The local religious structure and governance role of rice cultivation in Bali, Indonesia is a case being explored with an assortment of projects. Exploring the cultural foundation of this agricultural system highlights the feedbacks resulting in long-term sustainable rice cultivation. This is a system facing internal and external pressures and disturbances to its current productive, desirable state. The ongoing projects associated with this case work to acknowledge, highlight and empower the local farming society to ensure its resilience.
Rice cultivation on Bali, Indonesia spans a thousand years of history. Subaks are ancient, democratic self-governing farmer’s organizations and water temples that manage rice farming. Subaks give spiritual meaning to the governance of the rice terrace ecology. The philosophy which governs the establishment of the subak and their daily activities is a Hindu Balinese concept, to which belief, prosperity and goodness can only be achieved through a harmonious relationship between the individual and the realms of the spirit, the human world and nature. This idea is given concrete realization in the lives of Balinese through the institutions of subaks. Subaks are the foundation for the coordination, cooperation and management necessary to govern the complex processes of pest mitigation, water management, infrastructure development, and harvests required for productive rice agriculture in this region.
During the 1970’s, under guidance from international organizations, the federal government mandated new rice production methods and products resulting in an uncoupling of cultural and religious practices from rice production. During this ‘Green Revolution,’ technology packages of high-yielding rice varieties, fertilizers and pesticides were disseminated. Consequently, rice diversity and production fell and water and pest conflicts increased. The lifting of Green Revolution regulations removed the federal mandates, but the fertilizers, pesticides and high-yield rice varieties remained. Despite continuous use of chemical inputs, part of the island went back to the traditional rice farming practice. Yet, various factors challenge the sustainability of the ancient farming system: high cost of chemical fertilizer combined with the low market price of rice and gradual decline in soil fertility are threatening the long –term economic and ecological viability of rice farming.
Location: Bali, Indonesia
System Type: Agriculture
Contact: Anna Schmuki; Steve Lansing
Organization: Stockholm Resilience Center
Project Dates: 2010-2015
Keywords: irrigation; temple; adaptive management; rice; farming; cultural landscape; governance; Bali; Indonesia; UNESCO