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Subak: The Best Practice of Traditional and Sustainable Water Management

Updated: Aug 27, 2021

Hi everyone, Indri here from THINK-Research Team.

I hope you are safe and healthy wherever you are :D

Lately, there are some blog topics about hobbies, life management, and environmental issue. So, let me add one blog for one of those topics ^^

This blog will write about what I presented a few days ago in one of our education and training programs. We have SDG Coffee, and Cacao Program started last Saturday. My colleague (Maya) already wrote about conducting online events (training, workshops, webinar, and others). In both programs, the participants' age varied from high school students to working people and I was asked to present an agriculture session by sharing about agriculture in Indonesia and Bali.

First of all, I shared about agriculture summary, plan, and targets in Indonesia. Then, I continued to present about agriculture practices in Bali. If we talk about Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), we can see that sustainable agriculture practices will achieve more than one goal of SDGs if you follow blog, you will find many blogs about SDGs, especially written by founder & CEO (Tak). Two of them are and

I mentioned 9 out of 17 goals that can be achieved through sustainable agriculture practices, such as no poverty, zero hunger, good health and well-being, life on land, responsible consumption and production, and others. Then, I continued to share about Indonesian agriculture. 30% of Indonesians are farmers, and Indonesia is the third-largest rice producer globally (FAO). Rice is the staple food of the country. You can easily find people who eat rice three times (breakfast, lunch, and dinner) a day in Indonesia. At the national level, the Government of Indonesia (GOI) targets a 50% increase in sustainable practices by 2045 (BAPPENAS). The main target is to achieve food security. Indonesia's rank was at 6th compared to other ASEAN countries in 2019 ( In the agriculture sector, GOI said mitigation is a co-benefit of adaptation actions.

After that, I continued to share about agriculture in Bali. In Bali, the local government targets to increase agricultural productivity. In 2020, the paddy production area for Bali was 90,981 ha (16% of Bali total area). The production tended to decrease from 1999 to 2020 ( Then, I introduced subak as one of the sustainable and traditional agricultural practices in Bali. Also, I explained about multi crops practice, natural pest control, and moon-based calendar as local agricultural practices.

So, if you don't know what subak is, let me write a brief description. Subak is an organization. This practice is an 11-century-old water management system. This water management system will ensure fair distribution to farmers. In some research, international researchers mentioned Subak practice in Bali as an autonomous community-driven irrigation system. People said that the idea of subak practice was from temple design. Regional water temples are the ones that set cropping patterns and irrigation schedules. One water temple includes all farmers from one village, and there is one temple for each subak.

Subak, as an organization (not only as of the agricultural practice), has regular meetings. In this meeting, they will discuss scheduling water to avoid water stress, purchasing fertilizer, informing new methods and practices, and preparing rituals or ceremonies. So, it will be easier for the Bali government to coordinate and educate farmers through Subak. That is why climate field school in Bali is one of the key programs of GoI. Agriculture in Bali cannot be separated from the existence and role of subak, either which concerns agriculture in paddy fields and agriculture in upland/dry land. Besides, subak at rice fields in Bali will contribute to rice or food production in Bali.

In addition, subak, as one of the local wisdom in Indonesia, shows a unique and superior socio-cultural or socio-religious identity. This local wisdom is part of the Balinese culture, one of the attractions for tourists visiting this area. This causes agricultural activities in Bali to become one of the tourist destinations. Subak, as one of the local cultures of Bali's communities, has a variety of uniqueness and various values, both tangible and intangible.

So, do you have any other traditional practices as sustainable practices in the land or non-land sector?

Thank you for reading ^^

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