... once upon a time ... a long long time ago ...

Small satchets of happenings from pockets of my life, as lapses of memories rewind to the particular place, moment and time ... realities of life
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Friday, May 16, 2008

Getah Kahwin (Bud Grafting Rubber Trees)

Abah Rahman is the Field Assistant (Mandor) for one of the "Rancangan Tanah Pinggir" in Sungai Layang. Being an expert in rubber planting and plantation maintenance, he takes order from small rubber holders to bud graft rubber trees to ensure that the yield is of superb latex production. I was his 'assistant' - at the age of 10 years old. Whoever wants to replant their rubber plots, there is a 'rancangan tanam semula' scheme which is subsidised by the government. The rubber plot will need to be cleared, the 'pelan' (terraced) done and the small rubber trees planted in its designated position on the terrace.

When the rubber tree is about 3 feet tall, it is now ready to be bud grafted. We request and receive cloned rubber branches from the government. Equipped with a small sharp blade, plastic roller and the skill to bud graft, we will go from tree to tree to 'kahwinkan gotah'. You cut a small portion of the skin from the base of the small rubber tree - approximately 5 inches high and approximately 1/2 inch wide; peeling the skin off, leaving a small portion at the bottom to receive the new clone skin. You slash a portion of the clone rubber skin, peeling it slowly from the branch; the ones with the 'eye'. The peeled cloned skin will now be inserted into the base portion - attaching it to the peeled tree. Once it is in place we use the plastic roller to cover it all; and we move on to the next tree.

About 5 weeks later, we will inspect each bud grafted tree (still with the plastic roller covering it). If it is green, the bud grafting was successful. If it is not, it has to be redone. For all the green ones (bud grafted alive), we will slice off the plastic covering and let the 'eye' grow into a branch. A few weeks more, after the branch has grown to about 6 inches out and up, we can now cut off the old tree leaving the new branch to grow! If you see an 'elephant leg' at the base of a rubber tree, that means the rubber tree is a bud grafted (with excellent clone) rubber tree - which will produce excellent and high quality thick latex.

For all these work, we are paid RM0.07 sens per tree (after the new tree has grown to about 2 feet tall). No extras are paid for redoing any dead clone. With the guidance from Abah Rahman, I eventually became an expert in rubber tree bud grafting. I would sometimes get orders from the kampong folks to bud graft their new rubber trees, which I do after school. You cannot make a living out of this job, but the experience is superb.

How many in this world are lucky enough to have the chance to learn and perform 'bud grafting'? I am one in the few millions.

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