Malaysian Company's Effort to Combat Poverty Gains Government Interest

Two years after Malaysian technology company Iris built a sustainable farm village to provide poor families with free housing and a steady income, the Southeast Asian country's government plans to construct at least five more, the Associated Press reports.

Home to eighty families, the first village — Kampung Pulau Manis — was developed with funds from the company as a social venture that it hoped could sustain itself through crop sales and be replicable. An environmentally friendly community, the $5.2 million village includes rows of brick-and-mortar houses, plant nurseries that use the company's sustainable "autopot" watering technology, access to grocery shops and a school, and residents who in some cases are earning triple what they earned before moving in.

While the company admits that the project, which now includes two villages, has not been without problems, residents interviewed by the AP said their lives had improved and that they now have more time to spend with their children because they are working shorter hours.

In light of the effort's success, the government has agreed to launch the Rimbunan Kasih (Canopies of Love) project, which calls for the construction of more villages by Iris in other Malaysian states. Each village will cost about $8.2 million to build and will comprise one hundred houses, farm facilities, and amenities such as computer labs not currently offered at the original village. The first new village is scheduled to be completed before the end of the year.

"We thought that we should do something different, instead of just donating money," Iris managing director Tan Say Jim told the AP. "Even if we give you a little money, you'll still be poor. We wanted to really touch lives."