Multi–stakeholder effort to promote Walla Patta cultivation in home gardens

Saturday, 7 June 2014 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

Sadaharitha Plantations Limited, the nation’s foremost commercial forestry plantations recently released a landmark study on the possibility of growing Walla Patta in home gardens. Initiated by Sadaharitha Plantations, the research was conducted in collaboration with the National Research Council and the Department of Forestry and Environmental Science of the University of Sri Jayewardenepura, to dispel the baseless beliefs that are prevalent in the media on Walla Patta. The study also focused on the rampant destruction of the Walla Patta plants causing untold harm and extinction of the plant. The Sri Lankan Government too has supported this research with financial assistance towards the project. The main objective of this research is to assess the feasibility of developing and growing a successful Walla Patta commercial plantation that produces the valuable Agarwood resins within a decade and creating awareness among the general public of opportunities in Walla Patta cultivation in one’s home garden. Gyrinops walla is the botanical name of Walla Patta belonging to the Thymelaeaceae family. Eight known varieties of these species are available in forests of the South East Asia countries. Among these genre, only Gyrinops walla, locally known as Walla Patta is found in Sri Lanka. In ancient Sri Lanka, villagers used this wood for rituals and traditional religious ceremonies. However after 2012, this changed when international demand for the wood grew. Injury to the tree due to natural causes results in the production of a dark coloured resinous tissue. This is known as Agarwood and the process of this production is the tree’s response to injury as its first line of defense. According to Botanists the natural formation of this resin usually requires a period of 25-30 years and naturally formed Agarwood is used to manufacture perfumes, incense and cosmetic products.       Enlighten public on the ongoing eradication Another important objective of this research conducted by Sadaharitha Plantations is to enlighten the general public on the ongoing eradication of this endangered plant. According to Botanists in Sri Lanka, the presence of Agarwood formed due to natural reasons is found in only 7%-8% of Walla Patta trees. However due to the wrongful assumption that all Walla Patta trees produce the Agarwood resin, rampant felling is carried out causing harm to immature trees decreasing the percentage of adult trees that reproduce the valuable resin. Despite the existence of Sandalwood plantation, harvesting and reaping the benefits takes over 20 years. However, within a short time span of just 10 years, research reveals Agarwood cultivation as an ideal home crop in one’s garden also providing an opportunity to earn a sustainable and higher income. Researchers also firmly believe the final outcome of their findings will be released within the following year. University of Sri Jayewardenepura Senior Lecturer & Department head of Forestry and Environmental Science Dr. Upul Subasinghe, who is spearheading this study said, “Due to the commercial nature of this crop the interest from the private sector has greatly increased. While this has resulted in many advantages, unfortunately due to non-policing and over exploitation detrimental repercussions are also foreseen today. The destruction of Walla Patta is such as example. However if we understand the true economic potential and suitable regulations are implemented we can reap the benefits from Agarwood or Walla Patta cultivations.” “Sadaharitha Plantations, with support from the Government has understood the potential of commercial Walla Patta cultivation and this possibility has been confirmed through the recent research.  Utilising the commercial accepted patent technology for Agarwood, through research we are using this process for Walla Patta trees, artificially creating the resin inside the trees. We are hopeful that our research findings will prevent further destruction of the Walla Patta trees,” he added. Belonging to the Thymelaeaceae family, the Agarwood producing genus in Sri Lanka is Aquilaria. While it is believed not to be a native plant, Sadaharitha Plantations remains the only organisation in the country to hold a patent for Agarwood technology. As an initial foray towards promoting Agarwood as a home garden crop, the Company has been successful in promoting the ‘Aquilaria Cressna’ plant. Moreover, the best method to enhance the Agarwood production inside Aquilaria is to use the method called CA Kit, for which Sadaharitha is the sole license holder in Sri Lanka. Commenting on this ground breaking study, Chief Executive Director, H.K. Rohana said, “During an era where there is much debate and speculation on Walla Patta, the ability to implement cultivation as a home garden crop is victorious challenge that we take great pride in. As Walla Patta is endemic, the export of the wood is also illegal. Moreover, felling causes a severe threat to the environment. On the other hand, due to the high demand derived from the Walla Patta resin the economic advantages cannot be disregarded. However, through the cultivation of Agarwood, the annihilation of Walla Patta can be stopped and establishing home gardens, Sri Lankans can meet the demands of the international market, earning vital income for themselves and foreign exchange for the country.”