Sawah Bali: The Organisation Preserving Bali’s Rice Fields

Our Bali Heroes | Written By, Life on the Island | April 11th, 2017

The most commonly identified issues in Bali are environmental degradation, health problems, food insecurity, identity and land loss, water scarcity and economic inequality. Due to increase in tourism, land has been sold relentlessly and development made on fertile sites. The soil in Bali is dead due to no use of biomass and excessive use of chemical fertilisers in the past 45 years. It is creating a paradox of nutritional starvation and diabetes. Decades of mono-cropping and import from foreign countries is leading to economic instability. Due to real-estate speculation, families are selling their ancestral farmland at exorbitant rates which is posing ethical challenges for Bali.

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In 2012, UNESCO designated five world heritage sites in Bali. This designation recognises paddy fields and 1000-year-old canal systems known as Subak. Due to over-development and commercialisation in Bali, severe water shortage and food insecurities are being faced by the Balinese common man. Even though Bali has been the most productive “Sawah” in south-east Asia, UNESCO does not provide protection for these sites which are under the constant threat of development. Yayasan Konservasi Sawah Bali (YKSB) has implemented a democratic, community based resource management system that maximises efficient water usage and makes Bali unparalleled in rice production.

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The mission of YKSB aims at conserving and sustaining a working landscape in Bali, and to restructure agricultural production to secure greater economic equality and wellness for Bali’s farmers. The vision is very clear and addresses to create a new paradigm that will generate food security, food sovereignty, mitigate climate change, retain culture with economic development, so that farmers will stop selling/leasing their land for building developments. Farmers will be educated on seed saving, vermiculture and financial aid should be given so that they return to organic farming methods. Economic opportunities for farmers will be expanded by restructuring their farming methods, connecting them directly to markets with high demands for organic produce and developing value-added products from surplus crops. Agritourism will be introduced where tourists will participate in the farming activities and learn about Balinese lifestyle. On the other hand, this will provide a direct source of income to the farmers. To conserve the Sawah, a U.S. land trust concept will be applied where annuities will be paid to multigenerational farmers to not develop their land. Ongoing land stewardship will be carried on where lands will be under continuous monitoring and best land practices made more available to farmers. The vision is top-notch and covers all dimensions to ensure complete development of “Sawah” and Subak.

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The pilot project is on the outskirts of Ubud, Gianyar. This Subak was chosen as it is close to Ubud, which is famous for tourism and hence is threatened. The pilot project “Seeing is Believing” aims to replicate the US Land Trust Model while ensuring that the culture, religion and legal framework of Bali is prioritised. Phase 1 has been a hit with international volunteers of all ages participating in field work and the Mangkok rice hitting the economic boom. YKSB receives no income from the sale of its Mangkok rice, farmers receive 100% from its sale. Phase 2 is in process where the aim is to restore the habitat to health by adding compost and biomass. Growing of heritage rice will continue. In addition, organic vegetables will also be grown. In Phase 3, the price paid to each farmer to not sell their lands will be fixed. Conservation of property will be guaranteed and financial structuring like opening of bank accounts for farmers will be done. Phase 4 will be about monitoring, enforcing and stewardship of the land.

The board consists of highly qualified individuals and very successful entrepreneurs who have dedicated their time and efforts to protect and conserve Bali. Their efforts have already put a permanent smile on the faces of Balinese people. News channels like CNN, Jakarta Post and Bali TV have regularly covered news addressing the issues of the Subak and “Sawah”. This has spread a lot of awareness on the current scenario of Bali. The involvement of YKSB with its energetic and super-efficient team has ensured that the mission and vision are all aligned with the implementation activities.

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Without a doubt, YKSB’s world-class model will ensure the protection of thousands of Balinese families. The successful beginning of the pilot program has enforced this trust and further beliefs. With this being a hit, future programs will be replicated on the same model of land conservation. The program has already gained momentum with an effective response from the Balinese government. YKSB seeks out the support of individuals to make this program 100% successful. All the generous contributions will go directly to 135 family farms. You can pledge to donate any amount, and for every pledge you make you will receive small gift hampers that will remind you of the contribution you are making to make Bali more beautiful and maintain the stability of Balinese families. The feel good factor is an added bonus. Be a part of this movement and earn the blessings of thousands of Balinese families.

Yayasan Konservasi Sawah Bali
A : Banjar Bunutan, Kedewatan Village, Gianyar
T : +62 813 3879457
W : www.sawahbali.org

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Life on the Island

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