Tourism fails to boost agricultural sector

Development in the agricultural sector remains sluggish and incapable of providing an adequate income for local farmers, who earn no more than a beggar, scholars have said critically. In a seminar on sustainable tourism, numerous academics shared their thoughts on how the island’s agricultural sector should become one of the leading economic drivers, along with tourism and industry. “Growth in the tourism sector has been unable to support agriculture, which is actually the basis of Bali’s tourism concept,” explained I Wayan Windia, professor of agriculture at Udayana University, in the Sunday meeting.

Windia calculated that the majority of farmers in Bali owned only 1 hectare of rice field. “Every harvest season, the farmers may earn Rp 10 million [US$1,027] from the one-hectare rice field. They may harvest three times a year, meaning that they only get Rp 2.2 million per month, a monthly income comparable to a beggar,” the professor said. Meanwhile, a study revealed that a street beggar operating in an urban area like Denpasar may earn Rp 80,000 per day, or Rp 2.4 million per month. Between now and the next few years, the Balinese will seriously consider leaving their age-old profession as traditional farmers.

“The image of farmers illustrates a poor and unfortunate group in society,” he said. Windia said he was pessimistic about the provincial administration’s plan to protect rice fields and subak areas as investors kept pushing rice-field owners to give up their properties in return for instant cash. At the same time, both regional and provincial administrations ignored the problem and continued to issue building permits so the agricultural land made way for various development projects. Every year, Bali witnesses 1,000 hectares of productive land transformed into business and residential sites.

According to the Bali Statistics Agency, the property sector grew significantly at 20 percent in 2012, while the agricultural sector grew at only 4.3 percent in the same year. In the business sector, trade, hotels and restaurants grew by around 30 percent. Overall, Bali’s economic growth stood at 6.5 percent in 2012, above the national growth rate of 6.2 percent. Gusti Murjaya Yasa, a lecturer at the university’s school of economics, said that there was still a wide gap between the tourism and agricultural sectors.

“Bali has not yet implemented a sustainable tourism policy, while tourism should be based on agriculture,” Yasa said. Yasa admitted that tourism had contributed to the island’s revenue, as well as the national revenue. Bali contributed almost 50 percent to Indonesia’s tourism revenue of $6.5 billion in 2012. Revenues from Visa on Arrival fees reached Rp 16 billion in four years. “Tourism has brought so much financial benefit to the island and the country by generating a huge amount of money and by opening employment opportunities, but that does not mean it can sacrifice agriculture,” he noted.

The governments — central, provincial and regional — must start investing massively in agriculture. Asana Viebeke, a humanitarian activist, said that tourism had created a vicious circle for the poor. Instead of creating a more prosperous society, tourism in Bali had formed a deep ravine of poverty, especially for those living in rural areas. “I have been reaching out to more than 20,000 poor children who have no access to education and health. It is ironic as they live amid the glitter of tourism,” Viebeke complained.

source : bali daily

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