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Continuing the Commitment to Implement a Healthy and Eco-Friendly Agricultural System in Subak Catur Angga

Subak, as one of the World Cultural Heritage, has received several warnings from UNESCO. These warnings stem from the various problems in the subak area, such as land-use changes that disrupt the ecosystem and the subak itself, activities upstream that damage water sources, and changes in processing agricultural land. Subak included in the WCH are also food sources for the Balinese people, especially during this COVID-19 pandemic, relying on local food to meet the community's needs.


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Subak Catur Angga Sangkep [meeting] with IDEP (Photo: Eka Dharma)


In threats to the sustainability of subak and food sovereignty in Bali, farmers in Subak Catur Angga, Batukaru continue to strive to maintain the sustainability of subak. However, there are still remnants of the green revolution, such as the use of urea, herbicides, and pesticides that threaten the ecosystem of the soil and rice fields themselves. However, the Subak Catur Angga farmers decided to try more environmentally friendly farming. Farmers are starting to realize the dangers of using agricultural chemicals. "I think there are many obstacles in conventional farming, especially when using too intense, too many pesticides. So the nutrients in the soil are getting damaged, and many diseases are also growing," said Ketut Rustana, Pekaseh Subak Piling, Mengesta Village.


Switching to a More Environmentally Oriented Farming System

When the subak ecosystem is degraded due to land conversion and chemical agriculture, not only does the subak disappear as a World Cultural Heritage, but the food security of the Balinese people is also threatened. For this reason, IDEP and farmers in Subak Catur Angga began to implement healthy and environmentally friendly agriculture in two subak, namely Subak Rejasa and Sri Gumana.


IDEP and Farmers carried out this experimental effort on five acres in each subak. "From August, I am a representative of Rejasa Subak used organic manure [fertilizer] in an area of 5 acres of niki, so besides training, there was also support for dolomite, salt, bran, and barrel from IDEP," said Nengah Sutamaya, Pekaseh Subak Rejasa.



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Nengah Sutamaya is sharing his experience when implementing eco-friendly agriculture (Photo: Eka Dharma)


During one planting period, approximately 3 months, Nengah Sutamaya has produced 4 quintals, 45 kg, in 5 acres. This result is clearly beyond the expectations of the man who is often called Pak Cip. Initially, Pak Cip estimated that at least the harvest was equivalent to the yield from conventional agriculture, which was 2-3 quintals. This estimate appears because changing 100% of farming systems from conventional to organic is not easy. In addition, chemical drugs usually used with the intention of practicality and "efficacy" to repel pests and diseases are not reused.


Although it does not use chemical drugs, IDEP offers farmers alternatives, such as making liquid organic fertilizer (POC) to fertilize the land and using neem oil as a vegetable pesticide. This offer is given when IDEP conducts training and mentoring. Farmers also have the choice to use this alternative step or not. However, they firmly decided to try an alternative method that existed long before chemical agriculture was present in society because of their factual determination.


This success has opened the eyes of most farmers in Subak Catur Angga, so many want to switch to more environmentally friendly agriculture. Besides maintaining the stability of the rice field ecosystem, this method is also able to reduce farmers' expenses in terms of maintenance. Farmers do not need to buy agricultural products such as urea, pesticides, or herbicides because they can make their own using local materials.


Sangkep: Reflections and Hopes for Agriculture in Bali

Departing from the success of Nengah Sutamaya, he led the Pekaseh of Subak Catur Angga to carry out a sangkep to discuss the sustainability of the agricultural system they would implement. The Sangkep was held on Saturday, March 12, 2022, at the residence of Ketut Suastika as the Catur Angga Pekaseh Working Group supervisor.



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Ketut Suastika as Head of Pokja open the meeting (Photo: Eka Dharma)



In this sangkep, 20 Pekaseh Subak who were present shared their experiences when implementing conventional farming systems and switching to environmentally friendly agriculture. Especially the testimony of two Pekaseh Subak who have conducted "experiments". Sangkep is also a space for Pekaseh to share stories and hear experiences when implementing environmentally-friendly farming systems. In addition, the existence of a demonstration plot (demplot) has become proof of the success of this system. "This demonstration plot is a catalyst for what we believe in the system and what we bring there," said Wahyu Permana from IDEP Foundation.


When IDEP reintroduced the Permaculture and Environmentally Friendly Agriculture (PSRL) system, many doubted its success. For this reason, IDEP and the Pekaseh, particularly Nengah Sutamaya, tried to implement this system in the demonstration plot. "Initially, there were many questions from farmers, whether this was the right one. Because actually what we are doing is simple, from local materials, local methods, local people, and cheaper," added Wahyu Permana.


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Wahyu Permana told about the efforts made by Subak Catur Angga and IDEP in implementing environmentally-friendly agriculture (Photo: Eka Dharma)


IDEP's presence in Catur Angga is an attempt to re-live the farmers' memories about the system once implemented in the area before the green revolution came. Recalling farmers' memories is done by inviting farmers in Bali who have implemented the PSRL system and bringing in permaculture experts to share their stories and experiences.


Various training, mentoring, and the presence of demonstration plots have become initial considerations for Pekaseh to continue the PSRL system. The Working Group also agreed to expand the application of permaculture farming and PSRL in the Subak Catur Angga area.


The demonstration plots will be present in 20 subak and implemented by 50 people in each subak, so 300 demonstration plots apply the permaculture and PSRL systems. "Of the 300 people involved, they will receive assistance and assistance with agricultural production facilities to create a demonstration plot with approximately 5 acres," said Wahyu Permana, who regularly provides assistance and training.


After the demonstration plot is determined, a potential map is drawn up to find out the resources owned by Catur Angga. This potential is like community areas and water sources around the Catur Angga area. Wahyu also added, "I hope that when the 20 of subak map is successfully made, we can distribute it to the public because it is an intellectual property owned by the community and must be returned to the community."


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Question and answer session between Pekaseh Subak (Photo: Eka Dharma)


The farmers also hope that by agreeing on the development of demonstration plots in each subak, it can positively impact environmental, social, and economic aspects. "Indeed, our goal is towards organic farming. We hope that we minimalize the cost, yields will increase, and the environment will remain healthy," hoped Ketut Rustana, who has been a Subak Pekaseh for two terms.


What is expected is an increase in yields in terms of harvest size and an increase in the standard of living of farmers. For this reason, farmers will also be involved in post-harvest training. They will learn about marketing mechanisms to make products that can be sold directly, such as packaging and distribution. Understanding the marketing system will help farmers be independent in both production and distribution. (Gd)


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