Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Money grows on trees for Lahat school - Star

IPOH: Aug 13, 2008 By HAH FOONG LIAN

With its gates locked and a security guard on duty, SM Pengkalan at Lahat, here, looks like just another secondary school.

However, behind the normal facade is a fruit orchard that is raking in a steady income and helping student learn about science and modern farming.

School principal Norhayati Saad, the brainchild behind the orchard that has rock melon and dragon fruit plants, said the idea for the project began when she first joined the school as its headmistress.

“It is the tradition for a new principal to plant trees to mark the occasion,” she said yesterday. “But I prefer to plant fruit trees and herbs.”

Fruits of their labour: Norhayati admiring the dragon fruit harvested from the orchard at the school in Lahat, Ipoh, yesterday.

Norhayati, 53, said she approached teacher Bakri Arshad, who is a graduate of Education in Agriculture Science, to get the cultivation of fruit trees going.

Last June, Bakri started growing the 332 dragon fruit plants and 150 rock melon plants of the golden lady and glamour hybrids on a 0.1ha of unused land.

The 32-year-old said the rock melon plants were cultivated using the fertigation system, in which plants are cultivated in a controlled environment. The plants are grown in coconut husk instead of soil.

Norhayati pointed out that the current harvest of rock melons was the third while the dragon fruit plants, grown with organic compost, started fruiting last December.

The sale of the dragon fruits at RM5 a kg and the rock melons at RM4 per kg was now bringing in over RM200 a week, she said.

Attributing the success of the project to the school’s cooperative, the Parents Teachers Association, teachers and students, Norhayati said the initial investment of RM4,000 for the dragon fruit trees came from the cooperative while the PTA contributed to the rock melon project.

“The students also help out because the orchard is part of a Science Agriculture project for Form Four and Five students,” she added.

The school also has a herb garden that produces various leaves and roots with properties that help ease diabetes, hypertension and malaria.

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