Balung trip - A courtesy visit to Datuk Harris Mohd. Salleh
(Report by Ar. Sim Sie Hong)
Datuk Harris bin Mohd. Salleh, personally welcome the PAM Sabah Chapter, with his General Manager Mr. K. Arunagirinathan at the entrance to his Balung Plantation, and started off the plantation visit immediately, showing some of his innovative planting methods. The first visit was to an oil palm plantation where the oil palm was inter-planted with Gaharu. (A Sandal Wood Species) which can be harvested in 15 years. Each tree was said to worth over RM1,000,000.00 when the resin was extracted to make perfumes.
Nanga Salak (Snake skin fruit) was planted along the roadside. Datuk Harris then showed his experiment in planting some special Java rice (to be planted on terraced land in Balung ) which he hoped to achieve the quality of the Japanese rice which was being sold at Tong Hing Supermarket at RM32 per 5 Kilo. Other cash crop which he was planting in a large scale was the Misai Kucing Tea - a herbal tea which claimed to have many medicinal benefit such as lowering the blood pressure, reducing the urine acid in the body and etc.
PAM members were shown his latest "invention" in using a large steel "Flywheel" to drive a motor to produce 100 Kilo watts of power for the plantation. In fact, a much smaller motor was first used to turn the flywheel. When the bigger motor was generating power, the smaller motor would then be re-routed to derive electricity from the generated power. Apart from that he has also started the construction of "Balung Dam" to generate hydro-electricity from turbines for another 100 kilo watt of power for the whole Balung estate.
The trip was very educational and the day was ended with a special dinner hosted by Datuk Harris himself at his specially designed house. Built with mostly the local river stone for walls and belian timber for the structure frame and salagan batu for door, the house was decorated with the curving of the river stone and motif throughout. Prior to the dinner, PAM Sabah Chapter had cordially extended its invitation to Yang Berbahagia Datuk Harris Mohd. Salleh to be the Guest of Honour in the forthcoming 32nd PAM annual Dinner on 18th August 2007.
With the theme of " Leaf • A Life !" PAM felt that Datuk Harris would be the best candidate to be the special Guest of Honour for the Annual Dinner. Datuk Harris had accepted our invitation and look forward to our "Leaf • A Life!" Dinner.
During the dinner Datuk Harris has shared his life experience with us, the pre dinner conversation was about the future economy of Sabah. He was still deeply concerned about the well being of Sabah and hope to contribute anyway he could through education and his agriculture research in Balung.
The following day, Datuk Harris continued his special guided tour to other parts of the plantation. The first stop was at an old oil palm plantation where he showed the members an oil palm that was fell down so as to extract sample of the oil palm core. The purpose was to get sample for his trip to Japan talking to a Japanese organization to produce Bio-ethanol, an alternative fuel derive from plants and organic matter. At age 76, Datuk Harris was still constantly seeking and exploring new ideas and new concepts to betterment the world. His energy and effort had surpassed many. The visit continued to some coffee plantation, and finally to the factory where he produced Misai Kucing Tea, Noni Juice, Palm Sugar and Palm Syrup.
The visit ended with an excellent lunch served with all the local organic vegetables and exotic Nanga Salak dessert. Each of the PAM members was presented one of Datuk Harris's book on "His Vision for Sabah".
(Apresiasi untuk Datuk Harris bin Mohd Salleh, pekebun Aren "terluas" di dunia, begitu pengakuannya)