CULTURES IN CONTEXT
Bali: Ancient and Modern
11. Agricultural Land Use :
124. Though active volcanic peaks like Agung
and Batur can cause death and destruction when they erupt, they replenish
the soil with volcanic ash: and by forcing rain-bearing winds to rise above
them they also provide a dependable supply of water for irrigation.
125. There were obvious obstacles to overcome,
though. Steep slopes had to be leveled, since rice is grown in flooded
fields; and flights of terraces now rise one above the other.
126. Watering these fields was a problem too,
since the rivers were deeply incised in soft volcanic rocks. Irrigation
here required a superhuman level of co-operation to ensure that every field
was watered but none was damaged by run-off.
127. The farmers all belong to local committees,
or subaks, that determine which crops will be grown, when they'll be planted
and harvested, and how each man will get the water he needs. The water
is first diverted from streams in the mountains and funneled into channels
running high up on the sides of each valley.
128. It is then released through sluice gates
into smaller channels which first water the highest fields in each set
of terraces. From there it moves slowly downhill through bamboo pipes and
gates, or simply overflows, dropping to the terrace below, and so on down
129. Bali is part of "the developing world"
so most farm work is still done by hand, or with the help of animals. The
tools seem simple, and are made locally, but the yields obtained are far
higher than any achieved in Australia or the United States, and the soils
are in much better shape.
130. Land like this may be left fallow for
a while, but since there is no cold or dry season to interfere with plant
growth, crops can be grown here all year round.
131. Also, since rice can be planted at any
time there is no "off-season" for farmers when they have nothing to do.
As a result it is common to see fields of ripened grain alongside the deeper
greens of young rice plants.
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by John Tyman
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