During the past two years I visited Bali, Indonesia 7 times! Bali is a fine tourist destination with its beautiful shores, splendid peaks, great cuisine and culture. One can spend their entire life in Bali, there’s so much to explore and learn. Balinese are wonderful hosts, they greet people “Om Swasti astu” meaning, may health and wellbeing be upon you. It’s a common way of saying hello when we meet people in the island.
|With progressive farmer Mr.Suweden in Bali|
The perennial Hindu philosophy of Bali is called ‘Agama thirta’. It can be summed up as the grand narrative of the island, an incredible concept called ‘tri hita karna’ means three actions for fulfilment. It’s all about human relationships with fellow human beings, the environment and the divine. The human pursuit to live in harmony with nature by being gentle and respectful to her during changing times and situations. Life is a worldwide web where every species are interconnected and each of them play an important role to regenerate nature through their endeavors. 'Tri hita karna’ guides a person to dig deep into their consciousness to find the purpose and meaning for their life. It sets a inquiry in our minds; how can I add value to people and planet and influence people to add value to the environment.
In Bali, I was advising the Government's Ministry of Education to develop a curriculum to integrate Balinese Hindu culture with Agriculture in collaboration with Bali Schools Project. It was a great opportunity for me to research the subject, meet people to understand their culture and practices. Their understanding of nature and her personification was an epiphany, a revelation that blew my mind. Agriculture in Bali is not just planting seeds and harvesting the produce. It’s a sacred act, a collaboration, a promise with nature that all human actions will be under the laws of nature. It’s all about treating nature as we wish to be treated.
|With the officials of Bali Government|
Rice is one of the major crop in Bali. They grow many tropical fruits, vegetables and also coffee. Coffee plantations are close to my heart since I was born and brought up in a coffee estate. Coffee is intercropped with mandarins and bananas. They also have 'luwak coffee'. The wild civet cats are called luwak in Bali, they feed on the coffee beans and their droppings are collected, cleaned and roasted. It's a speciality coffee that is sold 10 times higher the price of a regular coffee. I call it " poo coffee" !! We live in an interesting world.
Every rice field has a small temple, it’s a sacred place. Rice cultivation for Balinese is festival of life, a celebration of nature for her kindness and generosity for providing bountiful gifts. It’s a miracle of mother earth where one seed of rice multiplies to 10,000 seeds, a perfect interplay of matter and energy. They practice about 40 rituals from the day when rice seed is sown unto the harvest. The rice plants are cared as their fellow beings, not different from their family members. Balinese farmers seek permission from mother earth before tilling the rice terraces and before harvest. They adopt an ancient system of fair sharing of water among all the rice farmers, it’s called as ‘Subak system’. All the members in the village discuss how to manage the irrigation water so that all the farmers benefit. I feel it’s the world’s oldest living democratization system of natural resources to benefit the community. This echoes with the thoughts of Buckminster Fuller,” A world that works for everyone and no one is left over.”
|Farmer Suweden with 5 feet high paddy crop|
I love meeting farmers and learn from their wisdom. Farmers are the best teachers of agriculture. I met farmer Mr.Suweden, the head of a farmers group in a village Jutiluwih known for it's picturesque rice terraces. My purpose was to introduce the ‘System of Rice Intensification’ (SRI) in Bali that could reduce water usage in rice cultivation by 50%. Mr Suweden agreed to experiment in one of the rice terrace. He was surprised to see paddy plants reaching a height of 5 feet. He never saw such robust, tall rice plants. Through this simple technique he could double the rice production. There is a need to promote SRI method of rice cultivation in Bali to reduce the ecological footprint.
|With actor Jim Carrey planting rice seedlings in Iowa.|
I had an opportunity to meet the renowned actor Jim Carrey to plant rice seedlings in Iowa ! Jim is known all over the world for comedic and dramatic roles in movies. Little we know about this great actor and his passion to support smallholder farmers. In many countries women are predominantly involved in transplanting and weeding of rice. They spend several hours standing in water logged paddy fields. Water stagnation breeds mosquitoes and other parasites causing several diseases to the farming community. Jim's Better U foundation promotes the SRI method of rice cultivation in Asia and Africa.
|Having fun with actor Jim Carrey !|
The Governor of Bali, Mr. Koster is keen to transform entire Bali into a green island and shift to regenerative agricultural systems. I had a wonderful discussion with him and was invited to speak at an event in Bali to connect the ancient culture of Bali with the concepts of ecological agriculture. Besides I developed a course curriculum for Bali Government by integrating their culture with agriculture. The Minister of Education, Province of Bali, Ms. Tia Kusuma Wardhani and representatives of Bali Schools project Adam and Wayan Sutrisna were very supportive in evolving a new curriculum that is rooted in the values of Balinese culture and heritage.
Meeting Governor of Bali Mr. Koster (Photo: Bali Post)
There can be no better way of communicating sustainability and ecological consciousness by connecting the people through their own traditions and culture. Communication is all about connecting people to create a passion to influence others. When native cultures are embedded into our communication, people own the knowledge and connect to their glorious past and act consciously in the present. It has a great potential to impact communities leading to social change.
|Speaking on Connecting Agriculture with culture|
Sustainability is better understood through native cultures and perennial philosophies. It's an amazing experience of unlearning, learning and relearning. Schools, Universities, developmental agencies and foundations need to integrate culture into their pedagogy and communication strategies. Traditional knowledge systems have their depth and width in their concepts and approaches since these thoughts and experiences evolved over a millennia. They are ancient, time tested, scientific and replicated over the years by several generations. Bali is a great place to learn and understand deep sustainability through their perennial wisdom and culture. " Om swasti astu"