Step back in time 20 years and Bali was a vastly different place. Canggu was little more than a checkerboard of rice fields spreading out to the sea, and the hillside environs of Ubud were dotted with rice farmers harvesting an abundance of crops. Flash-forward to the present and many of those swathes of green have now been replaced with villas, hotels, restaurants and shops.
Bali used to be the one of the most prolific rice growing regions in Indonesia, mostly due to the impressive subak system that democratically distributes water to rice paddies around the island. In fact, the cultural landscape of Bali and its subak system is listed as a UNESCO Living World Heritage Site.
However, rampant overdevelopment is now claiming close to 1,000 hectares of farmland a year, and as a result, Bali now relies heavily on rice imported from India and Vietnam. In addition, ancient landscapes and traditions like the subak system are being disrupted and threatened.
Sawah Bali was formed in response to this building boom and the problems it is creating, not the least of which are water and food shortages, the destruction of fragile ecosystems, the loss of ancestral land and cultural identity, and land speculation that has created an unsustainable real estate bubble. The organisation aims to conserve and sustain a working agricultural landscape in Bali and create new economic opportunities for Bali’s farming families.
Wholly controlled and managed by Balinese and Indonesians, Sawah Bali has been listening and responding to the specific needs of farmers in Bali and building partnerships with academics, technical advisors, and the UNESCO Governing Assembly to create a five-step plan that will encourage farmers to conserve their land and adopt new methods of farming to secure economic gains from their crops.
You can help create a brighter future for Bali’s farming families by joining Sawah Bali’s volunteer programme and working with like-minded people on a sustainable farm in a small Balinese village. Here you will learn about permaculture and sustainability, become immersed in the community and culture, and share knowledge and ideas to help protect Bali’s world-famous landscape and agricultural traditions. Visit Sawah Bali’s website to find out more about volunteering or to contribute to their projects.
Made up of a diverse mix of business and professional leaders from around the globe, Rotary International is a non-political and non-religious organisation that aims to provide humanitarian service, inspire high ethical standards in all vocations, and promote goodwill and peace around the world.
Since its humble beginnings in Chicago in 1905, the organisation has expanded to over 160 countries and now boasts over 34,000 clubs and 1.2 million members or Rotarians worldwide. Each individual club aims to uphold the motto ‘Service Above Self’ by carrying out projects that address the most pressing current issues like poverty, literacy, health and hygiene and the environment.
Here in Bali you can find Rotary International clubs in a number of cities and towns including Seminyak, Kuta, Canggu, Nusa Dua, Ubud and Denpasar. The clubs are open to people of all cultures, races and creeds, and they meet once a week to foster friendship and discuss current and future projects. Although the clubs often work in tandem with other RI clubs here in Bali and abroad, each club has its own local projects that they support.
For example, Rotary Club Bali Nusa Dua’s main objective is to provide free cleft palate and hare lip surgery to underprivileged children on Bali and the surrounding islands. Since they started the program in 1994, they have provided over 1,400 children with craniofacial operations. In addition, they also support blood banks, HIV/AIDS training for midwives, and waste management and environmental awareness programs.
Rotary Club Bali Ubud Sunset has also been instrumental in effecting change in their community and farther afield with past projects that include making water available year-round to the remote village of Temukus in Karangasem, and funding Klinik Anggrek, an HIV and STD clinic in Sayan. Their current projects include the Banjar Aas Water Project and a joint effort with the Biosphere Foundation to research and promote sustainable dry land farming in Buleleng.
Although Rotary Club Bali Canggu is only four years old, they have already been making waves with their Nippers program every Sunday at Batu Bolong Beach that teaches young people beach safety and swimming lessons. In addition, they have initiated organic composting and school waste management programs, a water tank and sanitation project in Karangasem, and ‘Project Helmetman’ to assist in coordinating the sponsorship, manufacture and distribution of free helmets for kindergarten children in South Bali
The Rotary Clubs depend on voluntary contributions from Rotarians and other people who share their vision of a better world. To find out more or to donate to their causes, visit their individual websites or stop by for a meeting, as most clubs warmly welcome guests.
Yayasan Harapan Sumba
Far removed from the skyscrapers of Jakarta and the glitzy beach clubs of Bali, West Sumba is one of the poorest provinces in Indonesia. Here most people rely on subsistence farming, and over 44 per cent of the population live below the poverty level. Education is dismal with only 20 per cent of children continuing on past elementary school. Basic needs like nutritious food, clean water and healthcare are scarce, so malnourishment and diseases like malaria, dengue fever and typhus are rife.
In the past, the government and local and international NGOs attempted to implement programs to try to alleviate the conditions of the villagers in West Sumba, but many floundered as they failed to create a sense of local ownership or provide training so that the local people could sustainably carry on the missives. It wasn’t until Yayasan Harapan Sumba stepped in and began working in partnership with the villagers that real change started to come about.
Yayasan Harapan Sumba stands for ‘Project Hope Sumba’, and they are a non-profit, non-political and non-religious community-based development organisation that aims to bring sustainable improvement to the lives of the people of West Sumba. To do this they collaborate with the villagers, local government and the local hospital to address basic needs like clean water, sanitation, education, healthcare and sustainable livelihoods.
Part of the reason that YHS is so effective is that they directly involve the villagers in the development projects. For example, when they build rainwater catchment tanks, they provide the non-local materials like cement and pipes and the villagers provide the stone and labour. Knowledge dissemination is also extremely important to their mission, so they provide training in basic nutrition, health and sanitation, better farming practices, and even how to provide therapy for disabled children. To aid YHS and their partners in improving lives in this impoverished region, visit their website to make a donation.