Bali Governor Wayan Koster has responded to questions from the media about the island’s plans for sustained tourism development and food production. Koster highlighted solutions to food security and infrastructural development during a press conference in Denpasar on Thursday 22nd September.
Concerns were raised over Bali’s ability to produce and import sufficient food to support the local population and the tourism sector. Governor Koster said, ‘the solution to building tourism while maintaining food security is to build monumental and fundamental infrastructure, as well as tourism that [promotes] local agricultural production’.
He suggested that promoting the use of Balinese food products in the tourism sector would help support local farmers. His thinking suggested that, in turn, this creates food security because farmers would have a guaranteed market to which to sell their produce, leading to agricultural communities investing in growing more food.
Yet it’s been reported this week that Bali’s exports have increased by 25%, demonstrating a demand for produce outside of Bali. If farmers can get a better price for export than selling their produce locally, they will surely take that opportunity.
Although exports are improving, food security requires more than a guaranteed market, especially when it is considered that parts of East Bali are facing severe water scarcity. Communities are working to establish more sustainable agriculture across Bali. Farming communities in Bali have long been calling on the government to provide more meaningful support.
The Governor went on to list the significant infrastructural developments that have been undertaken under his administration. These projects include the Bali Cultural Center Area, the Bali Maritime Tourism Hub, Gilimanuk-Mengwi Toll Road, and the Tamblang Dam. Other considerable projects include the reforestation of mangrove ecosystems and restoring Bali’s southern coastline in partnership with the Japanese government environmental department.
He continued to explain that these huge infrastructural developments will support the tourism economy and the island overall. However, he did express his concern that more needed to be done to promote the use of local produce within the tourism sector, especially by large hotels and restaurants.
He explained ‘currently hotels…use rice, eggs, salt, fish, meat, oranges mangosteen, salad, and vegetables’. He proudly confirmed that ‘Balinese wine [is stocked] at Marriott Group Hotel Bali and The Apurva Kempinski Hotel Bali’.
Governor Koster did not outline specific policies that he has put in place to support farmers and the development of more sustainable and secure food systems. It has been widely reported that the government has been slow to support farming communities when they are in need.
One example is the slow payout of reconciliation funds to farmers who had to have their cattle slaughtered due to foot and mouth disease on the island in the last few months. Despite the first cattle being culled back in July, payouts have only been made to some farmers this week.
It appears that Governor Koster’s solutions to food security lie in the more targeted promotion of tourism and major infrastructural developments, which have caused skepticism amongst many. While others in Bali are happy that Governor Koster is investing in infrastructural development and committing to supporting the revival of tourism wholeheartedly.
He assured the audience that tourism development and efforts to maintain food security must be aligned with traditional Balinese values and call upon local wisdom to ensure that the project remains ‘prosperous’.
The provincial leader also nodded to recent events of disturbance and disrespect from tourists on the island. Governor Koster said, ‘Bali tourism is currently in a bad condition. There is bad behavior of tourists who harass sacred places in Bali, then [there are] tourists [whose] behavior does not respect Balinese culture, is not orderly in traffic, destroys the environment and breaks into ATMs’.
He closed his speech by saying, ‘Our task is to protect nature, humans and Balinese culture so that they are sustainable and passed down from generation to generation throughout the ages’.
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