- Win Chit
(National Literacy Award Winner)
It has been learnt that toddy palm tree cultivators from upper Myanmar have cut down their trees indiscriminately, resulting in a significant drop in the number of trees and toddy climbers, and the falling toddy price has declined in the market.
Thus some smart businessmen have purchased the trees at a higher price. It is truly sad to see the falling trees scattered in pieces on the ground, a feeling similar to seeing a dead elephant in front of me. Being a 70-year-old man who has lived in Upper Myanmar, this sight made me feel sad to see the once stately toddy palm trees cut down on the ground.
I would like to share an effective way to conserve toddy palm trees and how to use this method in the long run. All toddy tree lovers should raise funds and organise a palm tree lover association to save the trees. Cooperation is needed to buy some mature trees on contract from the owners. As for the volunteers, they should not sell and cut down the trees recklessly, except for the old ones. I am sure that this will be effective and can help promoting the quality of life of local residents. This kind of altruistic spirit should disseminate among the people in our society.
As for the toddy palm tree lovers, they should organise volunteers and donors who can afford to purchase the trees which are in danger of extinction. Indeed, it is a noble deed and an effective way to keep toddy palm trees in existence.
It is advisable that the toddy tree lovers should place a name plate on the tree together with the donor’s name so that they can appreciate their good deeds as a token of honour. It would be beneficial to the region if we can raise the funds to protect the trees.
A toddy farmer can earn more than Ks1 million per acre on average, but now toddy harvesters are in short supply in most villages because many young people in the area are moving to other countries in search of a higher and steadier income.
According to a UN report, Myanmar loses an average of some 546,000 hectares of forest land each year. The numbers of toddy palm climbers have become fewer, because they cannot earn enough from this traditional business. Meanwhile, the new generation is leaving the toddy farming business and looking for steady-income jobs in foreign countries. The increasing numbers of youths going overseas have led to the shortage of workers in these areas. Toddy palm wood is used in restaurants, tea shops and hotels and also in village houses to erect posts, beams and bars as a substitute for other hardwood and bamboo. As a result, even 70-year-old palm trees have been fallen for this purpose.
Therefore we should find the ways and means to improve the lives of rural folk so that we can save the palm trees. Palm trees have a lifespan of 150 to 200 years, with their average height being 60 to 80 feet. The tree stumps are used to make stools and the trunks for building bridges and houses. Furthermore, toddy fronds are utilized for roofing and fencing, while their branches are used to make chairs.
In an age of modernisation, toddy palm trees are used in restaurants and tea shops to attract consumers to country cottages. They were widely used in rural areas by those who could not afford expensive wood. However, preventing the cutting of these trees is necessary to stop deforestation in Upper Myanmar and maintain the ecological balance of the area.
The toddy palm tree plays an important role in Myanmar rural life. It can give shade, be a source of drink and food, and be the material for making household utensils. It is also used in building shelters, for making jewelry, medicines, and for a variety of other purposes.
The toddy trees can provide an interesting view to the countryside in the dry zone of Myanmar, and toddy juice is used to produce jaggery (palm sugar) and traditional businesses can be able create job opportunities for local people.
Toddy is harvested from 15-year-old toddy palms. Toddy climbers use clamps to prepare the stalk. They bind the udders and chop a little of its tip to allow the sap to flow and bruise the female toddy palm’s stalk that bear young fruits and make a small slice in each fruit for sap collection. Small pots are strategically hung below the incision on the stalk to catch the dripping sap. Toddy juice is sweet when first harvested from the trees, but it may be fermented in the sun to make an alcoholic drink, called “toddy beer” or “toddy wine.”
Jaggery (or toddy palm candy) is a popular product of
toddy sap. After the sap is collected; it is poured into a large pan then boiled over an open wood fire.
When the juice thickens, it is cooled, becoming more solid, and rolled by hand into round, edible pieces. The resulting candy has a smoky, sweet taste and is traditionally served with green tea. Jaggery is an essential ingredient in recipes for Myanmar snacks and it can be used to make alcohol through distillation. The toddy business has huge potential and it’s time we took our toddy palm trees to the international market.
Translated by Win Ko Ko Aung