Not an Uncle Ben in Sight

From the traditional knowledge of how to cultivate rice, to the use of animals in preparing rice fields for planting, to the flying of kites to scare birds away from rice harvests, the cultivation of rice is inseparable from Balinese customs and beliefs. The Balinese culture is so intimately connected with rice farming that virtually every ceremony is related to it in one way or other and many rice fields have small shrines containing flowers, fruit and other offerings to Dewi Sri, the Goddess of Rice in order to ensure a bountiful harvest

Water levels in the rice fields are carefully managed through the ancient 'Subak' system of governance where farmers whose fields are fed by the same water source meet regularly to co-ordinate the planting of rice, agree and control the distribution of irrigation water and ensure that the construction and maintenance of canals and dams is effectively managed. Quite a feat when you consider the elaborate, terraced structures of many of the rice fields and the number of stakeholders involved. In fact Subak is considered to be of such historical and cultural importance that it has recently been awarded UNESCO World Heritage Organisation Activity status

Little has changed in the way in which rice is grown and harvested. Animals play a big role with buffalo ploughing the fields into a muddy soup into which the rice seedlings are planted and ducks being shepherded to the rice fields each day to eat the pests and, together with the buffalo, provide natural fertiliser for the rice

After about twelve weeks the rice is fully grown and harvesting begins. The rice stalks are cut off at ground level and collected to then be threshed and winnowed before being dried and stored

It's not all good news though as large areas of land which were formerly rice fields have now been built on to meet the ever increasing demands from tourists and visitors for holiday accommodation or, in some cases, something more long term. Every year some 700 hectares of land is lost to hotels, luxury housing for wealthy foreigners or additional roads. Some landowners are clearly fed up of being pestered to sell their land and have taken it upon themselves to make their feelings abundantly clear to everyone



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