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Born in a refugee camp in Thailand

Musa Lim, the owner and CEO of Ajwa Plantation Capital was born in a refugee camp at the border of Cambodia and Thailand in the year 1980.

 

Both his grandfathers are from Southern China. In the 1960’s, there was a huge economic migration from China to Southeast Asia to seek a better life. His grandfathers chose Cambodia as their destination. They arrived there with very limited resources and managed to build a decent lifestyle until the Pol Pot regime also known as the Khmer Rouge took over the country in 1975. The whole country was forced into agricultural slavery from 1975 to 1979. His parents were in their 20’s at the time and were enslaved for 4 years experiencing the worst treatment and suffering of their lives. In 1979, the existing prime minister Hun Sen, backed by the Vietnamese army came in and in a single battle, managed to take control of the country and end 4 years of atrocity. Musa’s family decided to migrate to France as they did not want to risk going through another war. They paid their way through and migrated by foot to the border of Thailand called Khao I Dang where Musa was born in a refugee camp. His parents lived in that refugee camp for 2 years waiting for the Red Cross to take them to France where his maternal grandparents and other family members had already migrated too. 

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Humble beginnings in Paris

Musa’s family arrived in France with close to nothing in their pockets. The French government provided a bare minimum for their survival. They used to share a small apartment with 4 families and the living condition was very poor. They had a small allowance for food and were just surviving.

 His father started small jobs like dishwashing, electric wiring and sewing clothes. When they were in Cambodia Musa’s parents had a passion for jewelry trade. After working and saving everything they could for more than 5 years, they managed to purchase a small jewelry shop from another Chinese-Cambodian man who was going out of business. Within a few months, the shop had people lining up every Saturday to buy his parents’ jewelry products. Their success was due to their great reputation of ethics and honesty in the Chinese-Cambodian community. 

Their success was due to their great reputation of ethics and honesty in the Chinese-Cambodian community.

Migration to the USA

Musa was a top student in secondary school in Science major. After his high school bacalaureat, he migrated to the heart of Silicon Valley, California, USA for his Computer Engineering studies in the year 1999. He planned to study in the universities at the centre of the dot-com boom and go on to work for a startup company. After the dot-com bust, he switched his career to direct selling in telecom products and then to real estate where he achieved a great level of success. 

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Investment in Panama

In 2004, after much research Musa decided to diversify his capital into land in Panama. He purchased 50 hectares of highland in the area of Volcan near the town of David in Panama. It was a great experience despite it being quite a risky and dangerous venture into a third world nation with safety concerns. His intention was to develop a modest and simple 1-hectare mini ranch development for the American retirees who chose Panama as their retirement destination. He made good land improvements to the farm. The main development was to bring the electricity from the main road to his farm which was 2.2 km by installing more than 30 large cement electric poles with approval from the electric company. This huge improvement brought electricity to all the farmers who were living in the dark with candles. They were very grateful and always thanked him and lent him their horses whenever he visited the area. It was a good feeling to bring happiness to these people. Due to the 2008 global market crash and his migration to Malaysia, Musa decided to put the mini-ranch development on hold and managed to sell his farm for a 200% return. 

He purchased 50 hectares of highland in the area of Volcan near the town of David in Panama

Migration to Malaysia

At the end of 2009, an opportunity arose in the railway and transportation sector in Malaysia. Musa formed a local company, Amantronic Sdn Bhd (Co Ltd), which has now been running for 10 years and achieved major success.

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Journey back to Cambodia

In 2004, while living in the states, Musa’s parents decided to go back to their home country of Cambodia for the first time since the end of the war. They were informed by friends that it was a stable nation and it was safe to go there. They invited Musa to join them for that trip in the summer of 2004. The great outcome of this trip was that his parents enjoyed Cambodia and a couple of years later, they purchased a home in Phnom Penh. This helped Musa to start his plantation business in Cambodia as it provided a base for him while scouting for land. 

Purchase of the first farm

In the process of looking for land in Cambodia, Musa met his wife in 2011 and married her the same year. Through the support of her extensive family, he finally took the first step and purchased a 16-hectare farm in 2013. He told his closest friends about his new agro project and the news  spread through word of mouth. In 2014, his first investor from the UK believed in his project and invested $70,000 with him without even stepping foot in Cambodia. His investment was simply based on Musa’s good reputation in the community and based on trust. Musa personally guaranteed him that when he came to visit his black pepper plantation, if for any reason he did not like his plantation, he would refund him all his money. Investments from Musa’s family and friends followed and in 2015 he planted almost 4 hectares.

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Family Business

Musa was not the first in his family to invest in agriculture as his father already made a significant investment in rubber and durian plantations back in 2009. Today his father’s plantations are very profitable and Musa benefits from the experience and know-how of his father. Indeed his father also hired a very experienced agro engineer who developed a great fertilizer that gave tremendous success to Musa’s father’s plantations. Musa and his father are always exchanging best practices and they support each other in order to make their projects successful. In addition, Musa’s mother, two of his sisters and other family members have invested in the black pepper farms of Ajwa Plantation. 

Partnership with another French Entrepreneur

The year 2016 was the turning point for his agro-business as he met another French expat, Julien Drolon. They quickly connected in so many ways and within a few weeks, Julien visited his plantation in Cambodia and joined Ajwa Plantation as a director in marketing and sales. It was a big step for Ajwa Plantation to have Julien on board. The agro business grew from a few hectares to more than 25 hectares of black pepper plantation within 2 years. Ajwa’s valuation is now estimated at more than 3 million USD. They now have black pepper, rubber and coffee/avocado plantations and close to 150 hectares of land in management. 

 

In 2018, the Global Islamic Economy Summit of Dubai awarded Ajwa Plantation Capital in the Food and Health category. In the same year Julien received an award from the Prime Minister of Malaysia, Tun Mahathir Bin Mohamad for his volunteer work in the community of Malaysia. 

He purchased 50 hectares of highland in the area of Volcan near the town of David in Panama

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Investments with purpose

Musa’s humble beginnings and Julien’s passion for social
entrepreneurship inspired them to allocate 10% of the profits of Ajwa to
the poor communities in Cambodia. Since 2017 Ajwa Plantation has
created more than 70 jobs, benefiting dozens of families.

In addition they built more than 10 houses for their farmers which is
considerable since housing is one the major problems with poverty in
Cambodia. They also participated financially in renovating buildings and
road construction to get access to Ajwa’s plantations.

Ajwa Plantation Capital hopes to have a stronger social impact in the
future with the recent investment of Emaan Foundation from Singapore
into Ajwa Plantation’s black pepper farm. Emaan Foundation has the
intention to use the income generated from their investment with Ajwa to
support their educational and charitable programs in Cambodia.

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