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Can Agriculture and Tourism Peacefully Coexist?

Bali Community Leaders Warn that Agricultural Prosperity Central to Cultural Preservation.

(12/19/2005) Funny CowsBagus Sudibya has warned that one of the fundamental weaknesses in Bali's current course of development is the absence of a master zoning plan. The resulting laissez faire approach to development amidst the glamorous backdrop of international tourism has had the ironic effect of seeing Bali's reserve of agricultural lands steadily diminish as people sell their land to make way for hotels, strip malls, villas and other tourist developments.

The BTB Chairman, who also serves as the Chair of the Association of Indonesia Travel & Tour Agents (ASITA), called for better conservation of Bali's preciously limited resources of land, natural forests, and water to ensure that the island's culture is preserved and in order for its main industry of tourism to become truly sustainable.

Are Agriculture and Tourism at War with Each Other?

According to Sudibya, Baliís culture is inextricably intertwined with the survival and prosperity of Bali's traditional agricultural society. Agriculture, and by extension the island's traditional culture, will not survive without a careful stewardship of Baliís forests, water and land by the present generation.

Bemoaning the lack of proper official attention and concern for Bali's agricultural sector, Sudibya pointed to the example of Vietnam where the national government actively supports agriculture by encouraging production, providing umbrella protection to farmers in years of bad crops, and guaranteeing that agricultural produce sells at prices that sustain a reasonable living standard for farmers. The experience of Indonesian farmers represents the opposite end of the spectrum to the very positive role played by Vietnam's Government, explained Sudibya.

Supporting Sudibyaís arguments carried in the Indonesian-language Bali Post, is the opinion of community leader Agung Alit who suggested tourism has much to answer for in the current poor state of Bali's agriculture. Farmers, unable to meet the rapidly rising costs of fertilizers vis-ŗ-vis the very low price paid for their produce, are also haunted by the always looming risk of a failed crop and the terrifying prospect of almost certain famine to follow. The community activist cited this situation as the underlying reasons explaiing why Balinese youth are no longer drawn to farming, often seeking to sell ancestral lands to the highest bidder.

Alit went on to point to the growing popularity of free trade regimes as yet another factor contributing to the ongoing marginalization of Bali's farmers.