WHILE many people are planning and executing mega deals through their connections and network, Am, a farmer-contractor, plods along doing some basic agriculture stuff. No high-end sales pitch, no big political backing, no big bank loans. No publicity too. Am, a nickname by which he is fondly called by his friends, has just embarked on a catfish rearing project which he hoped would yield good returns from the third harvest onwards. That would be sometime in September or October. He's invested RM1,600 each for his 21 canvas-ponds (as these pictures show). He's hired a rubber tapper to help manage the catfish project. The rubber tapper has fallen on bad times with the big drop in rubber prices. When I asked how he's coping with the big drop in income, he gave me a toothless grin and said: "Nasib baik ada projek ikan keli ni!" Am has done some excellent replanting scheme for the kampong folks in the lower Perak area. As aging landowners whose children have gone on to live in the cities earning good, regular salaries, these folks now found their plots have grown lalang and are untended. The lands have become idle, unproductive. Then came Am, riding in to rescue these old folks with replanting schemes funded by Risda, the government agency entrusted with helping rubber smallholders. Am has organised these folks and they are now quite happy to see their four or five acres being toiled once again. Talking to Am over near his catfish farm, the young man is full of ideas to help the rural folks raise their income level. He said: "Orang kampong nak tengok contoh macam mana projek pertanian boleh menjamin hidup mereka. Kalau setakat hantar gambar dan berpuluh makalah (brochures), lebih baik tak payah. Kalau dia orang nampak projek depan mata boleh berhasil, mereka ni boleh diajak berunding." For the last couple of years, that's what Am has been doing. And doing it well, I must say.