Customary villages, ‘subak’ get more funding

Bali provincial administration has pledged to provide additional funding to support its customary village institutions and subak, traditional irrigation and farming organizations. as part of its efforts to protect the island’s precious cultural and social heritage. I Ketut Suastika, head of Bali cultural office, told Bali Daily on Wednesday that the administration planned to provide Rp 100 million (US$10,989) in cash assistance for each customary village by 2013, a dramatic increase from only Rp 55 million in 2012.

Meanwhile, the local administration will also increase the annual financial assistance to subak organizations to Rp 40 million, double the previous Rp 20 million. The funding will be allocated from the 2013 provincial budget to be proposed to the Legislative Council in the near future. Both customary village institutions and subak organizations have been playing a crucial role in preserving our centuries-old traditions and culture, explained Suastika, adding that the two organizations are seen as the island’s last cultural fortress. Customary villages in Bali are regarded as the most powerful traditional institutions on the island, wielding significant influence over their members due to their important role in organizing religious and customary rituals, both at the family and village levels.

Most Balinese people view their respective customary villages with the utmost respect, and often some fear, and would not dare to oppose the villages’ policies or breach the villages’ customary laws. The other important organization is the subak, which has been playing a huge role in managing and running the island’s agricultural activities for hundreds of years. In addition to its role in the agricultural sector, subak involves its members in cultural and ritual activities. There are a total of 1,485 customary villages and 2,707 subak across the island. This year, the Bali administration has allocated a total of Rp 135.82 billion from the budget for the customary villages and subak, consisting of Rp 81.68 billion for customary villages and Rp 54.14 billion for subak.

The financial assistance is expected to support social and cultural activities in every customary village, Suastika said. The money can be used to upgrade the villages’ human resource potential, as well as basic infrastructure, he added. Suastika stressed that cash support for subak organizations is aimed at empowering local farmers to improve their agricultural activities, as well as to increase their harvest yields. In the past, the government’s assistance was used to renovate or to build a luxury subak temple, even though the current one was already strong and beautiful, he complained. He suggested that farmers and subak organizations build more irrigation channels and improve their farming skills and knowledge. We also encourage farmers to keep their farming sites amid the temptation to get quick money from selling their land to investors, he said.

Over the years, the subak system has been threatened by the rapidly growing tourist industry. Every year, hectares of rice paddies are converted into housing and tourist facilities. Data from the Bali branch of the Central Statistics Bureau (BPS) shows that in 2010, wet rice fields on the island totaled 81,908 hectares. The total area of non-rice agricultural land also decreased, from 274,092 hectares in 2009 to 273,363 hectares in 2010.  Sugi Lanus, an academic, said he supported the idea of the government providing more funding to the two institutions. I really expect that the cash assistance will be used in efficient ways. This is not about how much money they will get, but how well these two organizations use the money.

It should be strictly monitored, Lanus said. Lanus also suggested that the administration provide managerial assistance on how to properly use the money. The money could be used, for example, to train villagers on how to handle garbage and other environmental activities to support the administration’s campaign to make Bali a green island.

source : bali daily

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