Agriculture, particularly rice farming, is strongly linked to Bali’s social, cultural, and religious way of life. Subak, the water irrigation system on which the rice cycle is based, was introduced in Bali over a thousand years ago. As early as the 9th century, some inscriptions referred to irrigation water tunnels and canal builders that worked to supply the much-needed water throughout Bali from the mountain lakes. Over the centuries, these builders have honeycombed the island with their tunnels and terraces. This system, for the irrigation of rice fields, is the bedrock of Balinese agriculture and, by extension, Balinese life. A complex social system has evolved around temples, local rulers, and farming communities. Water temple priests who practice Tri Hita Karana Philosophy, a self-described balanced relationship between Humans, the Earth, and the Gods, are in charge of this traditional ecologically sustainable system. However, much of the traditional agricultural system, including the Subak, has shifted significantly since the Green Revolution. With intensive use of agrochemicals, the rice yield increased from 2 crops yearly to 3. However, that productivity has resulted in damage to the soil, the environment, and the wider ecological system, as well as pushing the farmers to be highly dependent on chemicals. The excess agrochemicals run into rivers and ultimately into the sea, destroying offshore corals. Steven Lansing, an American anthropologist, has studied this situation since 1985.
The Farming Program
The goal of Begawan’s farming program is to establish productive, regenerative agriculture in Bayad, Melinggih Kelod, Payangan, Gianyar, and Bali as a whole. We have three main objectives: to assist local farmers in making the shift to regenerative agriculture practices, to educate people about the importance of agriculture and how it can serve them better, and to work with farmers to produce quality agricultural products with a higher value and profit return. This farming program includes regenerative rice farming, organic gardens, livestock, poultry, aquaculture, beekeeping, butterfly & insect farming, vermiculture, and composting.
Regenerative Cultivation for Balinese Heritage Rice
The first activity, the cultivation of Balinese heritage rice within five plots of a local farmer’s rice fields, moved from agrochemical-based rice farming to the production of healthy rice, using only natural fertilisers, weed, and pest controls. The first and second cycles were a success, with all harvested grain distributed to the hospitality industry in Bali. More local farmers are joining Begawan’s rice initiative. That is why the foundation and the farmers cultivate almost one and a half hectares of rice fields in this third cycle.
Permaculture Farm Garden
The second project of Begawan’s farming program is the cultivation of a permaculture farm garden. In August 2022, the team started a-26 Are garden in Bayad after conducting an in-depth assessment to identify soil conditions, vegetation, and the potential to improve the environment. We are planning and designing this first garden, identifying plants, livestock, poultry, and fish that can play a part in a program for regenerative agriculture. This garden will be a learning model for Begawan’s team, the local community, and visiting guests in land cultivation based on permaculture principles that encourage sustainable, regenerative agriculture. It will be not only beautiful creations but also serve to ensure that Begawan and the local community see the results and benefits socially, environmentally, and economically.
Begawan has recently introduced poultry into its farming program as a part of its integrated farming practices. Free range Peking ducks, kampung chickens, broiler chickens and red chickens have been added to the program. Incorporating poultry into the program has also contributed to natural pest control and soil fertility, making them an excellent addition to the rice fields and our permaculture gardens. The meat and eggs will provide free lunch for our students in the Learning Centre, as well as being available for the local hospitality industry in Ubud. This harmonious and sustainable approach not only benefits the environment but also promotes the health and well-being of the community.
Visit Begawan Rice Fields, the Subak Temple and the Permaculture Farm Garden
Experience the livelihood, cultural & religious practices developed over a thousand years ago!
Agriculture practices play a major role in sustaining the livelihoods of local communities in Bali. Begawan is growing its crops with the goal of regenerating the soil and using only natural pesticides and fertilizers. Your journey starts with a visit to the Subak temple. Become aware of the importance of the temple in the daily lives of the farming community in Bali. Then, before getting your hands and feet dirty, visit a small temple in the rice fields and learn how to prepare an offering for Dewi Sri, the rice goddess.
Depending on the different activities of the rice cycle, become a farmer. You may be ploughing the rice fields for the next crop, setting up a nursery, planting young seedlings, creating natural fertiliser, herding ducks to the rice fields to eat pests or harvesting the ripened grains. You will gain a new appreciation of the grains you buy at home. Realise how much effort and knowledge are needed to produce every grain of rice as it travels from seed to table. Our rice field activities are nature-based, with authentic experiential learning from our local farmers.
A variety of locally sourced vegetable seeds and seedlings have been planted in the adjacent permaculture farm garden. Using only natural compost created on site, our team can introduce you to the basics of creating garden beds and taking care of the plants as they grow. If you are lucky, it may even be harvest time! Rest awhile under the Lumbung, the traditional Balinese rice barn, where our rice harvest may be stored before it is milled. Enjoy a drink from a freshly opened coconut while you watch the activities that are being carried out on a daily basis.
Visit us by appointment.
Anthony Sebastian, Wildlife Ecologist and Conservation Planning Specialist
Diah, Healthy Ubud
The Legian Seminyak,
Legian Hotel Management
I recently was lucky enough to be pointed in the direction of Begawan Foundation’s Mansur heritage rice here in Bali. I found it deliciously nutty with an amazing texture and knowing it has been grown from heritage seeds, grows with ‘zero’ modern-day fertilizers in immaculately plastic-free curated paddy fields, it is a rice that I can thoroughly recommend to all for flavor, health and, since all foods vibrate, it’s probably vibrating at a ‘happy’ level too! You vibrate with what you eat…
PS: Begawan do to tasting packs of 250gms – we personally buy 25kgs/month as the whole household (pups and all) love it!
Sophie Digby, Co-Founder, The Yak Magazine