11 May, Saturday

INDONESIA, Bali – Rice paddies, palm trees, blue skies and wispy white clouds compose an idyllic scene that hints at honest days and easy dream-filled nights. The rice paddies of Bali not only make for great Instagram photos, they also play a crucial role in the great cycle of life.

Usually carved out of fertile valleys – themselves enriched by volcanic runoffs – Bali’s rice paddies are watered through a centuries-old irrigation cooperative known as ‘subak’. The system blends practical farming needs with the island’s deep-rooted spirituality, and is part religious construct, part ecological bulwark.

Water critical for farming first comes from the surrounding forests, with temples of varying shapes and sizes serving as markers for the waters’ source, or as conduits through which the water flows on its way downhill to nourish the crops. This interweaving of culture, divinity and nature explains rice’s sacred status as a gift from the gods in Balinese culture.

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