IDEP Foundation

Remembering Subak and Local Knowledge in Harmony with Nature

Farmers in Subak Keloncing, Tabanan prefer to grow local paddy rather than paddy from prime seeds from the industry. Wayan Watera–Pekaseh Subak Keloncing–said, “We ever plant prime seeds in the past, because some people said we can harvest it faster, but it turned out that the difference was 15 days from local paddy.” Of hundreds of farmers included in Subak Keloncing, just a few have planted prime seeds in half of their lands. “I’ve felt the difference between local and prime seeds, especially in maintenance. For me, growing local seeds is easier. And it has the same result. That’s why farmers here are less interested in prime seeds,” added this 72-year-old farmer.

Wayan Watera in organizational training for Subak Catur Angga in Tabanan, Friday, April 8, 2022 (Photo: Gusti Diah)

Planting local paddy makes the ecosystem in Subak Keloncing still sustainable because even though there is chemical input, it is still minimal. “In my field, dragonflies, locusts, and shelters still exist,” said Wayan Watera. Therefore, in 2014, Subak, located upstream of Catur Angga, received an organic certificate. However, because the government still supplies all existing alternatives, this certificate only lasts three years. Farmers return to conventional farming that uses chemical input in the market when that assistance stops.

The revocation of an organic certificate has become an evaluation for Subak Keloncing because farmers still rely on support from the government. They still cannot process or make organic materials applied to the land. This form is the same in the agrochemical industry, making farmers dependent on chemical inputs, such as pesticides, herbicides, urea, and hybrids/GMO seeds. Therefore, farmers need to be independent in producing organic input for land maintenance–fertilizers, natural pesticides–and developing Subak as an organization.

Wahyu Permana sharing about eco-friendly and healthy agriculture system in Subak Keloncing, Friday, May 6, 2022 (Photo: Gusti Diah)

As time goes by, there are many changes in the Subak Keloncing organizational system. “Organizationally, subak has decreased somewhat because many are working outside [the area],” said Wayan Watera, who has been a Pekaseh [leader] in Subak Keloncing since 2013.

Since the 1990s, the organizational system in Subak Keloncing has changed. According to Watera, it causes by the increasing number of demands aside from maintaining the field. Then no “next generation” can continue the scheme prepared long ago. “Old people who made seka menganyi [harvest group] and transport yields could no longer afford it, so now everyone works individually,” added Wayan Watera.

Wahyu Permana with farmers trying to make organic liquid fertilizer (POC) (Photo: Gusti Diah)

Subak already has precise collective work, but it is increasingly becoming more individual. There are many factors behind this, such as some people choosing other job opportunities rather than farming, working conditions in the field, the market, and government intervention related to rice prices. “Selling rice or grain cannot be expensive or equal to cost production because the government pressures it. That’s why our farmers become victims, a community who produce food,” said Ketut Rustana, Pekaseh Subak Piling.

For this reason, IDEP includes organizational training in the curriculum for Subak. Through this training, farmers, especially Subak administrators, began to recall the collective system that had taken place in their subak, a system that had been implemented by their preliminary. Wayan Watera also began to remember his subak history and compare it with today’s situation.

Farmers took some local and organic materials to make organic liquid fertilizer (Photo: Gusti Diah)

Currently, the system in Subak Keloncing is just for distributing information, especially regarding external support. Wayan Watera, as Pekaseh said, “Pekaseh’s role is to be informant, such as managing fertilizers and improving infrastructure.” The responsibility of an informant is not easy because Wayan Watera needs to ensure that the two hundred or so members of Subak Keloncing are informed.

Since Wayan Watera become Pekaseh Subak, Subak has received many opportunities, such as organic certificates, cooperation with importers and the government regarding developing onion plants, and currently collaborating with IDEP. These projects received good responses from Subak’s members; they were very excited to try all alternative offerings in developing farmers’ capacity.

Wahyu Permana conducted a soil fertility test for farmers using a simple tool (Photo: Gusti Diah)

There is a strong reason for farmers’ interest in eco-friendly and healthy agriculture (PSRL) offered by IDEP. In recent years, the price of production inputs has increased, but the government has suppressed the price of rice. Many farmers are overwhelmed because the price of rice is barely worth the maintenance cost. “Honesty, farmers want to implement eco-friendly and healthy agriculture. They were considering some production materials started to be expensive and scarce, such as fertilizer [urea]. Therefore, farmers have started implementing PSRL to save their costs and reduce the use of chemicals, such as pesticides and urea,” explained Wayan Watera.

Distributing production aid for agriculture to farmers in implementing PSRL (Photo: Gusti Diah)

Wayan Watera also hopes that through IDEP’s assistance, farmers in Subak Catur Angga, especially Keloncing–in the upstream area–become independent and not depend on chemical inputs available in the market. He desires that farmers become independent and can produce their agriculture materials–fertilizer, natural pesticides, etc.—through local materials. (Gd)