Karang Awak: Cultivating Food Sovereignty in Balinese Community #BaliKembali
I lost my job in April 2020, right after COVID-19 pandemic hit the world and suddenly there were no tourists visiting Bali. I worked at an adventure tour company as a reception and also a cashier, I used to be the General in the team, running their operation. But suddenly we had no guests, it was hard for the company to keep us employed. In the same time, my husband, I called him Bli Komang, who run a small bike and car rental business, experience the same thing. No tourists, no one to rent the vehicles. He need to close down his business immediately. We never thought how much we are dependent to tourists and how we’re at the mercy of the world’s situation. The pandemic has open our eyes, that we need to have a more sustainable way to make a living. Income from tourism should be a bonus for us, not the main source.
In no time, we find both of us with no job and no income. It was tough. We argue from time to time, frustrated, and not knowing what to do. We try to run our household with our savings for 2 months, but we knew we can’t sit around waiting situation to go back to normal. Nobody knows when normal will come. Our savings is slowly running out. We have bills to pay and 3 kids to feed.
At home, we have a 150 square meter backyard that I’ve planted with several vegetable seedlings. I wasn’t thought much about it at first. But I remember when my colleague played with my phone and pranked me, he took the picture of those seedlings and upload it on my Facebook. The caption mentioned that the seedlings are for sale. I didn’t sell anything. It was meant as a joke, but orders keep coming in the comment section and my private messages. I accidentally found a good business to run. I didn’t have time to focus on it back then. But now, I do!
We started with a small capital of Rp 500,000 worth of seedlings. At first, Bli Komang was against the idea to sell the seedlings as our new business. He said the money was too little. The seedling price started at Rp 5,000 and it can take 30 minutes to deliver to the customers. Just too many efforts for little money, plus I can potentially get Covid from roaming around outside, he said.
But I didn’t see why I can’t try. I’m back at selling seedlings using Facebook Marketplace, one order at a time. What Bli Komang afraid of finally happened, I got infected by Covid-19. I might got it from one of the trips to deliver the seedlings. The emotional pain was worst than the physical one. My neighbours were afraid of me, they totally avoid me. I completely understand that, this virus can spread easily. But I still feel sad about the situation. I was sick and can’t sell anything. After I recover, I get back to my business. I’m not afraid, Covid can’t stop me. If anything, now, I understand more on how to be more careful around people and keep my distance.
Bli Komang finally realised that doing ’small thing’ is better than doing nothing. He started to help me cultivating our back yard to grow more seedlings. In the mean time, to cut our family cost, he started planting vegetables that we can consume for ourselves like cucumber, eggplant, chili, tomatoes, fruits like orange, spices like ginger, and flowers like Ylang-Ylang that we and a lot of Balinese need to be part of religious ceremonies. Even when he has no background in Agriculture, he loves studying new things on the internet and managed to create some innovation before, like Tong Edan (literally mean Mad Drum), it’s a drum to process organic family waste into compost as organic fertiliser. He use his home made compost to make the land more fertile in our yard, and most important, to keep our food healthy to consume, free from any chemical substance.
Bli Komang has found a new ‘toy’ with his garden. He clearly has become more excited than me about our new business. After harvesting great results from our garden, our neighbors start to be curious on how to grow their own food. Bli Komang gladly taught them how to do it. After a while, he created a movement called ‘Karang Awak’ (literally mean Our Own Yard), to inspire Balinese people whose livelihood was affected by the pandemic to have food security and sustainability through planting food in their own yard.
How to start? It’s easy. First, you need to have at least 100 square meter of land to develop. Then you need to learn how to cultivate the land, you can find how to do it all over the internet. After that, you can start planting what you need and consistency to nurture your garden. That’s it!
After we won an award by Bali local government on documenting food sovereignty efforts, the government started to get more interested in our movement. They want us to teach fellow villagers all over Bali on cultivating a sustainable living. Until now, we have helped tens of other yards to be turned into Karang Awak’s food garden.
If you ask me how do I feel, I’m concerned but I’m grateful. We’re all reminded to go back to nature. We don’t know how long this pandemic going to stop Bali tourism industry, but we’re happy to say that pandemic has made us more creative and innovative to find solutions for our challenges. I’m also become more fearless. I no longer hesitant to offer our products to strangers and deliver it to new areas that I never explore before. There’s no room to be shy or afraid now, we need to survive.
The story of I Komang Suryawan (43) and Ni Nyoman Budiasih (43) of Karang Awak is written as a part of #BaliKembali movement. More than 80% of Balinese community livelihood are related to tourism Industry. Pandemic has reduced the number and even stop the flow of international tourists to Bali, significantly. At least 2,667 people who work in the tourism sector have lost their job, and 73,631 people have been forced to take unpaid leave. Most Balinese found they’re immediately out of job, but they’re not giving up. There are many inspiring stories of resilience that we’d like to highlight through #BaliKembali.
If you’re interested to create your own food garden or support Balinese people to have their own food garden, please contact us directly by email firstname.lastname@example.org so we can connect you with Komang and Nyoman.
How to help?
You can give scholarships to support Balinese people gain new skills to earn income. Remote Skills Academy offers $50 short course and $100 month-long course to teach basic knowledge to kickstart their remote career. Students can replace their old jobs in tourism industry to work for companies around the world doing jobs like administration and project management as taught in Remote Skills Academy curriculum. For more information about the scholarship, please email email@example.com
You can donate basic food needs and COVID-19 kit to the selected Banjar (village government system) for $50 per package. Email us firstname.lastname@example.org to donate.
We’re always looking for inspiring people who strive, creative, and innovative to create solutions for themselves and their community in Bali. You can suggest us these inspiring people. Or if you are the inspiring person, write your own story and send to our email email@example.com