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Bali's Shrinking Rice Bowl

750 Hectares of Agricultural Land Lost Each Year in Bali as Island Agrarian Culture Fades into Oblivion.

(2/22/2010) The national news agency Antara reports that agricultural lands in Bali continue to diminish, shrinking the amount of arable land by 750 hectares every year.

Dr. I Wayan Windia, a Professor from the Agriculture Faculty of Bali's Udayana University says, "rapid development, particularly in the tourism sector, is causing an unavoidable change of function for agricultural lands."

According to this leading academic, the alteration of land use is posing a threat to Bali's agriculture-based culture, creating a downside for the preservation of Balinese culture in the current rapid pace of development.

"If the traditional ‘subak' system of agriculture is destroyed, then our agrarian culture can also be destroyed. This is an automatic consequence of our failure to defend our agricultural self-sufficiency," he explained.

Professor Windia explained that in Bali's long history the philosophy of Tri Hita Kirana, which emphasizes the maintenance of a balance between members of society, the environment and belief in the Almighty, has been an integral part of Balinese daily life and the operation of the subak system. He also believes that the role of the subak is extremely important in the island's agricultural system and cannot be replaced by any other institution.

"Based on the principles of Tri Hita Karana reflected in our rice growing agriculture, the subak plays a key part in food self sufficiency while at the same time preserving our environment," said Windia.

The esteemed Professor said that agricultural development in Bali over the coming five years must focus on food self-sufficiency based on production capability, the diversification of crops, organizations and local culture. He also maintains that government policy must promote agricultural businesses able to compete in an increasingly competitive global market.