Bali is on a mission to become an organic island. Once upon a time, Bali was an island of integrated food forests and villages that spanned from the highest ridge lines down to the ocean reefs.
Over the last few decades, farming methods have changed dramatically across the world.
Local politician and ex-Governor of Bali, Made Mangku Pastika, has confirmed that Bali must start the transition to an organic-only model to help improve the fertility of the land and quality of the produce and, in turn, establish the island as an ‘expensive’, premier destination in the eyes of tourists.
During a meeting with local farmers and agricultural leaders Pastika shared, “If we don’t use chemical fertilizers and pesticides, the quality of agricultural precuts will be better and healthier for consumption.”
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Members from the Simantri Integrated Agricultural System group, which is made up of farmers from around the province, joined Pastika to discuss the transition, or rather de-transition to organic farming as standard.
Pastika shared, “When I was Governor of Simantri Group [the concept] was developed. The idea at the time was an effort to help care for Bali in the midst of a dense population.”
He added that organic produce can be sold for higher prices and that international tourists have consistently shown interest in these more premium products, whether that be coffee, vegetables, fruits, grains, or meat.
During his time as Governor, over 800 Simantri agricultural groups were established. Farmers were trained in organic farming methods and how to best harness the natural resources of their land and surrounding landscapes.
The impact of having more organic food available in Bali will help support the land, local communities, and tourists too.
Tourists will have access to high-quality, locally-produced food. Local farmers will be able to sell their products for higher prices at market or in direct sale to the hospitality sector.
Local communities will also benefit from having more organic produce available and less dangerous agricultural runoff damaging essential water sources, as is currently the case in the world-famous Lake Batur.
Farmers in the Simanti groups have shared that in order to keep these integrated agricultural programs up and running, they need more financial support and subsidies from the provincial government.
With funding dwindling during all-important transition periods, many farmers have had to drop out of the program and return to intensive chemical farming.
What is also happening all too frequently is that farmers are selling off their land to international property developers or signing over 100-year leases.
Farmer Dewa Buda told the meeting, “Farmers tend to sell their land rather than abandon it and bear the ever-increasing taxes. So, there must be more movement to encourage the farmers to be enthusiastic and this requires government support. Farmers should not be left to go their own way.”
In 2023, the provincial budget for organic fertilizer for Bali sat at IDR 10 billion; the farming collective is hoping for the budget to double next year.
For every hectare of rice paddy, one ton of organic fertilizer is needed over the five-month growing cycle.
How can tourists help support the transition to more earth-friendly farming methods?
In many ways, it’s very straightforward.
Supporting tourism businesses, restaurants, cafes, markets, and food shops that are using organic and regeneratively grown produce.
The Kembali Beck Green Pages Directory is a great source of information for all things eco-friendly in Bali.
The directory lists all the businesses in Bali that have committed to integrated sustainable practices across their businesses.
If successful, the move to being a fully organic island, which may take a decade or more to achieve, would also support Bali’s mission to promote more traditional Balinese medicine in the medical tourism and health tourism sector, something that data shows will only grow in demand internationally in the coming years.
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