An article by Trisha Sertori, The Jakarta Post.

Tradition: Rice farming has been the social and religious key to the Balinese for centuries. Sawah Bali is working with farmers to maintain this tradition into the future.

As hectare after hectare of productive farmland is lost to housing and hotels each year in Bali, one community is bucking the trend, making a promise to conserve their traditionally irrigated subak rice farms.

Residents of the villages of Bunutan and Tanggayuda, just north of Ubud, are undertaking a pilot project with the Bali Rice Field Conservation Foundation (Yayasan Konservasi Sawah Bali) to dedicate more than 117 productive acres exclusively to rice for the long term.

The owners of the 135 farms in the program will receive regular subsidies from Sawah Bali for signing agreements not to turn their land into building plots, ensuring that the centuries-long practice of subak farming will continue — despite development.

According to Sawah Bali founder Phyllis Kaplan, all the members of Subak Malung, which comprises the two villages, have signed up. The subak was chosen for the pilot due to its proximity to Ubud.

“As these villages are so close to Ubud there is an extreme threat of them being sold off [for non-agricultural development]. They are also very traditional villages that have already gone partially organic,” says Kaplan.

Heritage: “This land has been in our family from the mid-18th century, so this is my children’s heritage,” one elderly farmer says.
“The land-use tool that Sawah Bali will introduce is one utilized successfully for over 40 years in the US to conserve farms. Sawah Bali will replicate the Vermont Land Trust concept to keep the working landscape productive with best-use practices for managing threatened natural resources with competing purposes,” Kaplan said in a press release. “By conserving the farmland and subak, water use will be prioritized for subak, sawah, food production, security and [sacred activities].”

Sawah Bali is currently well funded and has technical partners in land conservation, fund-raising and soil rehabilitation.

Kaplan adds that technical assistance will be given to promote 100 percent organic farming and to plant heritage rice and other value-added crops to increase farm viability.

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