There were several important elements in FLDA’s land development and rural resettlement agenda. Firstly, it was important to choose the right location and for this we would be referring to the topographical maps (my degree in geography stood me in good stead here) to identify areas that were not occupied. It was very important to choose the appropriate terrain, accessibility and soil type for the crop to be planted. It was initially rubber, and later oil palm.
State governments were happy for Felda to step in (at least until the 1990s) as the private sector was not active. We had coordinated planning with various Federal government agencies at Federal, State and District levels. Thus, where major roads were needed, the Public Works Department were involved, health clinics by the Health Ministry and schools were built by the Ministry of Education. After development, Felda continued to coordinate and cooperate with the ministries concerned to operate and maintain the facilities. For the most part, there was minimal conflict between the interests of the state government and the federal government.
Physical preparation of the site prior to arrival of the settler was also essential to Felda’s model. I saw that asking the settlers to clear lands and provide the infrastructure was not effective, so we decided to engage contractors to do the work. Initially, we approached this on an individual settlement basis but it was more cost effective to develop larger areas.
Originally, each settler was allotted 6 acres of plantation land, but it was soon realized that 8 acres and eventually 10 acres became the optimum size. It also reflected the rising cost of living, so the size of holdings should be able to bring produce that would enable the settler to have a reasonable income. Until such time as the lands would bear produce and bring income, settlers were given a subsistence loan which they were required to repay before title to the land was transferred to them. When rubber prices fell, Felda did not collect the loan.