In this edition, we present an inspiring tale of a Balinese farmer who embarked on a remarkable journey towards sustainable agriculture. Meet Made Murti, also known as Leo, a local farmer from Melinggih Kelod in Payangan, Bali, who, with the assistance of Begawan, has transitioned from conventional farming practices to sustainable agriculture.
Leo’s involvement with the foundation began in early 2022 when the team from Begawan released a pair of Bali Starlings near Leo’s rice field. The discovery of a Bali Starling’s nest in the vicinity sparked a conversation that would forever change Leo’s farming methods.
Impressed by Leo’s rice fields, the Begawan team proposed a collaboration with the foundation. The foundation offered support for Leo’s sustainable farming practices, starting with the utilisation of techniques and the cultivation of traditional Balinese rice known as Mansur rice. The resulting harvest would then be sought by potential buyers, creating a sustainable market for Leo’s produce.
Initially taken aback by the foundation’s proposal, Leo eagerly embraced the opportunity to learn and implement sustainable farming. Having been accustomed to using chemicals and insecticides, transitioning to sustainable practices posed a challenge. The use of these chemicals is detrimental to Leo’s health as a farmer. Previously, working with chemicals caused him physical discomfort, including sore feet, coughing and shortness of breath. Since transitioning to sustainable practices, these issues have significantly diminished, improving both his working conditions and overall well-being.
The transition to sustainable farming brought about changes in Leo’s yield. Mansur rice takes longer to harvest compared to hybrid varieties, and the rice harvest has been less than that of hybrid rice, as evident from the first and second harvests. However, Leo remains optimistic that this third harvest in June 2023 will yield better results. Several factors contribute to this optimism, such as improving rice quality, having fewer pests and expanding the target market from Begawan, which is beginning to yield results. Leo remains steadfast in his belief that sustainable farming is the way forward.
While the harvest itself has been smaller compared to that of hybrid rice, financially, Leo has not lost income as the foundation has assisted during pre-production, harvest and finding a market.
One of the challenges faced in promoting sustainable agriculture is the lack of awareness among other Subak (traditional Balinese irrigation cooperative) members regarding the importance of sustainable practices. Many fear that utilising compost would result in significant losses. Leo expresses hope that fellow Subak members will become aware of the dangers associated with chemical usage and shift towards sustainable materials for the betterment of the environment and their own well-being.
The impact of sustainable farming extends beyond the yield itself. Leo noticed that his soil, previously hardened and sticky due to chemical fertilisers, became more pliable and easier to work with after adopting sustainable practices. He has also experienced personal benefits from embracing sustainable agriculture. The ecosystem surrounding his rice fields underwent a positive transformation. Once absent dragonflies and other animals returned, indicating a healthier and more balanced environment.
Leo wholeheartedly supports Begawan Foundation’s programs and acknowledges the substantial benefits he has derived from its guidance and assistance. While he may not be able to contribute materially, his dedication to working in the fields and implementing sustainable practices showcases his commitment to sustainable agriculture and environmental preservation. Leo recognizes the long-term benefits of sustainable agriculture, not only for his own well-being but also for the future of agriculture and environmental preservation.
Leo’s inspiring story serves as a testament to the transformative power of sustainable farming. Through his journey, we are reminded of the importance of adopting sustainable practices for a brighter and healthier future. Let us join hands and support farmers like Leo.