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Dozens of domestic and foreign tourists were excited to watch farmers harvesting rice, collecting the ripe ears in their buckets at Jatiluwih paddy fields in Tabanan regency on a bright Saturday afternoon.
In Jatiluwih the paddy fields spread out far into the distance, like a thick green and yellow carpet.
Thanks to the vast media coverage on the UNESCO recognition of subak (the Balinese traditional agriculture and irrigation system) and Jatiluwih paddy fields, thus joining the World’s List of Natural Landscape Heritages, more and more visitors have come to the site to see the real beauty of this centuries-old farming area in Bali.
Jatiluwih is one of the most perfect examples of the Balinese subak agriculture and irrigation system on the island.
Ni Ketut Suparni and her two female farmers had already been in the paddy fields since early in the morning. “We are going to perform manyi [traditional harvesting] by picking stalks of ripe paddies one by one,” explained Suparni, while showing how to carefully cut the stalks. It would take days to harvest their 2,000-square-meter paddy field.
The local farmers have used this method of harvesting for generations. “In modern times, people usually harvest their paddy by machine. It will ruin most of the harvest and the crops alike,” said the 40-year-old Suparni, who looks older than her age, as she worked for hours under the scorching sun.
Martin Boonstra, a French tourist, was impressed. “I found out about this place from websites and blogs posted on the Internet. It is just amazing,” exclaimed Boonstra, who could not stop taking shots of Jatiluwih terraced paddy fields from various angles.
Nyoman Astabawa, the tour guide, said that many of his guests were happy and thrilled to view the stunning beauty of Jatiluwih landscape.
I Nyoman Susila, head of Subak Gunung Sari, one of traditional farming organizations in the area, said that the local farmers and their subak organizations obtained nothing from the flood of visitors coming to their farming sites.
During harvest season, Susila said, farmers were expecting to gain extra money from the arrival of tourists to their paddy fields and villages.
Only a few farmers can enjoy meager profits from selling food and beverages at their small kiosks, built near the paddy fields.
Visiting Jatiluwih will no longer be free. To enjoy the paddy fields, tourists should buy a ticket costing Rp 15,000 (US$1.60) for an adult foreign tourist and Rp 10,000 for a child. Meanwhile, domestic tourists will pay Rp 10,000 for an adult and Rp 7,500 for a child. The revenue from the tickets will be distributed to Tabanan regional administration and the customary village.
I Wayan Windia, professor of agriculture at Udayana University, warned that uneven income distribution between the farmers and the tourist industry would likely threaten the existence of subak.
To make it worse, the professor said, the government had paid little attention to the continuation of subak. “Many irrigation channels are now in a dilapidated condition and there is no sign that the government is willing to help out,” Windia said.
With regard to taxation, the government had often pushed the farmers to their limits by increasing land and property taxes.
“Such conditions have forced many farmers to give up their ancestral lands and sell them to potential
investors,” he said. While at the same time, investors would be more than willing to buy their land and build hotels and other facilities on the pristine site.
Ida Bagus Ngurah Wijaya, chairman of the Indonesian Tourism Industry Association’s (GIPI) Bali chapter, acknowledged that many farmers had gained no benefit from tourism.
“We are ready to work together with farmers, to give them training on how to manage the tourism activities needed to improve their living conditions, while at the same time preserve subak and their paddy fields,” Ngurah Wijaya said.
Source : The jakarta post