The sugar palm tree (Tnot) is the national heritage of Cambodia. The country view is characterized by the presence of this tree and all Cambodian painters never forget this. Millions of palm tree densely grow in the province of Kg.Cham, Kandal, Kg.Chnang, Kg.Speu, Pursat, Takeo, Prey Veng, Svay Rieng, Kg.Thom.
Tnot (Borassus Flabellofer) is a sexed tree. Female Tnot produces much more juice than male. It may take about 20 years before first harvest and Tnot may live over a hundred year of age. Many Cambodian people plant Tnot to identify their land limit or simply for gardening. That is why Tnot is found in many private and public urbanization projects in recent years.
Palm sap is obtained by flower squeezing. This operation is not harmful to the growth or the reproduction of palm tree. The harvest season may start from December to May. Farmers may collect palm sap of approximately 5-10L per tree and per day.
After evaporation, palm sap is transformed to palm sugar which is also popular beside our traditional Prahoc and Pa-ork (fermented fishes) and Trasak Chav (fermented cucumber). Along with rice, these products are basic in the Khmer gastronomy. Aside Skor Tnot (palm sugar), people do natural fermentation to produce Teuk Tnot Chou (acid palm juice or palm vine) and Teuk Khmes Tnot (palm vinegar). These products are very popular at countryside but difficult to penetrate into urban market.
Despite of these potentials, rural farmers have also long been facing many constraints such as:
- Palm tree is not industrial plant,
- Difficult harvesting,
- High sensitivity of palm sap to rapid fermentation by wild strains,
- Limited means of processing and product quality standard,
- Energy cost,
- Huge importation and unfair competition,
- Lack of coordination between producers,
- Limited information about technique and marketing,
- Lack of advanced scientific research on palm tree, etc.
It is the tree of the poor villagers as palm trees grow mostly in rural parts of Cambodia. I have asked my friends how to imagine Cambodia without palm tree. It’s really hard and unbelievable. However, the illegal palm tree logging is reported in many newspapers and nowadays, the risk is not potential but real. How to convince the villagers not to cut their palm tree for their immediate need at a very low price (1-5 USD)?
How to protect and value the palm tree?
Since my childhood, I found that most Cambodians love the palm tree regardless their political or social backgrounds. We all wish to preserve this national heritage. Recently, I have studied a very special project named “Confirel”.
In the framework of Confirel, Dr. HAY Ly Eang, the founder-president has been trying with his own resource and his competent team to develop research, processing and marketing of products made from palm tree such as wines, soft drinks, vinegars, sugars, liquors, etc. He is the first to have successfully promoted “palm products” at international stage. Confirel products are certified “Organic” by ECOCERT International according to US organic standard (NOP) and EU organic standard (CEE 2092/91). Confirel has also won many awards such as the Golden Award by GMS-BF and the Corporate Citizenship Award by IFC/MPDF, and the 1st price (Palme d’Or) among international products classified “Bien se nourrir” at NatExpo-Paris in 2005.
I really admire his sacrifice and perseverance despite facing many constraints in linkage the rural life with industrial theme since he first started this project with my great professor Dr. Chunhieng Thavarith in the 1990s. What a nice chance to know them and other devoted engineers, especially Om Sok who prefers working for this project instead of taking his retirement. They believe that the success of Confirel project will also give benefits directly to millions of rural farmers, create jobs, valorize local agricultural products, promote local production, and develop research and capacity building. Confirel represents a real opportunity of sustainable development in Cambodia. Have you ever tasted palm drink yet? The real taste of Cambodia.
A public billboard developed by Confirel team is being displayed on the main highways to promote the protection and the valorization of the palm tree.
For further informations about Confirel and their products, please click on www.confirel.com