Kabuloh Agriculture Station in Miri


Sunday, August 9th, 2009

Kabuloh Agriculture Station in Miri
By Chin Kee Leong

AN agriculture station comes across as a garden or a natures paradise waiting to be explored.

It was with this idea that thesundaypost decided to check out the Kabuloh Agriculture Station in Miri.

The station was originally called Luak Station set up in 1964 as an experimental oil palm station.

About 42km from Miri city along the Miri-Bintulu trunk road after the Sarawak Oil Palms Berhad (SOPB) factory, and before a Petronas station, it has, since 1980, expanded into a multi-crop field research station for fruit trees, food crops, and commodities like cocoa, coconut and coffee.

Then from 1990, it evolved from an experimental station into a fully integrated agriculture station with facilities for inland fishery, orchard and nursery, herb and medicinal plant nursery, veterinary (livestocks) and commodities like oil palm and rubber trees.

Other sections, involving joint-venture or cooperative projects, include Subis Area Farmers Organisation (Safo) and Sarawak Agriculture Vocational Training Institute (Savti).

Since 1971, an agriculture training centre has been in existence for farmers and staff training, and upgraded over the years.

Savti was set up in 1996 to produce trained workforce to meet increasing demand for field supervisors in oil palm plantations.

A six-month training, organised by the institute, produced about 35 to 40 students per intake which increased to 70 with the completion of a new hostel in 2003.

Subis Area Farmers Organisation

During the first visit to Kabuloh on May 21, thesundaypost met assistant agriculture officer, Florence Law, from Kuchings Semongok Agriculture Research Centre, who happened to be on inspection duty to Safo.

Law who had stayed in Miri for nine years and worked for almost 30 years in the Agriculture Department there, said fruits in Miri fetched good prices, and there was a ready market for local fruits.

Safo had embarked on a commercial project in 1998, leasing three parcels of land with a total area of some 76 hectares which have expanded to 120 hectares today. The emphasis was on net-house vegetable growing, mixed fruit orchard and oil palm nursery.

According to Safo representative, Lim Woei Khoon, the original net-house area of 0.4 hectare in 1998 has expanded to five hectares and Safo has also participated in a vegetable certification scheme for pesticide-safe vegetables.

The site office was set up in 1999 and the project is managed by Subis New Vision Sdn Bhd, as owner and investor, with an office in the Boulevard commercial centre.

Production of pesticide-safe vegetables reached 109.17 tonnes in 2001 with the main markets in Miri and Bintulu.

The officer in charge of Kabuloh, John Jadol, and Lim, were on hand to show Law around the Safo farmland where vegetables like okra and fruits like papayas were grown.

After lunch at the shoplot next to a Petronas station, John showed thesundaypost around some of the sites.

He said the farmland presently covered about 520 hectares.

We still maintain the source of various popular clones for oil palm and rubber trees to produce saplings for local farmers but are no longer doing much or any research since the big private plantations in mature industries are already capable of doing their own research and producing their own saplings, John said.

Orchards and nurseries

On a tour of the orchard, John showed us some durian nyekak (durio kutejensis) trees that were not in season then.

He said not many people were willing to plant durian in Sarawak despite the popularity of the king of fruits here.

This made durian prices in the state very expensive compared to peninsular Malaysia, he added.

Although durians fetch quite a good price in Sarawak, people are not willing to wait for the trees to bear fruits in seven years they prefer pamelos, sweet oranges or dragon fruits that can be harvested sooner, John said, adding that the station used to sell fruit tree saplings for RM5 each.

He revealed that the yellow-flesh durian nyekak was popular among natives in northern Sarawak, saying it was only a few years ago that the station planted durians in its orchard.

Durian nyekak is popular with the people in Brunei who would come all the way to Bintulu to book whole trees and personally harvest them to bring back to Brunei. This way, tree owners also save on transportation, he explained.

At first, I didnt quite like durian nyekak but after trying a few times, I found it to be quite good and began to like it very much, John recalled.

An interesting fruit he has introduced is the miracle fruit (synsepalum dulcificum) that grows on a small shrub-like tree that bears red oval berry-like fruits, each with a large seed and a sweet-sour pulp.

After eating the miracle fruit, anything sour doesnt taste so sour anymore probably sweet too, he reckoned.

An unusual fruit is the kasai that resembles the longan and is rare here only because it comes from South America.

An orchard staff, Jada Padeng, climbed up a kasai tree to collect some of the ripening fruits for a closer look and sampling.

The hard, round fruit ripens from green to almost black, and you need to use some force to break open its rather thick skin.

Its flesh is white, sweetish and smooth with one big oval, brown seed inside.

Yet another unusual fruit is the Amazon grapes growing high up on very tall and large trees.

When we were there, they were still an unripe green. They are said to turn near-black when ripe. Other fruits included dragon fruit, mango, salak, citrus and isau (green longan).

The nursery had some fruit tree saplings that did not seem to have much variety, however. There was another nursery for herbal and medicinal plants beside a pond. It had quite a good variety of herbs potted up in a partly sheltered shed but lacked clear labelling to indicate their species.

A staff explained the labels had been removed to reduce theft since some herbs could be very valuable.

Inland fishery

According to John, the stations inland fishery section sells fry like those of keli (catfish), tilapia and Jelawat at 15 to 30 sen each.

The lee koh and lampan jawa fry are given free because the demand for them is less and we want to promote them, he said.

However, customers must submit a form to the office and wait for approval before the fry can be delivered.

Officers may check on the ponds that must be ready but most of our customers are regular farmers who we already know, John added.

On the night of my first visit, the agriculture office was burnt down, so I decided to pay a second visit on May 27.

John was not around, so I stopped by at the inland fishery section and met its staff, Zainal Jaraee, who said fry about four weeks old cost about 15 sen each.

He explained that selected pairs of mature adult fish would be quarantined for breeding, and the fry transferred to other indoor ponds after fertilisation.

Ikan baung (a local catfish species) is popular with local farmers, said Zainal who was transferred here from Kuchings Semonggok Agriculture Station over six months ago.

It was here that I met a camera-toting student from Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM), Deva Darshini Thinakaran, who said she was on a five-week training stint at the agriculture station together with three fellow female course mates Nor Izwani Dzulkifli, Siti Noorhidayah Jupridin and Zulaikha Jaafar.

Deva said it was their last week at the station, and they had been checking out the fishery section, taking pictures and learning about its functions.

We are taking a three-year diploma course majoring in livestocks we chose livestocks because its more interesting learning about animals than plants, added Deva from Selangor.

Livestock section

The girls accompanied thesundaypost on a trip to the livestock section which they had already covered earlier. After driving through a rough undulating terrain along pebbled pathways, we stopped at the No. 1 sheep shed.

Along the way, we saw many sheep, said to be of the Black Belly Barbados stock, grazing on fenced up hill slopes. The rearing of the livestock helps keep grasses around fruit trees short, thus reducing weeding costs.

Livestock section staff, Phillip Jamor, estimated the number of sheep at about 300 or more per shed, and the monthly census per shed showed an average of 370 to 380 sheep.

The sheds were built in 1993 with about 230 hectares used as grazing pasture and the livestock population varies from 1,000 to 1,500.

The average number of sheep produced and distributed to farmers was about 460 heads annually from 1991 to 2001.

The sheep are usually in high demand from villagers during festive seasons like Gawai and Qurban, Phillip said.

Next, we visited the No. 2 sheep shed labelled Malin (for Malaysia Indigenous a native goat species). It was linked through a bridge to the No. 3 shed for crossbreeds like the Malin x Barbados.

All the students stayed in the rest house opposite the Kabuloh agriculture office.

We dont go out to the shops to eat we cook our own meals, Deva said.

The visit to Kabuloh was an eye-opener, indicating the potential of the station to provide valuable resources in food production for farmers and manpower training for employees and students.

The land use pattern of the station varies according to changing priorities and is last known to be divided into livestock pasture land for sheep and goats (177 ha), Safo mixed farming (120 ha), rubber (60 ha), orchard (41 ha), oil palm (40 ha), buildings and compounds (18 ha), annual crops (16 ha), fish ponds (14 ha) and commodities like coffee, cocoa, coconut (12 ha).

The Kabuloh agriculture station is said to be the biggest in terms of land size among the dozen experimental and research stations dedicated to agriculture in Sarawak.

More changes and improvements are certainly needed to upgrade the Kabuloh station as indicated by the old wooden agriculture office gutted by an overnight fire on May 21, the same day I visited and interviewed John in his office.

i wonder if kabuloh did supply anak ayam to small-time farmer like us~

Sorry… Kabuloh doesn’t supply anak ayam…you can refer to karabungan…

karabungan farm… under PPES sdn bhd… kelak i cuba contact sidak ya… hehe ney tauk nasib bagus, sidak bagi anak ayam free hahahaha