"Pineapple Therapy" Proves Fruitful For Ex-Drug Users In Rehab

he deaths of his beloved grandmother and three close friends in 2018 and 2019 left the young man feeling desolate and unloved.

To overcome his loneliness, he turned to syabu (or methamphetamine, a highly addictive stimulant drug) for company.

The 26-year-old, who only wants to be identified as Abang Chik, is currently among the 290 clients (inmates) of the Narcotics Addiction Rehabilitation Centre (Puspen) in Jelebu, Negeri Sembilan, one of the drug rehab centres run by the National Anti-Drugs Agency in the Ministry of Home Affairs.

When reporters met Abang Chik at Puspen Jelebu, which was among the destinations covered during a recent media tour programme organised by the Department of Information (Selangor and Negeri Sembilan), he was busy kneading dough for the pineapple tarts he was about to bake.

“After my grandma and friends passed away, I worked at a phone shop but it closed down. Soon after that, my mother’s restaurant business also wound up due to various problems. I felt so frustrated and lonely and had no one to turn to for support,” he said.

In 2021, a friend introduced Abang Chik, who is from Kampung Batu Muda, Kuala Lumpur, to “ice” or syabu. Soon he became addicted to the potent drug which, he claimed, made him feel calm.

Nine months ago, he landed at Puspen Jelebu where he is undergoing treatment and rehabilitation for drug addiction in a supportive environment.

“I feel much better and stronger now. I also realised that there are people out there who are ever ready to support and encourage people like me to change (for the better).

“My resolve to lead a better life has strengthened with the support of the officers, counsellors and the teachers here. Even my family has become more supportive,” he said, adding that he cannot wait to open his own pineapple tart business once he is released from the rehab centre.



Abang Chik said he had no previous experience whatsoever making pineapple tarts or any other tart for that matter.

“But now I’ve learned the skills and plan to make and sell pineapple tarts when I start my new life,” he said, adding that he feels proud and satisfied each time he bakes a fresh batch of perfectly turned-out tarts.   

Puspen Jelebu’s specialties are its pineapple tarts and pineapple plantation, with its clients taught the relevant skills to cultivate the fruit as well as prepare pineapple tarts using their produce to make the delicious filling.

The centre embarked on its pineapple cultivation project in October 2013 on a 12-hectare site it owned. Initially, the harvested fruits were either sold or processed into juice. It branched to making pineapple tarts in 2018.

Another client at the centre Muhammad Faiz (not his real name), 26, sees good potential in the pineapple tart business and is eager to prove to his family and others that he can succeed with the knowledge he gained at the drug rehab centre.  

“There’s nothing to stop people like me with a dark past from doing well in life,” said the young man from Kuala Selangor in Selangor who was admitted to Puspen Jelebu 11 months ago.

It was curiosity that drove him to experiment with syabu at the age of 17 and he eventually became addicted to it.

“Here, I learned to be more disciplined… a far cry from what I used to be. For eight long years, I was on the wrong path and I really regret what I did,” he added.

Kumar (not his real name), 35, who is among the Puspen Jelebu clients involved in pineapple cultivation, said he hopes to open his own pineapple smallholding after completing his rehab programme.

“I used to sell scrap metal. I also cultivated bananas and rubber in my village (in Padang Besar, Perlis). But my businesses went bankrupt due to my drug (syabu) addiction problem. I started taking drugs when I was in my late 20s and used to spend a lot of money on them,” said the father of four.

“My condition would have been worse if I hadn’t come here (Puspen Jelebu).”

Kumar said he spends about two hours every morning attending to the pineapple plants at the centre’s plantation where they are provided guidance by trainers from the Malaysian Pineapple Industry Board.



Puspen Jelebu director Arzmi Abdullah, meanwhile, said although the centre offers a number of skills development programmes to its clients, it is best known for its pineapple cultivation project.

The project, he pointed out, serves as a therapeutic treatment in the form of agriculture.

“We cultivate various varieties of pineapple such as N36, Selangor Sweet or Yankee, MD2, Moris, Crystal Honey and Sarawak. Besides pineapple tarts, we also use our produce to make jam, cakes and juice,” he said, adding that so far some 458 clients have benefitted from the pineapple project operated by Puspen Jelebu in collaboration with the National Anti-Drug Agency and Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security.

Arzmi added that Puspen Jelebu plans to expand its pineapple cultivation project as well as diversify its range of pineapple-based products in order to produce human capital to meet the needs of the nation’s pineapple industry.

He said during this year’s Hari Raya Aidilfitri celebrations, the centre made about RM16,800 from the sale of its pineapple-based products including 480 jars of tarts.

“Our products are supplied to local wholesalers from Titi, Mantin and Lenggeng (in Negeri Sembilan) and Kuala Lumpur,” he said, adding that proceeds from the sale will be handed to the clients once they complete their two-year rehabilitation.

He said currently 20 clients are involved in the pineapple project, with half of them based in the bakery and the other half in the plantation.

Arzmi also said Puspen Jelebu focuses on short-term programmes to teach its clients skills such as haircutting and making roti canai, kuih, doughnuts and biscuits as these are found to be more impactful.

“They can benefit from the skills they have picked up as soon as they leave our centre. They also don’t need a big capital (to start a business relevant to the skills they have learned),” he explained.

“For example, if they learn hairdressing, they can work for a barber or open their own kiosk. The same goes for our clients who learn to make roti canai… they can work at a restaurant or open their own small stall in a coffee shop,” he added.


Translated by Rema Nambiar



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