Bali develops consolidation
farming program

Bali is adopting a consolidation farm (CF) program on Subak Anggabaya in East Denpasar to enhance the province's rice-sustainability.

I Gede Ambara Putra, head of the agriculture office, said this is the newest national program in the agricultural sector. He said the program focused on strengthening and integrating the agricultural sector, ranging from the improvement of irrigation infrastructure, technical assistance for farmers, to the distribution and marketing of the harvest yields.

"The aims of the program are, among others, to enhance food sustainability as well as to encourage young people to work in the agricultural sector," Ambara said.

More importantly, the program is primarily aimed at preventing Balinese farmers from selling their rice fields to outside investors.

Rice fields in Bali have been widely converted into housing complexes and commercial sites, among other purposes. Local farmers have no other option but to sell their land since the harvests were not enough to sustain their living costs.

The program has been implemented nationwide. Denpasar was chosen as the program's pilot project in Bali.

"Denpasar is an urban area with massive rice field areas," Ambara said.

Anggabaya is a 30-hectare rice field area organized jointly by members of the subak traditional agriculture organization.

Jakarta's central government allocated Rp 100 million (US$10,000) to fund the program in Denpasar.

"We expect to have additional funds from the Denpasar municipal administration," he added.

The fund was used for the procurement of farming equipment, seeds, infrastructure development and training for farmers.

"Farmers involved in the program were released from property taxes," he added.

Wayan Windia, a professor of agriculture from the University of Udayana, strongly criticized the authority for forcing farmers to keep cultivating their rice fields without providing incentives.

"Farmers sold their lands because they considered it unprofitable to continue working in their paddy fields," the professor said.

The expenses spent by a farmer could be higher than the income generated from farming, he added.

The rocketing prices of fertilizers and seeds have bankrupted many farmers.

Wayan added to boost the agricultural sector, the authority, farmers, agricultural-based industry including fertilizer producers, cooperative unit had to work together.

Farmers are highly marginalized across Indonesia, with the majority of them living under poverty lines.

Made Jada, a member of Subak, was happy with the program saying the involvement of farmers can boost their planting, distribution and marketing skills.

"More importantly, we have enough seeds and fertilizers during planting season. We always face shortages of those things and we don't have money to buy them at very high prices."

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