Bright and early on Saturday morning(23 July 2011), 36 young students of Chung Hua Primary School No. 2 Bintulu were gathered at the front compound of their school eagerly waiting for the bus to take them on their first field trip to an Oil Palm Plantation.
The students picked to go on the trip were the top 6 students from each of the primary 5 classes, accompanied by their teachers.
At 8am, the bus started out to reach the Suburmas Oil Palm Mill shortly after 9am. We were met at the gate by the security chief Mr. Sim and on arrival at the mill office by Mr. Syaiful Yapp and his team.
Mr. Yapp had taken much effort in preparing for our visit, with 2 benches set up with fresh fruit bunch, palm kernels, and various beakers containing crude palm oil, sludge etc and he proceeded to tell the students about the whole process of planting oil palms, the number of years it takes for the palms to start producing fruit, their productive years, the amount of fruit produced per plant, how much each bunch of fruit weigh and how much palm oil can be gotten out of the fruit.
Mr. Yapp touched on pest control by the presence of various snakes in the plantation to control rats which causes damage by eating the oil palm fruit. One student asked whether owls were used as well and was told that there were nest boxes set up to attract the birds at various places in the plantation. Another student asked about palm oil being used for biodiesel.
The milling process was described with the aid of the various stuff Mr. Yapp had prepared on the bench. The students and teachers were surprised that the raw oil palm fruit can be eaten, and everyone had a small slice of it to taste. Another interesting fact was the very pleasant scent of the oil from the oil palm seed within the kernel, which is not normally used to make cooking oil but exported to make higher grade products.
Virtually no part of the oil palm is wasted as the empty fruit bunches and the resultant sludge from the milling process can be turned into fertiliser for use in the plantation.
There was much information to absorb and the students were kept busy taking notes to help them remember what Mr. Yap had told them. The teachers played their role by recapping on the important facts to make sure that the children take note of the important points.
All of us were treated to a sumptuous morning tea of doughnuts and sardine spring rolls before we bid goodbye and thank you to Mr. Yapp and his team for their very kind reception.
The next destination was Tawakal Sejati Plantation where the managing team met us at the loading site. The students were first given a safety briefing before going amongst the palms.
They were taught how to tell when a fruit bunch is ready for harvest and were shown how the harvesting was done. A collection truck then came along to pick up the fruit bunch that has been harvested and then dumped onto the slide chute system to await collection by lorries which bring them to the mill from whence we came.
We then visited the nursery where young oil palms are cared for before being planted out in the field, as well as seedlings of beneficial plants used for pest control.
The plantation team treated everyone to lunch where the children behaved really well under the supervision of their attentive teachers.
A souvenir was presented to the manager of Tawakal Sejati by the teacher in charge as a token of appreciation and a group photograph was taken before we set off back to Bintulu.
A special thank you to Mr. Syaiful Yapp and his team at the Suburmas Mill for his excellent presentation to the kids and the whole Tawakal Sejati team for their briefing and the effort they had put into organising to show the process of oil palm harvesting for the students.
Thank you to the teachers who took great care of your students during the trip and the students for your enthusiasm and interest.
Our appreciation also goes to Tawakal Sajati Sdn Bhd for sponsoring the trip and to Mr. Lau Song Ting for organising the event.
Thank you all for a great field trip and for sharing your knowledge.