malaysiaMalaysia is a South-East Asian country, comprising Peninsular Malaysia, and the States of Sabah and Sarawak located on the island of Borneo. Malaysia is located in the immediate north of the Equator line, and is separated from Sabah and Sarawak by the South China Sea. The climate is tropical, that is, warm and humid throughout the year. Annual rainfall varies from 2000 mm to 2500 mm. Locations at higher altitudes have cold temperatures. Malaysia’s population, ethnically quite diversified, is estimated at 28 million people (2010). The capital of Malaysia is Kuala Lumpur.



The country is ruled by a king whose role is largely ceremonial. Malaysia is a federation of 13 states and three federal territories. Each state is divided into districts which are sub-divided into mukim. Mountains which divide the country’s east and west coasts are heavily forested. In terms of economic growth in the region, Malaysia has one of the most impressive records. The national GDP in 2011 was about $450 billion.

Over the years, the agriculture sector has declined in terms of contribution to the GDP-- from 38 percent in 1962 to just 8.3 percent in 2005. Similarly, the employment in the agriculture sector has been steadily declining as farming follows more labor saving technologies and the displaced labor shift to other sectors to earn higher wages. In 2010, agriculture employed only 10.9 percent of the total work force. However agriculture is still economically important as major export income comes from palm oil exports. Landholdings are generally small. Average size of farms in Peninsular Malaysia is about two hectares, in Sabah about 3.5 hectares and about eight hectares in Sarawak. Main crops are rice, rubber and oil palm, but food crops, vegetables, fruits and spices are also grown. During the last five years attempts have been made to revive the agriculture sector. Food crops are also being emphasized in the interest of national food security.

In terms of donor assistance to Malaysia, Japan has been quite active. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has a number of regional projects which also cover Malaysia. Thanks due to its sustained economic growth, Malaysia is now a relatively well developed country and keen to share its experience and technical expertise with less developed countries. The Malaysian Technical Cooperation Program (MTCP), started in 1980, is a bilateral initiative—evidence of the country’s commitment to South-South Cooperation. MTCP focuses primarily on capacity building and human resource development. Presently, the program serves 135 countries in different regions of the world, and involves sending Malaysian experts to other countries, and the organization of training courses. Some of the countries which have benefited from the program are Kyrgyzstan, Namibia, Cambodia, Algeria, Tanzania, South Africa, and Sudan. Technical assistance is provided in a number of fields including agriculture.

Key Statistics and Indicators




Agricultural land (sq km)

Agricultural land (% of land area)

Arable land (hectares)

Arable land (% of land area)

Arable land (hectares per person)











Fertilizer consumption (kg per hectare of arable land)



Agriculture, value added (% of GDP)

Food production index (2004-2006 = 100)

Food exports (% of merchandise exports)

Food imports (% of merchandise imports)









GNI per capita, Atlas method (current US$)



Literacy rate, adult total (% of people ages 15 and above)

Literacy rate, youth female (% of females ages 15-24)

Literacy rate, youth male (% of males ages 15-24)

Ratio of young literate females to males (% ages 15-24)

Ratio of female to male secondary enrollment (%)











Mobile cellular subscriptions (per 100 people)

Internet users (per 100 people)





Population, total

Population density (people per sq. km of land area)

Rural population

Rural population (% of total population)

Agricultural population (% of total population)*

Total economically active population

Total economically active population in agriculture*

Total economically active population in agriculture (in %

    of total economically active population)

Female economically active population in agriculture (% of

     total economically active population in agriculture)*



















Sources: The World Bank; *Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations FAO


History of Extension and the Enabling Environment

Although Malaysia gained independence in 1957, the Department of Agriculture was established as early as 1905. Initially, the department’s technical efforts focused on crop research, provision of technical expertise to farmers, and business expansion services to small-scale farmers. The department was also responsible for developing the rubber industry but in view of the industry’s tremendous potential and high demand by the farmers, this responsibility was transferred to the Rubber Research Institute of Malaysia which was established in 1926.

At the beginning, one main function of the department was to implement government agricultural policies. Under the department’s guidance, enactments were approved to induce the development and conservation of land rights. In 1974, when the Malaysia Federal Agreement was signed for the establishment of the state governments, a provision was made for the establishment of the state department of agriculture in each individual state. These state departments of agriculture were responsible for implementing development programs in order to boost the small farm sector. With the establishment of institutions like the Federal Agriculture Marketing Agency (1965), the Malaysia Agriculture Research and Development Institute (MARDI) (1970), and Agriculture Development Board (1973), the Department of Agriculture was restructured to assume new functions. The provision of public agricultural extension to the farmers has always been one of the key functions of the department. MARDI was established for providing technological support for agricultural advancement of the country, but its role has also been redefined in line with the global and national developments.

In spite of reduced contribution of the agriculture sector to the national GDP over the years, the Government of Malaysia has been reviving the sector under the Ninth Malaysia Plan (2006- 2010) with the objective of making agriculture the third engine of growth in the national economy. The emphasis is on “New Agriculture” which will involve large-scale commercial farming, wider application of modern technologies, production of high quality and value added products, advancement of biotechnology, increased convergence with ICT, and the participation of farmers and skilled workforce. The government would like to see the food commodities sub-sector to grow at an average rate of 7.6 percent per year through improvements in efficiency and productivity as well as expansion in the cultivated area. In a nutshell, the government wants to treat agriculture as a business, even for small farmers and expects extension services to provide relevant advice not only to the farmers but private entrepreneurs as well.

The Center for Extension, Entrepreneurship and Professional Development (APEEC) of the Universiti Putra Malaysia, was established in July 2006, and hosted the International Conference on Agricultural Extension (AGREX’10) from 26 to 28 October, 2010. This event showed the importance of extension for the Government of Malaysia.

Extension Providers

Major Institutions Providing Extension/advisory Services

Public Institutions

Ministry of Agriculture and Agro-Based (website both in Malay and English)

Department of Agriculture (website both in Malay and English)

The Department of Agriculture, headed by a director general, is responsible for technology dissemination to farmers and to play the following roles:

  • Expedite the agriculture transformation process as a sector that is modern, dynamic and commercially viable;
  • Develop flower planting industry;
  • Provide consultation and technical support services;
  • Protect the country’s agriculture industry;
  • Ensure food and environmental safety;
  • Active participation in international forums, two-way communication and technical collaboration;
  • Enhance the development of human capital

The Department of Agriculture provides advisory and consultancy services for entrepreneurs and investors who are interested in entering into an agriculture-based business. Technology dissemination is done through websites and relevant links in local languages.

Table 1: Human Resources in Public Agricultural Extension in Malaysia as of 2010

Extension Staff Categories

Secondary School Diploma

2-3 Years Agriculture Diploma

B.Sc. Degree

M.Sc. Agriculture Degree

Ph.D. Degree












Senior Management Staff







Subject Matter Specialists








Field-level Extension Staff








ICT Support Staff










In-Service Training Staff










Total Extension Staff = 1,355












The Malaysian Agricultural Research and Development Institute (website both in Malay and English)

Although the Malaysian Agricultural Research and Development Institute (MARDI) does not provide extension services per se to farmers, yet it plays an important role in technology transfer. MARDI is responsible both for generating leading edge technologies and for the transfer of technology (TOT) as public good. It works on commercializing technology, and also provides technical, scientific and expert services. MARDI has a TOT Center which has offices in all 13 states. The institute has other facilities for technology of transfer such as the Business Development Unit, the Planting Material, Seed and Livestock Meat Production Unit, and various research centers for commodities like horticulture, livestock, food technology, technology management, strategic resources, and biotechnology. Research officers at the national level are expected to contribute about 30 percent of their time to technology transfer activities. MARDI’s target groups include smallholders and traditional producers (through extension and rural development agencies), and agro-based small and medium entrepreneurs, and the private and corporate sector (through licensing, consultancy and technology incubator program).

Commodity organizations

Malaysia has a number of semi-autonomous or autonomous commodity bodies. They are involved in activities such as enforcement of laws, marketing and quality control. As closely related to farming activities, some of them also undertake extension activities. Examples of such organizations are as follows:

  • Federal Agricultural Marketing Authority (FAMA)
  • Malaysian Fisheries Development Authority (LKIM)
  • MUDA Agricultural Development Authority (MADA)
  • Malaysian Pineapple Industry Board (MPIB)Non-Public Institutions

Non-public institutions

Public Sector

Companies and entrepreneurs involved in the commodity and plantation industry can seek advisory services from relevant agencies and the respective sectors. Some of these agencies are public but enjoy semi-autonomous or autonomous status while some belong to the private sector. Examples of such agencies are as follows:

  • MPOB Technical Advisory Services Unit (a unit of the Malaysian Palm Oil Board)
  • RRIM - Consult Corporation (consulting arm of the Malaysian Rubber Board)
  • Malaysian Cocoa Board 
  • Soil Management, Soil Survey and Mapping Services
  • Control of Crop Pest and Diseases
  • Farm Irrigation Systems Development
  • Agro-tourism
  • Landscaping and Area Beautification
  • Seed Production Technology
  • Agro-based Industry Development
  • Crop Technology – Agronomy and Management
  • Agricultural Project Feasibility Studies

There are a large number of private companies that are involved in various aspects of agricultural business. A few examples are as follows:

  • Guthrie Industries (design, fabricate, install and commission natural rubber, tea and cocoa processing plant and equipment)
  • Oiltek Sdn Bhd (edible oil processing specialists)
  • SJH Nursery and Landscaping Sdn Bhd (wholesale plant nursery that supplies tropical landscape plants in various species)
  • Kenso Corporation (M) Sdn Bhd (manufacture and distribute agrochemicals and fertilizers)
  • Li Fah Vegetable & Fruit Production (specialized in producing pesticide-safe vegetables and fruits)
  • MyCrops Resources (supply rock melon using fertigation method, and provide online training in fertigation)
  • Welite Agribusiness Malaysia (deal in agriculture related products)
  • Opf Feed Enterprise Malaysia (produce animal feed)
  • Top Grade Import Export Pte. Malaysia (deal in tropical fruits and seafood supply)
  • Smv Exclusive Food Industries Sdn Bhd Malaysia (produce canned pineapples)

Non-governmental organizations

Although there are dozens of NGOs in Malaysia engaged in environment, social welfare, disaster relief and human development work, there is not much evidence of NGOs involvement in extension work. Examples of a few NGOs are given below.

  • All Women’s Action Society
  • Asian Institute for Development Communication – Aidcom
  • BCSDM – Business Council for Sustainable Development in Malaysia 
  • Center for Environment, Technology and Development, Malaysia – CETDEM 
  • Malaysian Youth Council MYC – Majlis Bella Malaysia MBM 
  • Farmers-based associations, cooperatives and societies

    Malaysia has a network of agricultural cooperatives and farmers-based associations. Farmers’ organizations provide services to their respective members in the areas of extension, training, and commercialization of small farms, farm supplies, mechanization, credit, agri-business, land acquisition, and community projects.

    In 2006, Malaysia had 285 farmers’ organizations and 422 agricultural cooperatives under the jurisdiction of the Farmers Organization Authority (FOA). The 285 farmers’ organizations consist of a single National Farmers’ Organization (NAFAS), 13 State Farmers’ Organizations (SFOs) and 271 Area Farmers’ Organizations (AFOs). Out of these 271 AFOs, 27 are under administrative jurisdiction of the MUDA Agriculture Development Authority (MADA), 13 under the Kemubu Agriculture Development Authority (KADA) and 28 under the State of Sarawak.

    Names of some of these associations are as follows:

    • The Farmers Organization Authority  
      This Farmers Organization Authority (FOA) is a statutory body, established in 1973, that works under the supervision of the Department of Agriculture and offers advisory services for agricultural projects. The organization promotes the development of professionally managed farmers’ organizations, and is authorized to function as the Registrar of Farmers Organizations and Agricultural Cooperatives in Malaysia.
    • Federation of Livestock Farmers Association of Malaysia (FLFAM)
      FLFAM was established in 1974. Its primary role is to provide a forum for the pig and poultry farmers for the discussion and collective actions towards seeking solutions for their common problems so as to safeguard their common interest. The organization has 14 official member subject-specific associations such as on livestock breeding, animal husbandry, poultry, etc.
    • Marine Fish-Farmers Association of Malaysia (MFFAM) 
      Fish farmers residing in the states of Johore, Selangor and Penang, which account for 80 percent of the fish farmed in the country and MFFAM was formed in 2011.
    • The Federation of Vegetables Farmers Association of Malaysia
    • Malaysian Fruit Farmers Association

    List of Extension Providers

    icon target The following list shows an excerpt from the GFRAS Directory of Extension Providers for Malaysia. Some of these entries may be specially marked for having more detailed information in the database of the Worldwide Extension Study WWES.


    Training Options for Extension Professionals

    • Malaysia has many well established universities which offer pre-service academic programs in agriculture. Names of a few universities are as follows:
    • Universiti Putra Malaysia (in English called Putra University, Malaysia; formerly known as the Agriculture University of Malaysia; a public institution; enrolls foreign students)
    • University Utara Malaysia (UUM) (in English called Northern University of Malaysia)
    • Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (in English called University of Malaysia, Sarawak)
    • Multimedia University (first private university in Malaysia)
    • Universiti Teknologi MARA (in English called MARA University of Technology; a co-educational public university offering courses in English)
    • National University of Malaysia (a public institution)

    Some of these universities offer short training courses and could organize special training programs for extension professionals upon request. For example, the Center for Extension, Entrepreneurship and Professional Development (APEEC) of the Universiti Putra Malaysia that hosted an international conference on extension in 2010, is a suitable place for in-service training. Other institutions where in-service training may be arranged include autonomous agricultural authorities, Malaysian Agricultural Research and Development Institute (MARDI), and certain private agricultural companies.

    Info-Mediaries and Information and Communication Technology (ict) for Agriculture and Extension

    According to the World Bank, in 2010, the number of mobile cellular subscriptions (per 100 people) in Malaysia was 127.03. During the same year, the number of Internet users (per 100 people) in the country was 61. The Ministry of Agriculture and Agro-Based Industry uses Agro-link and Business Development Center on their website for disseminating relevant information to the farmers and other interested parties. However, according to a study done in 2009, the level of Internet application usage among agro-based entrepreneurs in Malaysia is moderate. Low education and little computer literacy among the farmers coupled with an inadequate ICT infrastructure are some of the constraints in fully benefiting from the ICT applications.

    The Government of Malaysia formulated the National Information Technology Agenda (NITA) in 1996 to provide a comprehensive framework for development. The agenda aims at transforming the nation into a value-based knowledge society according to Vision 2020. It focuses on comprehensive human development and leverages on private sector partnership between the public, private and community sectors. One of the programs under the strategy on Internet penetration across the nation is the Rural Internet Centers program. The Rural Internet Centers aim at enhancing the usage of ICT in the rural areas. Rural Portal and individual village websites are being developed to complement the hands-on operations of the global Internet centers. The Ministry of Rural Development is in the forefront of these initiatives.


    Resources and References

    Abas, M.N. (2002). Malaysia. Country paper presented at the APO Study Meeting on Integration of Agricultural Research and Extension, held in the Philippines, 18-22 March 2002; in R. Sharma (ed.) Integration of Agricultural Research and Extension. Pp 194 – 200. Available at

    Ahmad, D.A.R.H. (2006). Agricultural Cooperatives in Malaysia: Innovations and Opportunities in the Process of Transition towards the 21st Century Model. Paper presented at the 2006 FFTC-NACF International Seminar on Agricultural Cooperatives in Asia: Innovations and Opportunities in the 21st Century, held at Seoul, 11-15 September, 2006

    Azad, S. (no date; probably 2003). Development of Agriculture Sector in Malaysia; PowerPoint presentation of the Department of Agriculture. Available at: 

    Baharom, D.S. and I. Yunos (2008). From Farm to Table: Extension Perspectives in Malaysia -  Focus on Critical Factors Affecting Food Quality, Productivity and Safety in Crops. Paper presented at the International Conference on Agricultural Extension (Agrex08) held at Bangi, Putrajaya, Malaysia,15-19 June 2008

    Fuglie, K.O. (no date; probably 2000). Malaysia (chapter). Private Investment in Agricultural Research/AER-805. Economic Research Service/USDA; Pp 112 - 122

    Hassan, M.S., H.A.M. Shaffril, M.A. Hassan and J.L. D’Silva (2009). Developing agriculture in Malaysia: Internet utilization among Malaysian youth agro-businessmen. European Journal of Social Sciences, Volume 11, Number 2 (2009), Pp 215-224

    Omar, B. (2003). Information and Communication Technology (ICT) for Agricultural Development: Factors Associated with Computer Utilization at Area Farmers Organizations in Peninsular Malaysia. Masters’ Thesis, Universiti Putra Malaysia; Abstract in English available at 

    Saadan, K. (2003). Information Communication Technology in Agriculture: Current Status and Future Prospect in Malaysia. PowerPoint presentation made at the Expert Consultation on Strengthening Regional Agricultural Information System: Role of ICT in ARD, held at Bangkok, 1-3 December, 2003

    Samsudin, A.F.B.M. (no date; probably 2008). Agriculture extension and its roles in ensuring food safety, quality and productivity in Malaysia. Masters’ Thesis; Universiti Putra Malaysia

    Stads, G.J., A. Tawang and N.M. Beintema (2005). Malaysia. Agricultural Science and Technology Indicators (ASTI). ASTI Country Brief No. 30; November 2005

    Zaini, Z.M. and M.S. Madom (2004). Implementing agricultural technology promotion and transfer program: The Malaysian experience. Proceedings of the Training Workshop on Agricultural Technology Transfer and Training, held at Bandung, 18-22 July, 2004, organized by the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC)