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Bali's Roots Grow on its Rice Terraces

Bali Struggles to Find a Way to Preserve the Subak Rice Agriculture System

Bali News: Bali, Indonesia, UNESCO, Subak, rice agriculture, Alit Artha Wiguna, Dewan Pengelola Warisan Budaya Bali, Council for the Management of Bali Cultural Heritage World Heritage Site, Jatiluwih, Wayan Windia, Udayana University
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Bali loses of 1,000 hectares of land use for rice cultivation each year, a fact that threatens the continuance of the island’s ancient subak tradition of water management and rice agriculture.

Quoted in Bisnis Indonesia, Alit Artha Wiguna, secretary of the Council for the Management of Bali Cultural Heritage (Dewan Pengelola Warisan Budaya Bali), said: “At this time only 82,000 hectares of rice fields remain from an original total of 102,000 hectares. The daily lives of the farmers, who tend to be impoverished, make agriculture unappealing (as a field of work). This is Bali’s challenge for the future.”

Steve Lansing, a professor of anthropology from the University of Arizona who has spend decades studying Bali, sees an opportunity for Bali’s rice terraces to become a World Heritage site. He hopes that the government will take a serious approach in seeking to preserve and protect the unique qualities of Bali’s subak system of agriculture, adding value to the lives of subak agriculturalists.

Wayan Windia, an expert from Bali’s Udayana University has described the subak system as much more than a source of food production, but also as a cultural medium . The cultural value of preserving the subak system for future generations demands its protection and the provision of government subsidies.

Said Windia: “Let’s avoid behaving in a self-contradictory way. The world acknowledges (the subak) while there is no effort from our people to guarantee its continuity. The subak needs protection and subsidies. “

Past efforts by the government to have the subak areas of Jatiluwih included on the UNESCO World Heritage Site lists have been unsuccessful when auditors found local concepts for preservation of the subak areas lacking.

A UNESCO team is presently in Bali reviewing applications for World Heritage status for a number of areas on the island.

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[Saving Bali’s Heritage

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