Patchouli mission

Patchouli mission (June 15 – August 13)

In the beginning of June I came to Banda Aceh, Indonesia. I was hired to document the mission of the Caritas Czech Republic, focusing on growers of patchouli (nilam). I traveled for 45 days between districts of Aceh Jaya, Aceh Barat, Aceh Selatan and Guyo Lues. I witnessed constructions of patchouli distillation boilers (kettles), I met with beneficiaries and went to their fields and meetings.

My first field trip was to Aceh Jaya, where I met agriculture government officers who came to see NBC (Nilam Business Center), to check their progress in patchouli distillation and to meet some beneficiaries. 

Members of the Project Management Unit (PMU) and Ministry of Disadvantaged Areas (KPDT) are instructed on the methods used by KINA staff to test the quality of patchouli oil produced

Members of the Project Management Unit (PMU) and Ministry of Disadvantaged Areas (KPDT) are meeting with beneficiaries

Tgk Nurdin Abu Bakar Family Caritas Czech Republic
(CCR) beneficiaries

I went to see a new construction of patchouli distillation near NBC Aceh Jaya. The work was in the beginning where two workers were building patchouli shelter. 

Building patchouli shelter

I was actually eyewitness of building a new patchouli distillation machine from the bottom to the end.

Building foundations

Building foundations, cement is mixed with water from river

Building a floor

Making foundations for a kettle

Building chimney around a kettle

Building a raw material vessel

Placing a kettle on a furnace

A welder finishing his job

Building Nilam (Patchouli) distillation machine

A welder finishing a roof

When patchouli distillation machines were done a test was performed, patchouli leaves were brought in from farmers, wood was bought and test could start.

Logs for Gayo Lues Nilam Business Centre (NBS)

Patchouli leaves in the sac is brought to the Nilam Business Centre (NBC)

Dried patchouli leaves are placed into barrel on stilts to be heated and distilled

Barrel has to be closed properly otherwise the steam will escape

Checking a can were the oil separates from the water

Finally, the quality of oil is checked

In order that our audience will understand the differences between old and new patchouli destination machine, I documented some of the old ones.  For example a new machine built with help of the Caritas Czech Republic has stainless steel kettles, old distillations use rusty barrels. Another example is that the water is heated separately in a tank to produce steam while dried leaves are placed in another tank. 

Traditional indirect distillation – where water is placed at the bottom of tank and leaves are in a barrel on top of this water tank

A patchouli farmer pressing patchouli leaves so more leaves can be put in

Filling a barrel with dried patchouli leaves. Below, you can see a condenser made from pipes

What will be a patchouli distillation machines without the farmers. I met them in their home field.

Growing patchouli seedlings in the Aceh Selatan NBC

Planting patchouli seedlings

Pulling weeds

Hoeing patchouli field

Cutting patchouli shrubs

Drying patchouli leaves

Cutting patchouli leaves

Packing patchouli leaves ready for distillation

Deliver patchouli leaves to closest distillation

I would like to thank all patchouli farmers, Caritas Czech Republic, World Bank and TORR to give me this opportunity to document Caritas Czech Republic’s efforts to help these small scale farmers to improve their patchouli harvest and therefore also their income. 

Aceh Jaya NBC members

It’s time to go. And I am really looking forward to my new adventures.

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