Kerobokan farmers doubt their future
A number of trucks were seen removing large stones and neem tree logs, previously dumped into an irrigation channel at a Kedampang subak farming site in Kerobokan, north Kuta on Monday.
Meanwhile, some construction workers were busy clearing garbage from the channel.
The channel is the only waterway in Kedampang subak that distributes water to the 97 hectares of rice fields owned by the subak members.
Subak is a traditional irrigation and farming organization in Bali.
The cleaning was undertaken in response to the farmers’ strong protests against the Badung administration’s plan to implement a road expansion project along 2.7 kilometers of the main street, Jl. Raya Pengubengan Kauh, connecting Kerobokan and Kuta, North and South Badung and Tabanan regency.
On Sunday, 273 farmers from Kedampang subak lodged their protest against the plan, saying that the project would affect their fertile rice fields.
On June 6, the farmers found that all the neem trees had already been cut down and the irrigation channels were blocked with wood from the trees, thus rendering it incapable of distributing water to the rice fields.
I Ketut Sudjana, head of Kedampal subak, told the Bali Daily on Sunday that at least 10 hectares of productive rice fields had dried out as a result of the subak channels being damaged by the road project.
Another farmer, I Gede Sukanata, sounded hopeless. “It has been so hard to survive as a farmer here, where rice fields are now changed into housing and hotels. It is difficult for us to find water,” said Sukanata, who owned only 7,000 square meters of rice fields.
The middle-aged Sukanata has no idea about his future as a farmer.
Sudjana added that many of the subak members intended to sell their rice fields.
“Our rice fields have been surrounded by buildings that have blocked the water channels. They [the owners of the buildings] have violated a government decree on green zones, but no action has been taken against them,” Sudjana added.
Badung regency has seven subak organizations across Kerobokan, Mengwi, Abiansemal, Abianbase, Seminyak, Legian, Dalung, Muding and Petitenget.
The subak in Seminyak, Legian and Abianbase have almost disappeared, now transformed into luxury housing complexes, villas, hotels and boutiques.
I Gede Mahardika, professor of agriculture at Udayana University, insisted that the provincial and regional administrations should maintain farming sites as the island’s most precious assets.
“The local governments have focused more on economical aspects. Now, they have to consider more environmental investment to make Bali a green island,” the professor said.
Bali, he said, needed spacious green zones that could produce the oxygen needed by its population of 3.9 million.
“The agricultural sector can become the island’s main food supplier. The rice fields can also in turn serve as the island’s natural beauty,” he said.
The professor suggested that the government protect both farmers and their properties by giving incentives and other regulations in their favor.
“It would not be wise to liberalize the agricultural sector. Its products must not be regulated by market mechanisms without any protection or subsidies,” Mahardika added.
Farmers were often considered as a lower-income group in Bali, he said.
The recognition of the subak traditional farming system in Bali by UNESCO for its World Heritage List had yet to be transformed into real action by the government to protect farmers and agricultural sites, he said.
“Up to the present, I have not heard any real and comprehensive plans from the provincial governments to translate this international recognition,” the professor added.