Saturday, July 31, 2010

Images of Bintulu Today

Fishing boats berthing at the newly completed Bintulu Waterfront

The common open country and pioneering shrub called " Senduduk" are found everywhere along roadsides, open spaces and residential areas around Bintulu.

Offshore boats servicing the oil and gas platforms off the Bintulu coast are parked at the Bintulu waterfront wharf.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Images of Bintulu Today

Flowers of the pumpkin fruit sold at Bintulu 'tamu' ( jungle produce market) as vegetable.

Mudskipper at low tide by the banks of Kemena River.
Red -eyed young starling bird.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush

Lianas or climbers, rattan whips, decomposed leaves, numerous jungle tree species making up the original forest are preserved in three big vegetation islands within the farm. The strategy is to create a botanic garden around and within the forest environment.

Yesterday I started a new blog named " my Kambatik Botanic Garden". I guess this will be a lifetime adventure. It is something delightful and meaningful to me in order make a statement about the state of agroecological farming I'm developing at my eco-farm here in Bintulu.

Over the five years that I spent developing the eco-farm, I've always thought of making it an example of a sustainable oil palm cultivation business. What more to glorify it if not for the fact that along the way I can develop a botanic garden within the original habitat out of which the farm slowly evolved. Thus grew the idea of a botanic garden within a forest.

The blog will document the different species that were there originally and those that I introduced. Today, while making out a section of the mid-hill footpath at the vegetation island no.1, and trying to get pictures of the Caladium bicolour ( Angel's Wings) something dropped down from the canopy of leaves above. A tiny black bird was hopping desperately and trying to take flight but couldn't because it was too young to fly. I got hold of the bird in my right palm and there it was to my surprise, two startling red eyes caught me close and personal.
I think it is rare to catch a red-eyed starling bird. Today I consider myself lucky . Isn't it not what people say, " A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush". Just like the idea of the botanic garden, to have one at my own backyard is worth more than just dreaming about it. What more could I ask?
A special attraction of the botanic garden will be a heliconia collection, besides collection of fruit trees, herbal and medicinal plants, landscaping plants ( interior, roadside, residential, edible), fernery, etc.,.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Remembering PENANG Botanical Garden

The year was 1971. I found myself in a strange land. Coming from a tiny fishing village , very much undeveloped Bintulu was light years of different from Penang. In the middle of 1971, I was enrolled at the University of Pulau Pinang, later named Universiti Sains Malaysia and became the second batch of students from Sarawak to study in the newly created university. On 23rd October that year, I ventured to go places and see Penang like a tourist would do. My destination was the Penang Botanical Garden. Here I share some memorable pictures of the garden then. By the way, the picture above shows how Penang Road looked in the 1970's. Here a trishaw rider pedals a family of foreign tourist around the not- so busy street of Penang. The trishaw with its rider pedalling from behind, has replaced the old man-pulled rickshaw. At the back of the postcard is stated that the printing and publication was done by John Hinde Limited, Cabinteely, Co. Dublin, Republic of Ireland. Obviously it must be a rare thing to see colour photographs made in Penang. As evidenced from my photos, it was the era of black and white. To take the pictures below, I used the services of a photographer who was on standby at the entrance of the Botanic Garden. It took him a couple of days later to send the photos to me prepaid.
Penang Botanical Garden in 1971

Yes, monkeys were every where and they loved to be feed with ground nuts. The early 70's were the " Hippie Days " in Penang and it was fashionable for students to sport long hair.

This monkey kept on following my footsteps, but what a pose she threw in for the remembrance.

The waterfall feature within the garden.

Standing behind a Palms Collection area of the garden. I wouldn't know the name of the big palm tree just behind me then. But judging from its form and leaves, I know now that it must be the Chinese Fan Palm ( Livistonia chinensis)

Finally a pose in between shrubs and a long hedge at the background.
I always think that Penang is my second home and how I wish to settle there in future or maybe just keep a home for an occasional return and remembrance of the good old days. I guess I just need to keep on dreaming.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Integrated Oil Palm Farming in Bintulu

Part of Zone E of the Kambatik eco-farm.

Back in Bintulu I'm thrilled again on the development of my Kambatik eco-farm. Here I'm promoting the cultivation of oil palm in an agro-ecological perspective. For example, today I revisited Vegetation Island No.2. for the main reason that I was top-dressing and fertilising oil palm seedlings that were planted a year ago around the vegetation island. There were 8 nos that I managed to complete the tasks of clearing the debris, loosening the earth and finally fertilising the young oil palm trees and mulching them with decomposed leaves and organic matter that were in abundance insitu (see inset) . From the very top picture it is clear that some oil palm trees are planted in the open space between the two islands. But a year ago it was a real challenge to add more planting around the island while preserving the original vegetation and habitat of the island. Looking at the condition of the plants I'm convinced that the method is successful because the new seedlings are growing vigorously .
Inside the preserved islands is a complex story of symbiotic relationship between plants and animals, ants, fungis, betels, and many more living organism that contribute to the living habitat of the islands. In the above picture the lianas or climbers are used as a perfect station for the bird's nests fern ( Asplenium nidus).

Above is a view of Vegetation Island No.2, from Zone E of the eco-farm. At many of the fringes of the jungles or vegetation islands, I plant many species of local fruit trees. Chiefly among them are; Durians ( Durio zibethinus), Rambutan ( Nephelium lappaceum), Pulasan ( Nephelium mutabile) , Sour sop ( Annona muricata), Coconut ( Cocos nucifera), Bananas ( Musa), Mangoes ( Mangifera indica). This list is not exhaustive and my plan is to add more fruit trees in future making the farm a sort of mini-arboretum of fruit trees.
Horticultural plants are also part of the make-up of the eco-farm. There are attractive to sunbirds of various colours and types. Horticultural plants add colour the the green wash of the jungle and oil palm leaves.
My eco-farm has brought much pleasure, thrill and fun to me. It is special because I take great care to integrate the oil palm farming to an existing forest habitat or environment. Obviously, I'm not your conventional oil palm farmer because I believe sustainability is more important the short term profits.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Images of Bintulu Today

A tugboat pulls a barge loaded with logs bypassing the Jepak Hill in the background.

Fishing boats berthing at the fishing wharf at Bintulu town waterfront.

Main Bazaar Road in Bintulu town.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Return of wildlife

Fresh and clear imprints of hooves of the sambur deer, called " Rusa" in the local Malay lingo.

It's all prints, prints and prints. A couple of nights ago when it was full moon my farm was frequented by the sambur deers again. They must be having a party at the farm. That night the deep breathing sound and a bark or two came just yards away from the bedroom windows. I was overwhelmed with joy and ecstasy when the morning after I examined the sambur deers's hooves prints along the farm roads and open spaces. I believe now my agroecological farm has borne fruits. The planning and development of the eco-farm based on oil palm smallholding as core business has bore fruits not only in the bunches of ripe oil palm fruits but more important to me is the return of wildlife to the farm environment. Nature not only heals in Bintulu, it thrives beyond belief. But only if you do farming in an agroecological way which has been my mission when I started developing the oil palm holding within an agroecological framework about five years ago. All the sweat ,blood and tears have now been paid well. This proves that smallholders
can do a better job at sustainable agribusiness than the big-time plantation companies that do only destruction in their ways of developing mono-culture oil palm cultivation through out Sarawak. I believe now that smallholding oil palm business is the future for sustainable oil palm farming in Sarawak and not big time plantation companies' methods of destroying Sarawak's natural environment at day one when they first clear fell the pristine tropical rainforests for their massive and naturally -destructive plantation-style mono-culture. Plantation companies in Sarawak and Malaysia for that mater need to take a leaf or two from the humble and small farmers of Sarawak.
Along this creek I have preserved thick bushes of the shrubby dillenia shrubs ( with yellow flowers in the foreground) from which the sambur deers snap its fruits.
From this view what is seen is the mix of trees planted for biodiversity reasons, mainly to attract wildlife like pigeons, tree shrews, squirrels, all kind of sun birds, waterbirds, monkeys, civet cats, butterflies, cicadas, insects,fishes, etc.. Observe the natural terrain that are not disturbed and natural features like streams and ponds are preserved as well. It's obviously not your kind of " normal" oil palm holding.
This is one passageway that the sambur deers love to run through. Everyday on the way out to fetch my worker I'll just drive through the mud and I just don't really get bothered to stone the road for fear the deers will not love to travel the path anymore. I guess they love the dirt track like I do when driving through with my 4X4 pick-up. Well, all these have been worth it for the sambur deers' presence every now and then when the full moon is up is a magical moment at the farm.