Thursday, October 17

Organic fertilisers for oil palm small holdings

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Ugak rears cattle, which help him manage the weeds and provide natural fertiliser.

A BRIGHT primary school boy was elated when he was selected to study at SMK Temerloh, Pahang, as a Form 1 federal scholar.

He later graduated from Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM) and worked as an estate manager for an oil palm company in Sarawak. He did not stop there as he was a young man with big dreams.

More than 32 years down the road, now a tuai rumah, Ugak Sanggau has not stopped pursuing his dreams, being not only the headman of his kampung but also an enthusiastic, contemporary agro-preneur and innovator.

He makes his own brand of biodegradable fertilisers from greens and is educating people on it besides having his own oil palm smallholdings.

Ugak introduces a made-in-Sibu three-wheeler for harvesting fresh fruit bunches to a friend Marcell Usup Pak.

Recently, together with a Canadian friend, Ugak arranged for a small group of visitors to meet up at an eatery in Beraya, Miri.

The discussion over lunch with Fatimah, the eatery’s owner-operator, opened up the possibility of a collaboration with Ugak.

She would be interested in his organic fertilisers for her oil palm smallholdings, now managed by her two sons, while Ugak would be keen to supply manpower and manuring services, which might help her save up to over RM30,000 per year.

After using organic fertilisers, the fresh fruit bunches grow 30 to 40 per cent bigger and there are fewer male flowers per tree.

The discussion also saw oil palm growers Francis Teo from Miri, Lalo Lugun from Bario, and businessman Yusup Pak from Dalat meeting up with the group who had meaningful sharing on oil palm and various related issues.

Ugak, who is passionate about organic farming, is coming up with his own brand of compost. He and his assistant and brother-in-law, Jamit Jilin, are actively promoting the product.

The visitors had asked significant questions at the estate such as:

. How many bunches can an average tree produce per year in his estate?

. Can the Dayak smallholders produce more per tree using organic fertilisers?

. Can the bunches be bigger and heavier?

. What other benefits can the smallholders have if they use his organic fertilisers?

. How much do they cost per litre?

. How would he deliver them to their farms?

. What is his average production at his estate now?

The visitors were later taken for an on-site visit to the smallholding owned by Ugak near Rumah Mokeng, along Satap River, Bekenu.

 

Well-nourished

The road to the estate is fairly well maintained. As expected, the leaves of the palms are green and well-nourished. The palms are planted fairly wide apart, unlike some smallholders who plant too many trees on an acre. The fruit bunches are bigger than expected and most of the trees are bearing lots of fruit bunches.

Ugak said each tree needs only 88 sen of liquid organic fertiliser and his workers are now very good in mixing the fertiliser.

Organic fertilisers are easy to use – mix with rainwater or river water and spray.

“The proportion is only 500ml of the liquid to 16 litres of water. It’s very safe and my workers do not even have to wear masks. Their health is protected,” he claimed as he took the visitors to his workers’ quarters.

According to him, at 88 sen per palm per manuring session, it’s the cheapest in the whole of Malaysia. This will clip 50 per cent off his annual budget on fertilisers.

For about 100 acres, one will save up to RM30,000 a year. Besides the income generated from the FFB will go up by 40 per cent. So it will be a double financial bonus.

Furthermore, using organic fertilisers will also ensure the nearby rivers will no longer be polluted by chemicals and start to recover and soon be teeming with udang galah, original river fish, and other aquatic life.

“It’s possible the river which runs along the smallholding can be dammed for rearing fish,” he said.

Most importantly, he added, the soil in his smallholding would remain moist and earthworms would be working 24 hours to make the soil airy, loamy, and so much better.

The earthworms leave behind a lot of evidence that they are working very hard for him, like the holes they drill on the surface of the soil.

Pineapples from the Philippines.

Good future

Ugak told thesundaypost after using organic fertilisers in his smallholding, there were more female flowers than ever before on the palms. The sex ratio of 85:15 augurs well for future fruit bunches. Besides, one can easily tell the fruits are more than 20kg per bunch.

The farm has three lightweight fruit bunch vehicles – actually three wheelers – made in Sungai Merah and fabricated in Sibu.

Instead of carrying the fruit bunches on their backs, his workers have these vehicles to help them work more efficiently.

The living quarters at the back of the farm are pleasant and large. The workers rear poultry and look after 10 cows.

Ugak has also started a small tapioca farm and planting other vegetables for the workers to enjoy. He has been using seawater to control weeds and his innovation has proven rather successful.

Ugak has also introduced organically grown pineapples and pepper in his smallholding.

The highlight of the visit was a close look at the 10 cattle given by the Sarawak government for the corporate social responsibility project of Sarawak Plantation Bhd (SPB).

The bovines are reared using the rotation grazing paddock system within the areas of the smallholding. A battery-operated electric wire fence keeps the animals well-contained in one area before being moved to another area as and when required.

The 24-hour grazing has kept the estate free of weeds. Besides, the cow dung can also be used indirectly as organic fertiliser.

 

Cattle Pawah programme

The group also discussed the Sarawak government’s Cattle Pawah programme whereby the animals will be advanced to breeders from selected farms, over a six-year repayment period to the government.

The programme applies to goats and buffaloes as well. In addition, the government wants to leverage on modern technology like artificial insemination to boost birth rates.

While this option has not been used locally, most farmers are looking forward to the Pawah programme.

Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah Embas had indicated the programme could be the best way to build up on Sarawak’s cattle livestock and promote its rearing among local farmers.

He also expressed the hope that when Sarawakians start rearing more cattle, the price of fresh beef would drop, especially in times of high demand such as Hari Raya Aidiladha.

The market price of fresh beef is currently RM45 per kg, with a 300kg cow easily costing up to RM6,000 during such times.

At his smallholding, Ugak has started experimenting with growing pepper. He will also clear more land for growing pineapples, saying his organic fertilisers seem very suitable for these two crops.

It’s paramount for oil palm smallholders to seriously consider swapping to organic fertilisers, as they may improve Sarawak’s water systems and revive fish life before valuable species are gone forever.

The message that organic fertilisers are renewable, biodegradable, sustainable, and environmentally friendly must be put across to all farmers to save the Earth before it’s too late.