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Paddy Power

Rice is the second most produced grain in the world. Around 480 million tonnes were produced in 2013. At 70 million tonnes, Indonesia is the third largest producer, behind China and India. Indonesian have a multitude of words for 'rice' and even revere the 'goddess of the paddy fields', Dewi Sri, who is venerated from western Java all the way to the East on the island of Bali. Despite its production volumes, Indonesia continues to import around a million tonnes per year due to its high levels of consumption of 130 kg per person per year compared to 30 kg in Japan. This level of consumption is the result of the 'green revolution' put into action under the Suharto dictatorship from the 70s to the 90s. The policies obliged farmers to use chemical fertilisers and imported hybrid seeds. As a result, rice became the staple food for the entire archipelago, even in regions which traditionally did not cultivate rice. Other grains such as sago and cassava were sidelined, seen as the food 'of the poor' and this period saw the loss of thousands of varieties of native seeds.

Fortunately, the region of Sukabumi in the south west of Java did not fall prey to these policies of 'intensive monoculture' that only relied on a very a small variety of breeds. Particularly in the villages of Sinar Resmi and Cipta Gelar, situated high up on the slopes of the Halimun volcano, farming traditions have been preserved. For several generations, these farmers have planted ancestral seeds without any chemical fertilisers, and limited themselves to one harvest a year, a practice contrary to the three harvest done by other chemically 'enhanced' regions.

The villagers of this region live self-sufficiently using the forest and its resources to supplement their diet. Also in the Sukabumi region, a number of scientific research institutions are setting about trying to to solve the dramatic, and potentially harmful, effects of this 'unique rice dictatorship' established in the previous century which continues to affect the environment and its biodiversity.

In recent years a rice-seed bank has been establishing which is preserving samples of the 68 different local varieties previously in wide use, ensuring a legacy of biodiversity for the future. The agricultural methods of the Sukambumi farmers is an art and a philosophy of life informed by their ancestral religion and numerous rituals, including one dedicated to the paddy field Goddess Dewi Sri. Today she has become an example and a model for the many natural earth and natural seeding defence movements.
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