MALAYSIA AGRICULTURE PARK
A Gift to Humanity
(Text by Dato’ Dr. A. Mustaffa Babjee)
The Malaysia Agriculture Park at Bukit Cahaya Seri Alam in Shah Alam, Selangor began as Malaysia’s first agricultural theme park. It has now become one of the nation’s most popular parks, with live demonstrations, dynamic permanent displays, cultural exhibits, recreational facilities, accommodation, picnic areas, open-air amphitheatres, nature trails, public amenities and numerous educational opportunities.
It is a magnet for day-trippers, tourists, campers, anglers, naturalists, birders, families, excursion groups, hikers, school children, university students and research scientists, as well as farmers, agriculturalists, nature-lovers and visitors from all over Malaysia and the globe.
This book does not attempt to reproduce the unique experience that a visit creates, but it does offer the armchair-traveller a vivid overview of the concept, scope and versality of this unique “gift to mankind”. When completed, the Park will be a place for the average man to look, learn and educate himself.
MESSAGE FROM PRIME MINISTER OF MALAYSIA
Although agriculture has come a long way in this country, there is a great need to develop more dynamic technological innovations, especially in rural sector, to ensure overall balanced development.
Towards this end, I am delighted that a number of approaches are undertaken by the Ministry of Agriculture to stimulate as well as enhance the development of agricultural activities. The establishment of the Agriculture Park is a case in point. The Park enables farmers not only to continually tap and draw knowledge from the latest advancement in agro-technology, but also offers recreational facilities.
The pictorial book is a testimony of the success of the Park. It is my hope that it will convey not only the essence of the Agriculture Park but also something of the living reality that is agriculture.
DR. MAHATHIR BIN MOHAMAD
MESSAGE BY THE FOUNDER OF THE AGRICULTURE PARK
There has always been a burning desire in my heart to leave something different, apolitical and worthwhile for posterity – something that we and our great grandchildren would be proud of. I dreamed of a microcosm of the Ministry of Agriculture’s activities in rural development, extension, training, research, food production and poverty eradication, set in an inspirational and appealing environment.
I requested MARDI to look for a suitable place for the project which I had in mind. Once found, I provided the motivation and the catalyst to the staff of my Ministry and they in turn added their dreams to mine and together we launched The Agriculture Park on 12 May 1986.
The freedom given to my officials to create a unique park, stimulated the emergence of hidden talents and the crystalisation of ideas into realities. My only guideline to them was to cite the work of a few dreamers of the past who have left such inspirational legacies to the world as the Alhambra in Spain, the Tivoli Gardens in Italy, and Disneyland in USA.
I conceived the Agriculture Park as a place of intellectual beauty where aesthetics and science are integrated into poetic expressions – a softening of the hard sciences with the gentle embrace of the art. The park is also an attempt to strike a balance between our past and our future, our culture and our advancement, and our environment and our needs.
YAB Dato’ Seri Dr. Mahathir bin Mohamad said, “Many, many things must be done by many, many people. And they must be done as correctly as possible.” He also said, “We should be a developed country in our own mold.”
The Agriculture Park is one of the many, many things done by many, many people in a manner of our own. It provides numerous scope for education, research, conservation, recreation and tourism.
Agriculture has often been associated with poverty. I know poverty, I have tasted poverty, I see poverty everyday, I devoted a greater part of my time to poverty eradication and I have even declared a holy war on poverty. I also know that poverty could never be eradicated, if poverty is measured in monetary terms and relative income. But I also see so much wealth in “poor” people, their talents, their hospitality, their innocence, their smiles and their traditions. At the Park, I hope you will see the richness of agriculture.
Our value systems have been strongly influenced by norms that place monetary gains above all other values. If this trend continues, we will end up being poor in the attributes of a truly developed and cultured nation. The Prime Minister had emphasised, “We must be fully developed in terms of national unity and social cohesion, in terms of our economy, in terms of cultural and social justice, political stability, system of government, quality of life, social and spiritual values, national pride and confidence.” The total value concept is also the philosophy behind the Agriculture Park’s theme. Once we appreciate the total value philosophy, we will no longer be poor.
Minister of Agriculture Malaysia
MESSAGE FROM MINISTER OF CULTURE, ARTS AND TOURISM
Malaysia Agriculture Park is a testimony of the Government efforts to preserve our natural attractions as an invaluable heritage for the enjoyment of our future generation.
The unique quality and beautiful features of the Park give visitors a rare glimpse into Malaysia’s rich agricultural heritage covering every facet of our country’s culture, history, geography and natural environment.
This book is indeed a commendable effort by the Ministry of Agriculture to stimulate interest and awareness of the Park and serves as an excellent reference for tourists. I also wish to congratulate the publisher, Design Dimension Sdn. Bhd. for their contributions in making this project possible.
DATO’ SABARUDDIN CHIK
If there are projects on the ground today with the vision 2020, one of them is without a doubt the Agriculture Park Malaysia. Surrounded by areas of intense urbanisation and industrialisation, the park promises to remain the primary green heritage for millions of city dwellers of the 21st Century. Parks and green spaces as well as rural traditions will become a rarity and will be much sought after by an industrialised Malaysia. In this respect the park not only has special features but also a strategic location to attract large numbers of local and foreign visitors. Its very concept as dreamed up by Sanusi Junid, ”as a gift to mankind”, will be appreciated much more by the future generations.
Malaysia has fourteen wilderness parks which offer the excitement and adventure of the tropical rainforest. In the case of this park, compatible integration of agriculture within a natural forest setting has been achieved that makes it different from other parks. The Agriculture Park is but a singular park, built around the theme that knowledge is for all and that learning need not be painful but pleasurable. It is designed for visitors to acquire knowledge as they enjoy its natural attributes and scientific facilities. In the words of Sanusi Junid, “Let it be an open university,” where the youths of today would be attracted to become the farmers of tomorrow.
Live demonstrations and dynamic permanent displays of various agricultural activities await the visitors to the park. Contrasting but not conflicting, traditional and new technologies employed in farming can be seen side by side – the former a reminder of our romantic past and the latter of things to come. The latest techniques of farming are planned for the aspiring farmers and for general education of the public at large. Unlike agriculture or natural history museums, the displays at the park are real, often changing with the seasons and time. Small to large amphitheatres have been built at appropriate places for public lectures, talks and forums on topics, ranging from environment to traditional cooking.
See scaled down agriculture production of rice, cocoa, rubber, oil palm, spices, orchids, fruits, vegetables, fish and livestock when the entire park is completed. It will be a one-stop centre to “look and learn” about agriculture and food production in Malaysia.
Poets, writers, thinkers, dreamers or pragmatists will find a suitable niche in the park, that is in consonance with their mood and fancy. There are valleys deep and silent and hills isolated and cool to select for an environment that will inspire one’s soul. If silence and solitude are not inspiring for some, then the Sunday crowd of 20,000 people would stir the gregarious.
Recreation is an inseparable part of the human society. Without recreation, society will degenerate to biological forms devoid of a soul. The park provides many amenities for total relaxation and enjoyment in a unique environment. Fishing, boating, horse-riding, minigolf, even board-skating are some of the recreational activities the park has to offer. For the spirited youth yearning for adventure, there is a choice of jungle trekking, camping in the depth of the forest, caving and tree-top hanging bridge to savour.
Culture and tradition must not be neglected lest our origins and values are forgotten. The Malay kampong with wooden houses of architectural designs from the various states of Malaysia, reminds us of the rural lifestyle in a kampong atmosphere. This scenario will not only be preserved here but enlivened and enriched.
While the kampong lifestyle shows how man has adopted the environment, the high-tech Four Seasons House shows how technology can change and control the environment to suit man’s need. This contrast is a stark reminder of the realities of our world. Our destiny is in our hands.
The agriculture park provides a wide area of interest for visitors to experience. Whether you are a casual visitor or a serious scientist, you will find something that will satisfy your palate, be it nature, agriculture, food or just relaxation.
“Observation more than books, experience rather than person, are the prime educators.” – A.B. Alcott
There are many ways of acquiring knowledge. The formal system through schools, colleges and universities almost compels one to learn in a structured manner. Many knowledgeable people especially in the past never went to schools or universities. They learned by inspiration – an inner desire and thirst for knowledge triggered perhaps by curiosity.
The Birds of Borneo, for example, was written by a forester trained in botany, while the Birds of the Malay Peninsula, Singapore and Penang, was written by a civil servant trained in administration. It was only their thirst for knowledge that made them experts in birds of a country foreign to them. Watching, observing, recording and exchanging information with friends on a topic would make one an expert one day even without formal education.
Bukit Cahaya Seri Alam provides the environment for the acquisition of knowledge for the curious and the inquiring mind. It is a place for self-tuition in the fields of agriculture, horticulture, animal production, inland fisheries, fruit crops, botany, zoology and environment. There are no restrictions here on the hours you want to spend looking at how trees grow, how insect pollinate, how padi ripens, how mushrooms sprout and how animals feed. There is no one to direct you on what to do, what to watch and what to record. Your self-discipline is your teacher.
Of course, the park lends a gentle helping hand to those who seek knowledge. Well-written information on sign boards, clear diagrams, brochures and information bureaus are there to give additional help. Talks on special topics are also held at the various amphitheatres. The open-air theatre at the animal park caters mainly for children. There, they not only hear the talks, but can see and touch animals of various species.
Bukit Cahaya Seri Alam Agriculture Park has created the environment for learning with pleasure. Even casual visitors will gain some new knowledge after a visit. Make many visits but observe and you will be a wiser person.
“Everything has its beauty but not everybody sees it.” - Confucius
Where would the world be today without man’s curiosity leading him to investigate and explain the manner of things? Man has erroneously claimed to have made discoveries of the elements of the nature, when he has in fact only uncovered its mysteries. By unravelling these mysteries man gained information and knowledge. He then used this knowledge for his benefit or at times for his own destruction.
Research ranges from simple observation to exceedingly complex integration of disciplines in a planned effort. Even simple but keen observation can lead to spectacular knowledge e.g. the Archimedes Principle. The Agriculture Park offers a wide range of subjects for the curious mind to uncover additional mysteries of the natural world.
From miniature horses to the giant selembu, from bonsai trees to towering timber and from tiny guppies to voracious toman, you choose your subject for research, investigation or just simple observation. There is always something of interest to everyone in this park. It is an open laboratory to the initiated.
If you had been dreaming of wanting to do some research work but do not have the opportunity of using a laboratory, the park could fulfil your dream – the dream of discoveries and perhaps fame and fortune. Record and write about what you observe and someday you will write a book.
The park extends research beyond the realm of the scientist – to the common man who by fate of circumstances could not be what he wanted to be.
“Man cannot labour on always. They must have recreation. And if they have it not from healthful sources, they will be very likely to take it from poisoned fountains. Or, if they have pleasures, which though innocent, are forbidden by the maxims of public morality, their very pleasures are liable to become poisoned fountains.” – O. Dewey
Every child would have been told that “all work and no play makes Mat or Mek a dull boy or girl.” The human mind and the human body is constantly subjected to both physical and mental pressures, at school, at work, at home, and at times more so while driving in a car. Have we ever thought of giving our body and our minds a ‘reward’ , in the form of relaxation? Most of the busy people will say, they have no time. Come on, give yourself a break. Visit the Agriculture Park with your family.
The Agriculture Park has many features and related objectives. One of its objectives is to provide a place for recreation, set in a quite different mood. The relaxed environment in the Park can also be a balm for hurt minds.
Enjoy the thrill of an aggressive bite and pull of the toman in Danau Air Kuning or Danau Perikanan, or the least feel the sure nibble of the tilapia. You could also try casting a net in the style of the traditional fishermen. There are canoes, boats and paddle aqua vehicles at all the 3 major lakes in the park for hire.
If you a hydrophobic, how about getting up on something on firm ground like a horse and ride through the Park. If you have not ridden before, take lessons in the riding ring under supervision. There is also the horse carriage for the less stout-at-heart.
Imagine board-skating in the middle of the jungle! For the boisterous kids, the Park has not forgotten to provide an avenue in which to spend their excess energy. If you have no fear for heights, walk along the tree-bridge to the top of the trees.
In the Park, even just walking or hiking through the forest is great fun provided you take your time to see what the forest has to offer. Relax in solitude at Puncak Seni and reminiscence of things gone by and visualise things to come, minus the stress in your working environment. The innocent pleasures of the Agriculture Park await you.
“Choose such pleasures as recreate much and cost little.” - Fuller
“Men can know more than their ancestors did if they start with a knowledge of what their ancestors had already learned ... That is why a society can be progressive only if it conserves its traditions.” – Walter Lippmann
Conservation means different things to different people. To many, it connotes the protection of wild nature, to others, it may be the protection of the forest, or soil or the sustained production of natural resources e.g. minerals, fossils, fuel, fisheries, wild animals and birds, etc. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources interprets conversation in a much broader sense to mean “the achievement of the highest sustainable quality of living for mankind by the natural utilisation of the environment.”
Development the world over has taken place at the expense of resources that are not limitless. The greatest lost caused by the development has been the extinction of many species of plants, animals, birds, insects ad top soil. In the process of development we exhaust our natural resources and in turn create pollution and degradation of the environment which can no longer be solved naturally. Undisciplined technology and explosive population growth have exposed our biosphere and mankind to imminent danger.
The conservation of natural resources is actually paramount for our existence and more so for the future generations. Conservation does not mean keeping the minerals, the forest and the fish in the seas completely untouched. If conservation was to mean that, then it is not practical. Man must harvest from the earth’s resources to survive but in doing so we need not be wasteful and destructive. For example, to catch fish we employ methods that destroy whales and dolphins and to cut one good timber tree, we bulldoze 20-30 other trees and expose the soil erosion and pollute the rivers. We displace many species of animals when we clear land for plantation leaving nothing for their protection and survival.
Conservation means thought and care for all resources whether they be plant, animals or even soil. How do we use them in a rational and sustained manner for ourselves? There are many ways of conservation for our long-term benefits, the only obstacle to the use of conservation methods is man’s greed for quick profits.
At the Agriculture Park, efforts are being made to encourage the appreciation of conservation by practice and through talks and camp gatherings of youths. Talks on conservation and environment are organised particularly for school children at the various open air theatres in the park. All plants, birds and insects are protected here. In addition, certain species of trees and shrubs particularly wild fruiting trees are being added to the wealth of plants in the forest. This will also attract more birds to the park.
Appreciation of the nature as a form of recreation has gained a place in Europe and United States. It would not be long when Malaysian too will learn to enjoy the beauty and wonders of nature. To ensure our children too can enjoy nature and the resources of this planet we must learn to conserve in the broadest sense of the word.
“The world is a great book, of which they who never stir from home read only a page.” - Augustine
The expression that the world is shrinking could mean different things to different interest groups. In the communication sense the world has shrunk because we can reach every corner of the world in second through the telephone. Modern means of transportation has made it possible to have breakfast, lunch or dinner at different capitals of the world on the same day. To the environmentalists, the world has become too small for the growing population. Whatever the expression conveys, one of the major impact of the “shrinking of the world” is the increase in tourism.
An early tourist to Malaysia, Isabella Bird, went sightseeing and enjoyed herself travelling on foot, by sampan or on elephants. It took her months to reach Malaysia and weeks to see a few places in the country. Since Isabella’s tour in 1882, tourists from all over the world have come to enjoy and love Malaysia. More than 6 million tourists visited Malaysia in 1990.
Since its opening in 1989, the Agriculture Park has received more than 3.2 million visitors, from the Emperor of Japan to the common man in the street. The “tourists” that flocked to the Park included farmers, fishermen, school children and VIPS from the continents of Africa, Asia, Americas, Australia and Europe.
More and more tourists especially from the developed countries are searching for “Green Destinations” or “Environmental Friendly” places. The Agriculture Park fits the bill of the nouveau tourists, for the principle of its development is based on conservation, agro forestry and sustainable agriculture.
The microcosm of Malaysia’s agriculture and traditional life is captured within the park’s theme. The rainforest, the arboretums, the orchards, the gardens, the padi field, the mini plantations, the mini farms and the Malay kampong are presented to the tourist within a day’s tour. However, to enjoy the park, a few day’s stay at the modest campsites, the affordable chalets or the luxurious traditional bungalows, is the only way to absorb her warmth and savour her offerings of sight, sound, smell and taste.
“Nature never did betray the heart that loved her.” – William Wordsworth
Pay a small fee and walk into an integrated orchard of exotic fruits and eat to your heart’s content. That is reality when the fruit trees in Bukit Cahaya Seri Alam forest come to bear by the year 2000. In the meantime the caretakers of the orchard are busy preparing the arboretum for your impending visit.
An arboretum is a collection of living trees, grown in a specific area like a living album to be savoured at leisure. At the arboretum in the Agriculture Park, a 40-hectare expanse of land has been planted with indigenous fruit trees so that visitors may view a comprehensive variety of trees whose fruit have delighted Malaysians for ages. In the fruiting seasons, the onlooker may experience the added wonder of seeing the actual fruits at different stages of maturity, still growing and ripening on the trees.
Over 20 families of fruit trees have been identified for displayed at the arboretum, each family consisting of several genera or species of trees. The custodians of this living museum have taken painstaking care to ensure that every single genus in each family is represented in the Agriculture Park’s arboretum. Thus preserved for posterity, these trees will always be available as a vibrant growing archive, even as the nation’s development shrinks the available agricultural land.
Make a note in your electronic diary to visit us in the year 2000 when we are ready to offer you the rich legacy of delightfully delicious fruits of our labour.
“Forests are the best Antidote for Depression.”
In shifting agriculture, practised by the Orang Hulu of the Peninsula, Sabah and Sarawak, the forested areas are cleared for cultivation with root crops or rice for a period of time after which they move to new areas. At Bukit Cahaya Seri Alam, agroforestry was introduced as a land-use system in which fruit trees and herbaceous crops were grown in association with the large forest trees.
Agroforestry has productive functions, such as the capacity of tree components to produce timber, fruits and herbs and service functions, the most important of which is soil conservation and also fauna and flora conservation. Soil conservation contributes to control of erosion and maintenance of fertility. With the current interest in sustainable agriculture and forestry, the combination of production and conservation of resources on which the production depends, is a step in the right direction.
Appropriate agroforestry systems sustainable for the rainforest of Malaysia must be found to control erosion, maintain soil organic matter and physical properties, promotes nutrient cycling and conserve animal habitat. There are no doubt that many hurdles to be overcome to harvest the potential of agroforestry, particularly the compatibility of fruit trees with insects and animals of the forest. The agroforestry concept of the Agriculture Park is unique and differs from concepts in Africa and other tropical countries.
The success of the project is the real challenge to the scientist not only in Malaysia but also those who are interested in sustainable resources development. Fruits like the rambutan, durian, mangosteen and duku were originally from the forest. Reintroducing the “domesticated” species back within the forest environment will pose challenges no less than taking them out for “domestication”.
Agroforestry on small or large scale could provide the alternative to shifting cultivation and also mass destruction of the tropical rainforest.
LAKES AND FISHES
“’You will never miss the water till well runs dry.” – Roland Howard
Though water is the fountain of life, few of us realise how little of this precious material is available to us. This sounds ironical when three-fourth of the world is covered with water. The ocean and the seas make up about 97.3% of the global water resources. Only a petty 0.009% is fresh water that makes up the lakes and rivers and is available as our water supply.
Malaysia is fortunate to have a great deal of fresh water supplied in the form of rain that fills up our reservoirs, lakes, ponds, rivers and streams each year. In spite of this blessing we can run short of this precious commodity. It must be remembered that humans must share this water with the other living things such as fishes, plants and animals. It is a limited commodity with growing demand by the growing population and industrial expansion.
At the Agriculture Park, water is indeed a precious commodity. The careful planning in water conservation and usage is foremost in the minds of its developers. There were two artificial reservoirs created during the British Occupation of Malaya as a source of fresh water supply for the Klang Valley but they were never used for that purpose for some reason. The Sungai Baru dam and reservoir is the largest artificial lake in the Park while the Ayer Kuning is the second largest.
In recent years two more artificial lakes were created as part of the water conservation strategy for the park. The Fisheries lakes and the LKIM lake were developed to also provide recreational fishing and water sports activities. These lakes support a large variety of freshwater fishes found naturally in the area such as the snake head, catfish, giant gaurami and introduced fishes such as carp, tilapia and sultan fish.
A variety of marketable cage culture fishes are displayed at Air Kuning. The Department of Fisheries provides scientific and technical information on fish farming and fish biology while the Department of Drainage and Irrigation has hydrological information for interested visitors.
For fresh water biologists, the lakes of the Park are ideal natural laboratories for the studies of life in stable as well as newly established freshwater bodies in a forested environment.
THE ORNAMENTAL GARDEN
“God Almighty first planted a garden. And, indeed, it is the purest of human pleasures.” – Francis Bacon
Visitors to the glorious formal gardens of Europe marvel at length, the visual beauty and symmetry spread before their enchanted eyes. This grand botanical artistry has been nurtured by centuries-old tradition in Europe, not unlike the elegant rock and water gardens of Japan and other great civilisations. The temperate countries have one disadvantage – the four seasons limit the green display to only part of the year. But visitors to the Agriculture Park can experience the unique splendour of extensive formal gardens at the Ornamental Garden all the year round. The sunny tropical climate makes this beautiful living exhibition a permanent affair.
Spread like a grand gigantic carpet over 16 hectares, the Ornamental Garden consists of immaculately manicured bushes, shrubs, flowering and herbaceous plants arranged in lovely designs with colourful paved paths weaving amidst them. Panoramic patterns of fragrant and delicate blossoms thrill the eyes while the scents and aroma mingle in the fresh air.
The rainbow of colours provide a superb floral spectrum of every conceivable hue, a testimony to nature’s wonder and glory. The Ornamental Garden also gives the inspired visitor a glimpse into the important floral industry of Malaysia – an industry that is growing rapidly as demands for Malaysian cut flowers blooms into millions of ringgit a year for the nation. This is a tribute to the floral farmers, researchers, scientists and personnel who are making the Malaysian flower industry the pride of its people.
To enjoy the full beauty and symmetry of this garden, one should ascend up to the third level of the tree house located at the far end of the garden.
“Culture cannot be copied suddenly, it has to take root. A backward nation merely copying advanced nations turns gold and silver of real culture into tinsel.” – Jawaharlal Nehru
The old saying that traditions die hard may no longer be true in a world where chances are occurring at a speed never before imagined. Traditions have to be preserved or the will die. The once beautiful Malay kampongs in the states of Malacca, Pulau Pinang and around Kuala Lumpur are fast disappearing, replaced by artless brick and mortar cubicles. Utilitarian architecture has won over the aesthetic and traditional form of architecture, that once adorned the Malaysian countryside.
At the Agriculture Park, a whole Malay kampong has been recreated for posterity. Nestled among the trees in a quiet and peaceful surrounding, Malay kampong houses from the various states of Malaysia blend naturally with the environment. In the true spirit of the old Malay tradition, the wooden houses are aesthetically designed, complete with wood carvings to reflect Malay cultural values and skills. Integrated into the complex are the common facilities normally found in a Malay village – a wakaf (resting place), a surau (prayer house) and the sepak raga ring.
These five village-dwelling are furnished with simple but compatible furniture, floor mats, earthenware jars, bamboo and coconut shell utensils and other environmental –friendly fixtures and domestic necessities.
Observed the subtle difference in design, workmanship and layout of the houses from the different states from within and without. There is a wealth of cultural heritage in Malay houses not found elsewhere in the world.
A Malay kampung is a dynamic rural setting of sound, action and colour especially during the padi harvesting season. Padi has to be dried, pounded, winnowed and carefully cleared of any debris. Women in their exotic batik sarongs and colourful selendang gossip and giggle while they work in gotong royong style around their houses. Watch the anakdaras (damsels) show their potential as wives in preparing and baking lemang (bamboo rice) or weave palas leaves or young coconut leaves into bags for the keputat (compressed rice) or weave palas leaves into bags for the ketupat (compressed rice).
The men having done their share of hardwork such as ploughing the fields, now relax and enjoy the traditional games such as top-spinning, sepakraga and kite-flying while the boys may be out in the nearby stream catching fish.
If you are at the Malay kampong at the right time you will catch a glimpse of traditional Malay wedding or the performance of a bomoh (Malay witch doctor) exorcising an evil spirit that has entered the body of a bride-to-be- put into her by another bomoh at the request of jilted lover. The magic of Malay life and culture is presented to you in a capsule.
ANIMALS AND BIRDS
“Nowadays we don’t think much of man’s love for an animal; we laugh at people who are attached to cats. But if we stop loving animals, aren’t we bound to stop loving humans too? – Alexander Solzhenitsyn
The association of man with animals and birds dates back to the day when he first appeared on earth. When he knew nothing about crop cultivation, he had already encountered animals for his own survival.
Soon after, man learned the usefulness of animals for food, clothings and labour. In less developed societies, animal are indispensable as beasts of burden providing traction and transport for millions of peoples and tons of goods. Besides providing high quality food, their waste is used as fuels and fertilisers.
The role animals and his relationship to man is evolving. People the world over are beginning to view animals differently and expressions of concerns for animal welfare are becoming loud and clear. In Malaysia companion animals now occupy a status not known before. Clubs and societies for cats, dogs, birds and horses are springing up due to the needs felts by our society today. The company of animals is known to be therapeutic to mentally depressed people and of course a joy to most people.
Millions of animals and birds have been sacrificed by man to increase his own knowledge about biology, anatomy, physiology, medicine, surgery and psychology. Billions more provided the proteins needed in the form of milk, meat and eggs. The Quran acknowledges the vital role of animals in our lives by entitling a chapter, Al Bakarah (The Cow).
At the Park the relationship of man and animals is highlighted. Selected animals and birds are displayed where visitors can not only see but touch the animals. An animal nursery allows children to feed young animals and learn to care for them. Housing for the animals takes into account their comforts and sanitation – there are even flowers and music in their barn to soothe their nerves.
Regular talks and demonstrations on animal welfare, health, production and environment are held at the open amphitheatre – aimed at mainly school children. Education of the young is one of the strengths of the Park.
“Preserved the land for all children, and love it as God loves us all.” – Chief Seattle
One of the greatest gifts of God to mankind is rice. There is no other crop more important to the majority of the people in this earth. It has even become the choice cereal of the astronauts. It is the undisputed staple food of teeming millions of Asians.
Rice is one of the most remarkable crops, capable of growing on dry hillsides or the water-logged swamplands. There are thousand of varieties suitable for growing on a very wide range of agroclimatic conditions. The floating variety can thrive in water 20 feet deep.
To million of poor Asians, rice is their lifeline and their livelihood. The culture of the people of this region was evolved around the planting and harvesting of rice. Many of the Malay dances depict planting, harvesting and processing of padi. In many ceremonies, yellow rice and the sprinkling of rice over the heads of newly-weds are the symbol of the high value place on rice in our society.
At the Agriculture Park, traditional rice cultivation is demonstrated as part of our cultural heritage. At specified periods of time, visitors can watch the buffaloes ploughing through the mud as has been done for hundred of years and still being practised in many parts of Asia. See women in their traditional bajus ans sarongs pound padi with wooden pestle and mortar and then winnow the husk into the wind. There is colour to see and music to hear.
This is contrasted by inputs of modern technology into rice farming by the use of fertilisers, controlled drainage and irrigation, machinery for land preparation, haevesting and milling. A mini rice mill with animated flow charts on the wall illustrates the processing of padi into rice.
“One touch of nature makes the whole world kin”. – William Shakespeare
Had orchids been found naturally in the Lake District of England there would have been numerous odes to this class of plant that bears some of the world’s most beautiful flowers. Their exquisite colours, delicate patterns and intricate morphology have inspired and fascinated mankind from ancient times till this day.
Malaysia can certainly claim to be the home of natural orchids with more than one thousand wild species found in its forest. Today orchid collectors and enthusiasts have developed many hybrids with larger flowers and more colour and hue combinations for commercial exploitation.
Orchids are never out of place whenever you locate them because in Nature orchids grow on the ground, on rocks, on trunks of other trees, or hanging from their branches. At the Orchids Garden in the Agriculture Park, the splendour of orchids are displayed in their natural from amidst the trees of the forest and in the landscaped garden that blends with it.
Wild species gathered from various parts of Malaysia as well as tissue-culture propagated varieties adorned the pergolas, tree trunks, rocks and hanging pots. There is a variety for each taste and preference here. Take your choice. Whether you enjoy the sheer beauty of orchids or you indulge in scientific breeding of orchids, you will find the visit to the Orchid Garden rewarding.
“A thing of beauty is joy forever.” – John Keats
HIKE THROUGH THE FOREST
“The forest is my loyal friend, like God it useth me.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
The biggest asset of the Agriculture Park is its forest. Some 3,000 acres of the park is covered with the forest that has been preserved since 1953. Malaysian forests appear quite impregnable from the outside because of the thick undergrowth on its outer fringe. Once you penetrate this barrier the interior of the forest is quite roomy because little sunlight reaches the floor of the forest, thus preventing the proliferation of bushes, creepers and other plants.
At the Park, forest tracks have been made for jungle-bashers to see for themselves what a tropical rainforest is like. Pack your haversack and hike with your friends at the break of dawn. When the first morning light streaks through the gaps of the jungle foliage and the thin veil of mist rises into the air, the sound of birds greet the beginning of the day. The slanted rays of the sun reflect against drops of water on the young leaves of a struggling sapling, sparkling like diamonds against the jade leaves.
Do not rush, walk slowly and cautiously. Look down for obstructions by snaking roots, gallen trees and ant’s nests. Stop and look up to admire the height of the trees and their beautiful canopies. When you hear a sound, wait patiently on the spot, and you may be rewarded by the fleeting glimpse of a bird or a squirrel. The secret of detecting forest animals and birds is to remain still, watch and listen.
As you walk on, you see dangling from tree tops to the ground or twisted around tree trunks, the gigantic lianas and parasitic vines. On a dead tree, the garden bromeliads pregnant with water, cling fast to their hosts. Staghorn ferns let down their leaves like ribbons on pigtails of an oriental lady.
On the wet forest floor, there were sign of the visitors of the night. Close to the water puddle, hoof and paw marks of the wild pigs and a jungle cat? From the dead tree trunks lying across your path, sprout white, brown and red fungi while platoons of termites pass under it to some destination further up.
Down the steep slope you descend slowly. The tiny stream with crystal clear water is laden with millions of fallen leaves and dead branches. Tiny fishes dart quickly upstream as you disturb the water. Under the soaked leaves, young frogs find protection.
As the day moves on, the sun warms the forest. The humidity and heat begins to get to you. Singing of the birds could be heard no more. There is dead silence broken only by the occasional chorus of hidden insects.
It is too warm for the birds and animals to be active. When the sun begins to sink behind the horizon, like magic the forest seems to come to live again.
The darkness of the night descends upon the forest, heralded by the cacophony of continous shrilled whines of thousands of amorous cicadas. Enveloped in this almost continuous insect love call, one could after a while get mesmerised. Suddenly by some mysterious signal, as if the cue from a conductor’s baton, the shrill songs abruptly stop, bringing dead silence to the jungle. But not for long, for as abruptly as they stop the thousands of high speed timbale vibrations will start the familiar jungle sound once again. High above, the owl toots, while from the open ground, the tok-tok of the night jar echoes distinctly in the still air.
Against the dark curtain, little lights flicker and dance as the fireflies play among the trees of the forest. A fleeting glance of two greenish-red floating marbles and the crackling of broken twigs keep one guessing – what animal is it? Nocturnal animals emerge as the diurnal ones retreat to their resting and sleeping places. Night life in the forest is a radical change from the usual sights and sounds that men are more used to during daylight.
Trekking through the Malaysian forest is an experience that will leave an indelible mark in one’s memory.
WINTER IN THE TROPICS.
“The language of Nature is the universal language.” – Christhoph Gluck
It is steaming hot with temperatures reaching 27°C and humidity 85%. There is hardly any breeze and unevaporated sweat glues your shirt to your body. Walking through a forest when the sun is high is exhausting and sticky. That is what winter is like at sea-level in Malaysia.
But technology has changed all that. Hidden snugly among the trees of the Bukit Cahaya Seri Alam rainforest is a spot of creativity and innovation where technology coaxes nature to misplace itself. For here it is real winter with snow, icicles and temperature below -5°C.
Man had always wanted to defy nature but they always end up imitating nature. The temperature garden with it mimicry of the four seasons of spring, summer, autumn and winter is a big attraction to the visitors of the Agriculture Park. Using microelectronics, compressors, pumps and engineering ingenuity, man has created at will the four seasons which the tropics could only experience in nature at high altitudes.
Witness the change of colour and splendour of the plants and flowers in the environmentally-controlled green house. Up spring bright red tulips, royal yellow daffodils and pure white lilies when someone decided it is spring time. Months later, the scenery changes, brown, golden and coppertone leaves litter the ground while the trees appear stark naked. Spring or autumn have lesser impact on the visitor than the “spectacular” snow-covered trees and hanging icicles during winter. It is fascinating to enter a world of virtual reality – man-made winter complete with snow, ice and frozen stream and freezing temperature.
The four-season temperate garden as it is called was the brainchild of the Prime Minister of Malaysia, Dato’ Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad. It stands as a symbol of the possibilities of achievements when man becomes determined to excel in whatever he wants to do. It is a message that we must strive, we must seek, we must find and we must not yield.
“Besides God, the only thing that is permanent is change.” – Sanusi Junid
This park will not escape the natural changes wrought by time and the development designed by man. The planners of the Agriculture Park will be allowed to mature undisturbed, consequently towering trees with large girth and solid branches will dominate the forest. Standing more than 150 feet above the ground and supported by massive buttress roots, the majestic dipterocarps will crowd the forest where once only small trees reigned. The secondary forest of Bukit Cahaya Seri Alam will mature and stabilise into a “primary” forest.
Advanced technology integrated within the “primitive” rainforest? Yes, indeed, it will be a challenging task for the planners to direct the changes in the Park that will please the visitors of the 21st Century. Ingenuity and innovation will be required to avoid conflict and gain complement.
The 21st Century visitor to the Agriculture Park will arrive by gas-driven private cars, fast electric trains, solar-powered buses, heliships and air-balloons from stations located at the Sepang Global Space Aerosport. At the Park, some will take the monorail that runs through most of the points of interests, passing over padi fields, lakes, gardens, across valleys, through the forest and over the hills. It stops at all point of interest to allow visitors to board or disembark. Others may choose battery-operated AGV’s (automatic guided vehicles) along fixed routes. Many will prefer to walk in the pleasant surroundings of the agroforest park or take a ride in the old fashioned horse-drawn carriages.
Hitech farming, hydrophonics, aerophonics, multiple-storey integrated culture systems would be in place for livestock, crops and fish. New hybrids of animals, plants and fish derived from genetic engineering will be on display.
In agriculture museum, a sophisticated electronic library and an audio visual VR (virtual reality) centre would provide total information on agriculture for the 21st Century farmer and entrepreneur.
Believe it or not, through sophisticated audio systems, the plants, the animals and fish in the Agriculture Park will talk directly to you. After all we can invent the future now.
See you in 2020 at the Park.
“Look not mournfully to the past – it comes not back again; wisely improve the present – it is thine; go forth to meet the shadowy future without fear, and with a manly heart” - Longfellow