The Jakarta Post
Painter I Nyoman Wijaya enthusiastically explained Bali's traditional subak agricultural system to a group of journalists joining a rice field trek in Nyambu Village, Tabanan, Bali, recently. The 44-year-old told the curious urbanites about the centuries-old system, under which the water gate - one of the subak community's vital assets - allowed for a fair distribution of water.
"Under Bali's subak traditional farming system, there are many water channels, keeping the farmland wet at all times," he said amid the sound of a small stream flowing.
“A wet rice field not only stimulates the breeding of eels, snails and other rice field inhabitants, but it also effectively curbs the presence of mice, one of the paddy pests, because mice prefer to live on dry land,” he said. He added that kangkung (water spinach) and other kinds of vegetables also grew in the wet rice field. The well-retained local wisdom of subak reflects the philosophical concept of Tri Hita Karana, which brings together the realms of the spirit, the human world and nature.
Under the clear sky, the trekkers also made several stops, listening to Nyoman tell them about water temples found in the rice field, the many agriculture-related rituals and the nearby Yasungi River, one of the big rivers in the island of gods, which keeps flowing throughout the year.
Upon reaching a small temple near a tall and shady tree, he told the group about how in his childhood, he used to play with his friends under the tree. “The tree was already here when I was a child,” he said while looking up at the tree.
Trekking along the clean and peaceful rice fields with their cultural water temples was a pleasant sample of the tourist attractions that Nyambu Village is offering. The walk was conducted one day after the official launch of community-based Nyambu Village ecotourism program, officially called Desa Wisata Ekologis (DWE) Nyambu.
Nyambu Village, which in the pre-independence period was called Mundah Village, is located in Kediri subdistrict, Tabanan Regency, about one-hour’s drive from Ngurah Rai Airport, Denpasar. The community-based ecotourism program in Nyambu is expected to fare well as it has received great support and commitment from various stakeholders amid the rising issue of the farmland conversion. Hectares of farmland in Bali have reportedly been converted into hotels. The community-based Nyambu ecotourism program is being run collaboratively, involving the British Council, Yayasan Wisnu, Diageo and PT Langgeng Kreasi Jayaprima (LKJ), with each playing its role according to their respective expertise.
Country Director of British Council Indonesia Sally Goggin explained how its engagement in the DEW Nyambu program was very much in line with the organization’s long-established vision of bringing friendly knowledge and understanding between people in the world.
She said that under its social program, the British Council was eager to participate in contributing to social and economic development, which helped improve local people’s prosperity and inclusive development.
“Tourism is one of the main economic sectors in Indonesia. The sustainable tourism program conducted jointly by several partners aimed to stimulate economic growth in the village by improving the capacity of local people in managing the potential that they possess," she said. Diageo chief representative Adam Djokovic expressed his support for the launch of DWE Nyambu. “We hope that this program can bring positive benefit to boost the people’s economy.
“Nyambu Village has ecological and historical tourism potential thanks to its existing rice fields, springs and cultural contact and long history dating back to ancient Bali (around the eighth century until the 13th), the era of Majapahit influence (the 14th century), until this day,” he said. Under the program, the community was not only involved in mapping and managing the village’s tourism, but also had the opportunity to learn more about the long history of their village. “This activity will strengthen Nyambu people’s cultural and historical identity,” he said.
Cultural heritage: A local guide talks about a Balinese pura (temple) to a group of journalists.(-/-)
The launch also reflects the goodwill of local authorities, who do not want tourism development to occur at the expense of nature, particularly rice fields.
Tabanan Regent Ni Putu Eka Wiryastuti underscored the crucial role village tourism played in improving villagers’ prosperity, saying that village tourism places a community’s potential first. “It is unnecessary to build many hotels as villagers are the actors [of ecotourism development] who can reap the benefits,” she said.
Foreign tourists can enjoy the stunning natural landscape and culinary delights. “The development of village tourism will be able to limit farmland conversion,” she said.
Therefore, greater effort will have to be made to help the farmers, she said. “We have a regional bylaw that favors farmers and we encourage them to maintain their farmland through various ways, including developing village tourism,” she told The Jakarta Post following the opening of the DWE Nyambu.
Locals are also strongly support ecotourism.
Nyambu Village is only 25 meters away from a road along which various industries have started to flourish, leaving it “highly vulnerable to changes due to increased urbanization,” Nyoman said.
“But we are determined to save our farmland from urbanization," he said.
Nyambu village head Ida Bagus Putu Sunarbawa said her local predecessors had created a regulatory system that limited the development (of housing) on farmland.
“If there is a shift in function, which is personal in nature, there is a lengthy study, either at the administrative village or custom village level," he said.
"Two or three weeks are needed to study whether a piece of farmland can be shifted in function or not. Besides, the buyer's commitment to environmental preservation should be ensured beforehand," he said. With ecotourism, “we are able to protect the environment and conserve our culture," he said.
He assured that the program was sustainable, saying that every new village head is obliged to refer to a six-year village program when it comes to policy. All representatives of banjar (Balienese customary villages) have jointly agreed to empower local people to develop ecotourism," he said.
Diageo’s corporate relation manager Dendy Borman said that in parallel with the company’s vision to grow together with the community in which it operates, the company would continue to support the program.
Sally Goggin added that sustainability started from the beginning of the program. “Leaving the skills, know-how and network to the village is how to make the program sustainable,” she said. (Sudibyo M. Wiradji)
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