Every time Malaysian fisherman Jamaludin Ahmad tells his friends that he wants to be successful, they will laugh at him.

Some even think that his dream of success is just angan-angan Mat Jenin (Mat Jenin’s fantasy).

But Jamaludin, 41, does not feel offended because like Mat Jenin, most fishermen can only dream of having better lives as they depend on their daily catch and assistance from the government.

In the Malay folklore, Mat Jenin was a village lad who liked to daydream.

One day, while plucking coconuts at the top of a tree, he dreamt of becoming rich and marrying a princess.

But that dream was shortlived after he lost his grip and fell to his death.

Unlike his friends, Jamaludin believes his dream is nothing like Mat Jenin’s.

He believes in hard work. Having worked as a fisherman since he was 13, Jamaludin knows what a hard life is all about.

His family depends on the day’s catch and the more he catches, the more money they can earn.

With various assistance given by the government and the private sector, his family now lives in a better house and he earns a decent income.

Apart from the government’s RM200 monthly allowance, Jamaludin also received an allocation of RM5,000 to repair his home and a RM6,000 loan from Agrobank to buy a second-hand boat.

“You just need to work hard and be flexible. If the weather is bad and you cannot catch fish, then you must do something else,” Jamaludin said while repairing nets in front of his home in Kampung Chempaka near here.

He is one of 3,720 fishermen living near the town here.

According to the 2009 data from the Fisheries Department, there were 135,632 fishermen working on licensed fishing vessels nationwide. Of that number, 83,873 were living in the peninsula.

These fishermen might also benefit from a RM300 million Special Housing Fund for Fishermen proposed by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak during the 2012 Budget.

The allocation was aimed at helping fishermen to build and refurbish their houses.

Besides repairing fishing nets, Jamaludin also supplements his income by growing vegetables and rearing livestock.

He earns around RM400 a month as a fisherman.

There are times when he can earn more than that, especially when he catches fish that fetch a higher price in the market such as kerapu, tenggiri and bawal.

“It depends mostly on weather and luck. I will buy meat, fruits and chocolates whenever I have a good catch.”

Jamaludin, who has three children aged between 2 to 17, also learned the importance of eating a healthy diet after his family took part in the New Straits Times nationwide budgeting and marketing programme in 2008.

“That was one of the reasons that motivated me to work hard.

“I believe my children deserve better meals and a home. I want them to succeed in life so we can break out of this poverty chain that I inherited from my forefathers.”

His routine differs greatly from other fishermen.

In good weather , he would go out to sea as early as 6am and return at noon.

If the catch is good, he will return early and sell the fish to the middlemen at the fishermen’s jetty in Kampung Chempaka.

Jamaludin used sell his catch to the same middleman because he was financially indebted to him before.

“It’s a common practice among fishermen to borrow money from the middlemen.

“As a token of appreciation and to reduce our debts, we sell our catch to those who we borrow from. But now, I no longer borrow from them.”

2011 The New Straits Times Press (Malaysia) Berhad