BRUNEI-MUARA – Five zakat recipients have been selected to become full-fledged “agripreneurs” through a pilot programme aimed at empowering those in poverty. 

The PROPAZ Az-Zira’ah programme was launched by the Ministry of Religious Affairs back in September, and provides agricultural training for the asnaf (poor and destitute) who qualify to receive zakat (alms given as charity in Islam). 

The 15-month programme will cover training on vegetable and fruit cultivation, pest control and crop diseases, post-harvest management, as well as business matching.

Planting has already begun on the 1.1 hectare plot of land allocated for the recipients at the Brunei Agricultural Research Centre (BARC) in Kg Selayun. The farm is divided into three sections: corn, chili and hydroponics, and is expected to generate over $86,000 in its first year. 

An officer under the PROPAZ committee, Hjh Norminah Hj Mahali, said that there are more than 300 asnaf zakat recipients participating in the ministry’s three PROPAZ programmes.

To be eligible for the Az-Zira’ah programme, participants must either be registered as an asnaf zakat recipient or a dependent of an asnaf zakat recipient. They must also have an interest in agriculture and possess the drive to change their lives, said Hjh Norminah.

The first batch of participants were between 18 and 54 years old.

Hjh Norminah said the training provided will be professional and comprehensive, and participants will be trained in both conventional and urban agribusiness concepts. By the end of the 15-month programme, the Agriculture and Agrifood Department will continue to advise the participants, as well as help them secure items such as fertilisers, pesticides, seeds and farming equipment.

PROPAZ, which is funded by zakat collection in Brunei, is aimed at improving the quality of life of those affected by poverty by providing them with the skills to secure better jobs or set up their own businesses.

In 2017, there were 6,551 asnaf zakat recipients in the country, who receive a monthly stipend from the Brunei Islamic Religious Council to cover basic living expenses.