Conservation of local fruits

I went to Samarinda, East Kalimantan last week to give a talk on ecosystem service. It was a surprise that I met one of my bird ‘guru’ Bas van Balen at the Soekarno Hatta International Airport. It was what I called coincidence. The last time I went to East Kalimantan during 1998 was with him. We were conducting bird survey in a forest concession in Malinau, East Kalimantan.

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I called it coincidence because I was going to talk about durian in my first slide. Our 1997 survey in the upriver of Malinau area in East Kalimantan was also about durians. I remember that it was durian season when we were about to finish the survey and went back down the river. Our boat stopped several times at old abandoned villages then the technicians went to the old gardens wen came back with durians. We had our durian breakfast and durian lunch. We had a blast.

One of the durians that we ate was Durio oxleyanus. The Malinau local name is tungen. It was just a small durian with long spines but the taste of the fruit was fabulous. Durio oxleyanus is one of the native durian trees of Kalimantan. Borneo is the land of durians. They have at least 9 edible durians and 4 of them are endemic. But among these, only 5 have been cultivated. Durian can still be found wild in lowland rainforest and agricultural gardens.

Hui-Lin (1970) has described the four belts of original plants in Asia. The Northern China belt is the origin of wheat and soybean, the Southern China is known for mandarins, tangerins, leci, and longan. The Southern Asia (Lao PDR, Vietnam, Thailand, and part of Philippines) is the origin for rice, lime, and lemon. Then there is the Southern island belt which comprises the Peninsular Malaysia, Indonesia, and part of Philippines. These areas are the origin of sugarcane and the kingdom of fruits, banana, jackfruits, mangosteen, durians, and rambutan. However, Indonesia still imported durian as much as 600 million baht (or around 21 million rupiah) per year. Thailand also produces more mangoes, mangosteen, and guava more than the Southern island countries (FAO data 2009). East Kalimantan itself has the third largest palm oil plantation in Indonesia. Adding the mining issues, deforestation is one of the main threats to the remained forests.

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Deforestation is one thing, but ecosystem service is at our disadvantage. We buy more fruits because we don’t have enough land to plant them. We want to plant the durian trees but we don’t have the pollinators because the bats loss their habitat. Then we import fruits and imagine how much fuel is used to bring the durians, how much money we spent to buy the durians, how much time spent to harvest the durian, package it, and fly them everywhere. It will affect all people.

Part of Jakarta, the capital city of Indonesia was also known as fruit producer for the city. Pasar Minggu in the South Jakarta used to be the center for fruit market in Jakarta. The name even used in folk children song:
“Papaya, mangga, pisang, jambu” (papaya, mango, banana, guava)
“Dibawa dari Pasar Minggu” (bought from Pasar Minggu)
“Di sana banyak penjualnya” (the place has lots of seller)
“Di kota banyak pembelinya” (the city has lots of buyer)

Nowadays, Pasar Minggu is just an area in South Jakarta with the traffic jam on daily basis. Fruit garden has been pushed into the outskirt of Jakarta surrounded by houses and buildings. The homegarden can be a small hope for the quality of life. Not so much maybe. But my banana trees produce all the time that we don’t buy banana anymore from the market. The durian tree at my neighbor’s garden kept fruiting during the season and sometimes we got to taste one. We all share the salam leaves (Syzygium polyanthum) – the Indonesian bay leaves among our neighbors. It depend on us whether we want to adapt or get suffered….

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