic that becomes a big waste problem after the crop; not to mention the great loss of soil biota from soil-baking.
IMAGE: Centre right: bok choy growing in black plastic, polytunnels in background
Mahmoud’s dream is to return to Bangladesh to find a wife. Presently his wage is USD10 per day for ten hours work, and he works seven days a week.