UNESCO recognises Bali’s subak rice farming system

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation has recognised Bali’s subak rice farming system.

UNESCO registered the farming system on its World Heritage List during its annual meeting in Saint Petersburg, Russia, on June 29.

As the Jakarta Post put it:


“UNESCO recognized subak as a Balinese cultural landscape of rice terraces and their water temples that cover 19,500 hectares.

Subak reflects the philosophical concept of Tri Hita Karana, which brings together the realms of the spirit, the human world and nature. The subak system of democratic and egalitarian farming practices has enabled the Balinese to become the most prolific rice growers in the archipelago, despite the challenge of supporting a dense population.”



It was getting lost in Bali’s rice fields that helped me find a way to imagine a sustainable farming system, and to finish my new book, Sustainable Food.

Perhaps one of the key researchers, strategists and champions of the entry, and someone who spent over 15 years preparing and lobbying for the  entry, Stephen J Lansing – called by some, Bali’s “Mick Jagger of Rice” during last year’s Ubud Writers Festival, may be eating a bowl of rice with an added sense of pleasure since; congratulations and thank you, Stephen.


13 October 2012 Addendum:  Uh, oh.  Not so good after all if a conversation with a driver in Denpassar is accurate. He says the current military governor is allowing all hotel proposals on rice fields and, despite the UNESCO registration, rice fields are disappearing as fast as ever.  He says the current civilian mayor of Denpassar is highly respected and his father was one of Bali’s greatest governors; this mayor may contest the governorship of Bali at elections in two years and stop the destruction of Bali’s backbone foodwise and tourist wise.  But a great many hotels will be approved and built in that time.  My limited experience – two trips in two years – is one of an avalanche of development and tourists, far greater numbers this last visit.  The driver says Balinese are passionate about and proud of their rice field culture and he’s very upset about the floodgate of development and even the tourism which is driving all before it.

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  • Michael Mobbs

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