By: RaY KinZoKu

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Thursday, 22-Nov-2007 15:00 Email | Share | Bookmark
SELINGAN : Kelantan, The MultiDepu SuperKoridor !!

Venturing into Dewan Beta in Kota Bharu, Kelantan ...
One would notice the abundance of Lansium Domesticum aka Duku ..
Here grows the most sought after Duku in Kelantan
Famously known as Duku Daewae, a valuable cash crop
The reason why villagers here "hug" their trees .. :)
Among the Duku are trees that translate art into cash !
Meet the Aquilaria or Depu, highly prized aromatic resin
The name " Gaharu " might ring a bell !
Normally, trees are hacked open to reveal the precious core
The method, being wasteful, slowly gives way to better technique
This new method requires parts of the bark to be stripped off ..
and neatly alligned & sized holes to be drilled.
Every part of it is precious thus not a single space is spared
Wooden pegs are nailed into the tree as steps for climbing
A closer view on how a tree is prepared
To induce resin production, irritant is inserted into the holes
Resin accumulation is noticeable thru darkened trunk ( 6 mths )
From a Promotional Booklet by the Kelantan Government
From a Promotional Booklet by the Kelantan Government
From the New Straits Times 26 Nov 2006
Promotional Billboard ( P.Mas-Salor road )
The Multi Depu Super Koridor !!

* I saw this by the roadside between Pasir Hor-Wakaf Che Yeh junction and Jambatan Tendong-Lundang Paku junction, closer to the latter. Noticed several others at the "Old Bulatan Kijang" junction, by the roadside near the Pengkalan Chepa Airport and somewhere by the road between Machang and Kota Bharu - all erected just before Hari Raya, perhaps to steal the attention of "overseas" Kelantanese, coming home for the festive season.


Simply put, " Depu " is where all the " Gaharu " comes from.

Well, " Depu " is one thing but first, what the "neraka" is " Gaharu " ?

My first encounter with the word " Gaharu " was during primary school years,
and it came from this "overly quoted", well known Malay pantun which goes :

Sudah Gaharu, Cendana pula,
Sudah tahu, bertanya pula ...

However, back then, I didn't really bother what this " Gaharu " ( or even " Cendana " ) means. In fact, it meant nothing. Both words sounded so foreign, sounded like those names from P.Ramlee's films. At one time, I even thought " Gaharu " and " Garu " ( scratch ) is the same thing ! Ha ha ha and even the word " menatang " from the equally well known Malay proverb, " Menatang Minyak Yang Penuh " which I learned during that, sounds like " Menatae " to my Kelantanese ears - the dreaded word we used to tease each other in those good old days ... Weird. What's the logic of cursing a full tank of petrol ? Get it ? He he he ......

But I grew up learning and getting ideas on what Gaharu really is, mostly from accidental readings and viewings. From books to newspapers, from television programs to internet articles. I didn't look up for it really. Most just pop up from my daily dosage of informations. Often, from news articles like this one which I accidentally found printed on an old local English daily, while searching for suitable scrap papers to line up some wet groceries :

* New Straits Times - 26 Nov 2006.

I came to know that Cendana ( Sandalwood ) actually refers to trees from the genus Santalum, from which aromatic oils are extracted. But the word Gaharu ( Agarwood ) actually refers to resins, produced by a handful of trees from the genus Aqualaria. The tree(s) itself is not known as Gaharu but as Karas or Depu ( in Kelantan, it is known as " Depu ". I shall use " Depu " in the following ). Both Cendana and Gaharu produce some kind of resin from which aromatic oils are derived and refined, and further processed into highly prized fragrance and sweet smelling incense.

I am not sure about Cendana, but I do know that Depu is a domestic species, from our own jungles. The tree grows well and thrives on all soil conditions except swampy or marshy areas. It tolerates both lowlands and hilly terrains up to 750 meters from sea level, growing tall up to 40 meters high. People have been looking for it for centuries, making the Gaharu trade in the Malay Archipelago well known, drenched in hundreds of years of history. It is prized by people from both East and West. From the households of the Middle East to the temples of the Far East. It is even said that the Malacca Sultanate, prior to Portuguese arrival, thrived on Gaharu among several other precious jungle commodities and spices. In the 1900s, a British officer in Kelantan cited Gaharu as one of many precious commodities from the jungles of old Kelantan. As described in the following excerpt, from his book " Kelantan A State of The Malay Peninsular " ( W.A. Graham, 1908 ) :

* Note that the spelling is " gharu ", not a typo but the Sanskrit term for " gaharu ".
I bet you know now the origin of the word " gaharu ".

So, it happens that at the very moment, the Kelantan state government is promoting this unique species for mass cultivation throughout the state.

They say that the industry is lucrative and very promising yet with so few hassle. Unlike Cendana which needs half a century or so for ideal result, Karas / Depu grows quickly with little or no care at all, with Gaharu ready to be extracted in just 7 to 10 years ! Furthermore, for every kilo of resinous Depu wood chips, prices can go as low as RM60 to as high as RM 12,000 * ! ( * quoted from a govt released brochure ).

Conventional harvesting method is crude and very little in yield. In fact, more destructive than productive, and done only by a handful of experts who knew the trade very well. Unfortunately, these experts are often the same people who resort to poaching in the forest reserves / national parks for prime Gaharu bearing trees, resulting a great decline of the species in the wild. But a new method, very recently introduced, is giving a new definition to Gaharu extracting and a new " legal " light to the industry. Trees are no more " hunted " and chopped down but cultivated, had the resin carefully extracted with more longer lasting, productive result.

A couple of months ago I had the chance to see myself, a part of the industry - the process of preparing Depu tree for resin extraction. Here, I posted up the photos from the visit which I found so educational and worthwhile. For the note, the visited spot is a well known Duku ( Lansium Domesticum ) producer in Kelantan, Beta ( I went to Dewan Beta, Kg. Beta Hulu to be specific ), a "daerah" in Jajahan Kota Bharu. Go to any fruit / vegetable market in Kelantan where Duku is sold and ask the Duku traders about " Duku Daewae " ( Duku Dewan, after Dewan Beta ) and you would be surprised that many ( if not every of them ) would declare theirs as one, despite little or no proof at all.

Enough with the Duku part, in Beta, Depu trees co-exist with Duku trees.
Before, it was considered by the villagers as nothing much of use, more of nuisance as it easily occupies the spaces between Duku trees, grows fast, often depriving the latter from sunlight. Though a timber species, Depu is of low quality and of very little uses, most ended up as caskets bound for the graveyards. But when the State Govt decided to kick off the Gaharu campaign in Beta, plus, with free distribution of Depu seedlings to the villagers, Depu trees started to gain popularity. Villagers are now offering existing Depu trees in their backyards and Duku groves for Gaharu operators to work on, hoping for a lovely share from the trade. Finally learning to appreciate what was onced rendered useless.

I left the place wondering how the Gaharu industry will fare in Kelantan, how it will turn up into. Nevertheless, I think I have faith in the future prospect of Gaharu itself

and as for Dewan Beta, now, Duku Daewae.

Next stop, Gaharu Daewae !

A sight you won't miss.

Take a trip into Dewan Beta ( some 20 km to the south of Kota Bharu town ), describe to the locals about it, the shape, the look and all that and you will be guided to and shown the real stuff, just in their backyard !

A Depu tree being prepared for the Gaharu industry.

This method of extracting Gaharu is " imported " from just " next door " ( you know where ).
After this process, the tree has to be inoculated and returned to nature, for about 6 months or so.
Then, the treated layers, darkened with resin accumulation is carefully chiselled into chips which is then brought to
the refinery for oil extraction. I was told that this new method is less destructive, with greater and longer lasting yield.


Read the rest, with more details at Usahawantani Kelantan's blog.

Oh ! By The Way :

Finally an entry after a month of nothingness.
An old entry that should be posted up a month ago.

The reason to that is well, I am kinda busy lately.
Feels like being robbed away of my freedom each day.
Emmm .. maybe it is just a case of faulty time management
but hey, I think I am going to enjoy this new chapter of my life, well, hopefully ....

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