In late June, there were several events focusing on sustainable and organic food production. Begawan’s interest in these events is due to its own initiative in the field of agriculture, specifically rice farming. Rice farming is deeply intertwined with Bali’s social, cultural, and religious way of life. Begawan follows a regenerative farming approach with a focus on soil improvement.
Retrospective on Agriculture in Indonesia
Looking back to the 1970s, when the green revolution swept through Indonesia, including Bali, the use of various chemicals led to a significant increase in rice production and income. However, this seemingly positive situation did not last. Problems started to arise, and in 1985, an American anthropologist named Steven Lansing discovered that agrochemical residues, which made their way into rivers and eventually reached the sea, were destroying offshore coral reefs.
Aside from environmental effects, this also had an impact on the cultural aspect. Bali, once home to hundreds of heritage rice varieties, now had only several left. As the environmental impact worsened, the use of agrochemicals began to negatively affect the health of farmers. Fainting and sinus problems after spraying became common among them. Some components of the previously used insecticides were even used during the Holocaust in World War II. We have harmed the environment, slowly destroying the health of the farmers and potentially harming ourselves as residues from these chemicals can persist even after milling.
The Decline in Hospitality Industry During the Pandemic Impacted Rice Demand
The situation worsened when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. The reduced demand for rice from restaurants and hotels due to the decline in tourism had a direct impact on Bali’s farmers. With diminished income, the temptation to sell agricultural land became stronger.
In addition to the economic repercussions, there are also health concerns. After years of agrochemical use, the accumulated residue has degraded the soil quality, leading to decreased rice productivity. It is estimated that hundreds of hectares of agricultural land are lost each year.
Begawan’s Initiative: Collaborating with Local Farmers
To prevent further deterioration, Begawan has joined forces with local farmers in the village of Melinggih Kelod, where our Bali Starling Breeding & Release Centre is located, to implement sustainable agriculture practices through a business partnership. As we ‘learn by doing’ in sustainable agriculture, we provide a safety net to ensure the farmers’ economic well-being. We provide training, supervision, various inputs for the rice cycle, and together with the farmers develop standard operating procedures from seed production to milling, along with profit-sharing arrangements. This creates more incentives for farmers to work on their rice fields. Begawan has also established a market by connecting these local products with the hospitality industry in Bali.
A Good Harvest Begins With
To begin the journey, we had to restore the soil’s quality after decades of excessive chemical use that disrupted the soil and environmental ecosystems. Regenerative farming was our approach to restore the soil to optimal health. The first step involved providing compost to improve soil quality. Before commencing each new rice cycle, we took significant action in soil regeneration by adding cured compost and various natural fertilisers to increase the microbes, both before and throughout the rice cycle. The soil restoration measures are implemented regularly and strategically by our farmers.
We express our gratitude to all parties who actively support our program. Click this link for more information on our regenerative farming activities.