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How Ya Gonna Keep ‘Em Down on the Farm?

Agriculture Programs Boosts Bali Farmer’s Livelihoods

(4/7/2013) Although the provincial administration says that the income of farmers in Bali continues to increase annually, wages earned by agriculturalists still remain below the average per capita income figures in 2012.

At a plenary meeting of the Bali Legislative Council in Denpasar on Tuesday, April 2, 2013, Bali Governor Made Mangku Pastika said, “The farmers’ annual per capita income has continued to increase from an average Rp 6 million [US$600] in 2008 to Rp 9 million (US$900) in 2012.”

While delivering the accountability report for Bali’s integrated agriculture (Simantri) program, The Jakarta Post reports that Pastika considered the improvement of farmers’ welfare to be of major importance in the context of developing Bali’s agriculture industry. Pastika said, “In order to support food self-sufficiency here in Bali, development in the agriculture sector was addressed to encourage optimum agricultural resources, while simultaneously improving the welfare of farmers in Bali.”

The Simantri program has been designated to develop Bali’s agriculture sector, offering financial and technical assistance to farming collectives. 325 farmers’ groups are currently involved in the program with 75 of these joining in 2013.

To qualify for assistance farmers must be willing to adopt organic practices including the use of non-chemical fertilizers. The program also involves responsible stockbreeding practices and the establishment of biogas power plants. Biogas, bio-pesticides and organic fertilizer are produced from animal waste.

The Bali Agriculture Agency head, Ida Bagus Wisnuardana, admitted that despite the income growth, many obstacles to further growth remain. The report disclosed that despite the income growth, farmers’ annual per capital income was below the Island’s average of Rp 20.74 million (US$2,074) in 2012.

Wisnuardana claims “the main obstacle is the limited land owned by farmers.” Yet he remains hopeful that the program’s long-term target of increasing the farmers’ annual per capita income to Rp 12 million can be achieved. “We targeted doubling the farmers’ income compared to that of 2008. We are optimistic that we can reach our target,” he said.

Head of the Subak Research Center at Udayana University Wayan Windia considers the growth in the farmers’ income as an inadequate indicator that the welfare of the farmers has also increased. “Their income could have increased, but expenses could have increased at a greater level than their income, as inflation has also increased,” Windia said.

Windia added that tax subsidies are also important for improving the farmers’ welfare. “Land tax has burdened many farmers. The (tax) subsidy really needs to be implemented.”

Windia also suggested that without empowering subak – the traditional water management system of Bali, the Simantri program will be unable to run at an optimal level to strengthen the farmers’ economic condition.

Contributed by Nahhan Prudy