Stumble Into Indonesia's Unseen Places
Submitted by viravira on 4 September 2015 • Destination
We don’t smoke, I specifically cannot stand the smell of cigarette, and there’s been so much negativities we’ve heard about cigarette concerning health. But hearing that Lombok is actually the biggest producer of tobacco in Indonesia, which surprised many including me, we decided to join the trip. With no mention of the gilis (small islands), beaches and Mount Rinjani, it didn’t take us long to say yes to revisit Lombok. We wanted to know what is up with tobacco of Lombok Island.
I’m not gonna lie. The whole trip is supported by one of Indonesia’s biggest cigarette companies, PT Djarum. I’m aware that this ‘seeing another side of tobacco’ could just be a form of campaign, a justification of cigarette that’s been the enemy of people who concern about health. However, who can deny the fact that the cigarette industry in Indonesia has contributed so much to the country, financially? And who would have known, this tobacco of Lombok, that originated in Virginia, US, would flourish in the island’s barren-now-green land?
However, good things come to those who work their ass off. “Tobacco isn’t a plant for the lazy. Its growth and quality depend greatly on the treatment, the type of soil, the amount of water it takes in, and so on,” more or less was what Pak Iskandar, a senior manager in a cigarette company which warehouse we visited, explained. It cannot have too much or too little water, everything has to be just right.
“This is Lekor Village. It used to be Poor Village,” said Pak Sabarudin, a successful tobacco plantation owner, half jokingly. He inherited 25 hectares of land from his father, which he then planted tobacco and hard work, and now it has expanded some more hectares. Life improvement doesn’t only happen to the farmers, but also to the farm workers in general.
That said, tobacco is still the enemy of many, concerning health. The irony has been going on for decades in Indonesia; tobacco kills, but the custom paid makes good income for the country, if not great. But not all believe that tobacco is murderous, pointing to living examples of chain smokers who still live healthy and strong until they’re really old, Pak Sandung alike. I think I’ve also read some articles stating data that support the latter opinion. I would have to dig more about this to really know where I’m standing. But one thing for sure, inhaling cigarette smoke makes me dizzy.
All this makes me wonder. Since tobacco has been planted widely in Lombok and still belongs to the farmers, not the cigarette companies, can it actually be used for something other than cigarette?
“Yes, it can be used to make perfume, but it’s not very beneficial,” to sum up Pak Iskandar’s answer. That’s too bad.
One more thing I would like to know, but didn’t have the chance to ask and didn’t really know whom to ask, is whether tobacco really the only plant that can be grown – especially in this case, in Lombok – and support the financial state of the locals? Has the government – West Nusa Tenggara or Indonesian – tried to replace it with something else as productive? Or have scientists ever done any research to find other function for tobacco leaves, like to replace teak or banana leaves to cover rice for cooking purposes to make it flavorful?
All in all, the trip was quite eye-opening to me. I can’t say I’m a tobacco believer just yet, but I like being reminded that there is another reality to something I’ve been against, that I should dig more about things before deciding to love it or hate it. And honestly, I was a bit nervous to be on a trip with so many people I barely knew. But the gang turned out to be great, I had fun most of the time. Everyone was cooperative and took things easy, and I got to know better of these people with various backgrounds. Hence the trip deserved a closing dance on the cliff of gorgeous Tanjung Aan…