Tue, 14 Nov 2000

Al-Zaytun center greens arid land with teak trees

By Yusran Edo Fauzi

INDRAMAYU, West Java (JP): Within two years, arid land covered with long dry grass in Indramayu regency, West Java has been transformed into a golden teak forest with Saudi Arabian date palms, Jordanian olive and tiin trees by the Al-Zaytun Islamic integrated educational center.

"When the land was offered to us in 1996, its owners said the land was not good because it turned into a swamp with long two- meter high grass during the rainy season and became very dry and dusty during the dry season. That's why the land was only priced at a hundred rupiah (per square meter)," Al-Zaytun's founder Syakh Panji Gumilang said.

Hundreds of land owners wanted to sell their land in Mekarjaya village in Indramayu and Al-Zaytun managed to purchase 1,200 hectares.

After the transfer of land ownership to Al-Zaytun, a master plan was prepared to green the area. According to local history, the land had been earlier named Haurgeulis because of the beauty of its bamboo forests.

Al-Zaytun has only constructed buildings on 200 hectares, or about 20 percent of the land although according to a government regulation, they could use 60 percent of the land for this purpose.

The remaining 1,000 hectares has been earmarked for three man- made lakes and a dam, rice and corn fields, plantations (orange, mango, banana, olive, sandalwood and tiin trees), golden teak (Tectona grandis) forest, farms (for raising cows, ducks, swans, doves, chicken and rabbits) and fishery.

Visitors usually find the golden teak forest, the trees of which have imported from Myanmar, interesting.

Planting the golden teak tree from Myanmar is different from planting the local variety. If the local teak tree is planted from its seeds, the Myanmar teak tree is cut and directly planted in the ground.

This planting method make the golden teak trees grow faster. Within 10 to 15 years, the tree trunks will have reached its maximum diameter and be ready to be logged while local teak trees can only be logged after tens of years of growing.

The first batch of golden teak trees, which was planted in July 1998 has now reached an average height of seven meters, while the second batch of trees, which was planted in September 1999, are now 3.5 meters high. The trees planted in July this year, the third batch, are now a meter high.

Between July 1998 and July 2000, there are now 400,000 golden teak trees and in the year 2010, the number is expected to reach two million.

In 2010, trees planted in the first batch will be cut down and the wood will be used as raw material for the handicraft industry such as for the making of various furniture. The industry is expected to create jobs for the educational center's graduates.

After 2010, the teak trees will be annually harvested and replanted so that the forest created by the Al-Zaytun educational center will stay intact. Each tree cut will be replaced by a new one.

Apart from the teak forest, the center also has a unique plantation of imported Saudi Arabian date, olive and tiin trees from Jordan.

Date palm trees have been cultivated by many Muslim boarding schools in Indonesia but olive and tiin trees will become rare agribusiness commodities.

The olive and tiin trees were brought directly from Jordan by Mazin, an envoy of the Jordanian kingdom who visited Al-Zaytun. As a souvenir, the kingdom granted the center two native species of Arabian trees. The trees have been planted around the man-made lakes, just like in its country of origin where they grow around oases.

During the recent dry season, the lakes remained full, sufficient for the center's 5,795 inhabitants along with its countless of visitors. Only the rice fields remained dry.

Al Zaytun educational centers will be established in all provinces until 2015. To date it has been set up in Riau, Jambi, Bengkulu, Sukabumi in West Java and several regencies in Kalimantan.

"The teak forest, plantations, fishery and cattle farming should always be maintained as they will yield everlasting funds for the Al-Zaytun educational programs," said Panji Gumilang.