Learning About Subak in the Dalem Tamblingan Traditional Area

Learning About Subak in the Dalem Tamblingan Traditional Area

Subak (irrigation system) is very closely related to the lives of the Dalem Tamblingan Indigenous Community in Catur Village because the indigenous community respects water and has a belief called Piagem Gama Tirta. It is not only the Dalem Tamblingan Indigenous Community that benefits from the existence of Subak whose water source comes from Alas Mertajati and Tamblingan Lake, but also other communities outside the Dalem Tamblingan Indigenous Territory. There are two large subak (farm water distribution organization)whose water sources come from the Tamblingan forest and lake, namely Subak Mendaum I in Busung Biu District and Mendaum II which covers Seririt and Banjar Districts.

Farmers in Jatiluwih also believe that their water source comes from the Dalem Tamblingan Traditional Area. That is why the mark of UNESCO’s recognition of subak in Bali as a World Cultural Heritage is located in Gobleg Village as part of the Traditional Dalem Tamblingan in Catur Village. UNESCO not only recognizes rice fields as World Cultural Heritage, but also Subak as an ecosystem. Rice fields cannot stand alone, which is why actually protecting rice fields means protecting the entire supporting ecosystem area.

This was conveyed by Putu Ardana, Chair of Baga Raksa Alas Mertajati to the Journalist Trip participants which was attended by journalists from Reuters and Kompas Daily, RRI (Rights Resources Initiative), WGII (Working Group of ICCAs Indonesia), as well as the Wisnu Foundation. The visit was carried out for three days, on 18 – 20 September 2023 as an effort to see the conservation efforts carried out by the Dalem Tamblingan Indigenous Community in Catur Village on Alas Mertajati, both inherited conservation values and practices, as well as current conservation efforts by the younger generation.

During a discussion with the subak group in Bale Melajah Alas Mertajadi, Made Ardika as Kelian Subak (Subak Leader) explained that there are two types of subak in the Dalem Tamblingan Traditional Area, namely rice field subak (subak bangket) and garden subak (subak abian). The leader of the Subak Catur (four) Village is called Sedahan Subak Catur. There are several types of rice grown, including local red rice which is considered sacred. This rice is planted in early January, if planted outside that month the harvest will fail. During Lilitan Karya – a ceremony held every two years for four months – Subak members are required to offer sarin taun as a form of incentive for the water they have received, in the form of red rice, white rice, white sticky rice and black sticky rice.

During a visit to Umejero Village, a village with 2,900 m2 of rice fields dedicated to ceremonial needs (uma duwe), it was again explained that the local planting of red rice is not intervened by the government, unlike C4 rice. The government emphasizes planting rice three times a year. As far as we know, the yield of C4 rice is greater than that of red rice, so there are subak that have decided not to grow red rice any more, such as Subak Munduk. The area of Uma Duwe is also decreasing. In general, the area of rice fields in Umejero Village has also been reduced from 75 hectares to 17 hectares, turning into clove gardens.

On economic grounds, the people of Catur Village prefer to plant clove trees rather than rice. They even replaced other large trees with cloves. Subak also faces problems, the water flowing is much smaller due to the cutting down of large trees. Plus, there is 15 hectares of open land owned by outside parties in the forest. Currently there is also taking (theft) of lake water. Every rainy season, the flood quite a lot because large trees such as pandak pine as a soil binder are decreasing. The lake experienced shallow water, as a result the lake water became high quickly.

The problems faced by Subak are only part of the problems faced by the Dalem Tamblingan Indigenous Community, including efforts to restore the status of Alas Mertajati as a customary forest. All existing problems are faced in a strategic way, namely through the formation of Baga Raksa Alas Mertajati, an institution that guards and cares for the Tamblingan forest and lake, most of whose members are the younger generation. This institution has a work plan that covers conservation, economics, education, documentation and networking.

These spaces are also part of the Journalist Trip visits and discussions. The journalists and other participants also traveled to Alas Mertajati and Lake Tamblingan, discussed with menega – forest guards and Lake Tamblingan, and visited and discussed with the Women’s Farmers Group in Umejero village which has a banana chips processing and coffee processing business. Through this visit, it is hoped that more parties will understand and support the conservation ideals and work of the Dalem Tamblingan Indigenous Community through Baga Raksa Alas Mertajati.

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