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The art of growing rice in Bali


Learning how to grow rice was not something that I would have ever imagined making it onto my bucket list. I never ever thought of it. But – when visiting the rural areas of Bali I found myself standing in front of very impressive photogenic rice terraces and was forced to ask myself the question – “How is rice grown?”

Rice is the most important crop for the Balinese and has been traditionally viewed as a gift from the gods and needs to be honored as such. It’s impressive to see that the villages surrounding these rice fields have shrines specifically devoted to valuing these crops.

A UNESCO world heritage site

The stepped Balinese Subak system of water irrigation was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In addition, it is famed for being the most effective way of managing rice crops in the world. Around for at least 2,000 years, these rice terraces were originally carved into the hills by the locals using hand tools.

The allocation of water is the responsibility of priests, and in order for this system to work successfully it is required that members of each community work in partnership. Are you wondering how they are so well maintained? Each member of the community takes responsibility for maintaining the integrity of the system.

The process

I was fortunate enough to meet this gentleman named Tuk Tuk who educated me about the process of planting rice. Before you are able to plant the rice, the soil needs to be weeded and turned. Many farmers in the area also raise ducks in their fields proving to be helpful in fertilizing the land. Rice is then planted between January and February and harvested twice a year. It takes an average of 120 days to harvest between April – May and October – November.

Rice is planted first on a small and protected section of the field. After 15 days, when the rice has grown a few centimeters it is then separated and transplanted linearly in the dry fields. Water is slowly allowed into the rice fields for the next 105 days. When the plants are fully grown, water is let out of the rice field.

At this time, when the rice starts to look golden, the plants are harvested. In the old days, the harvest was done by women with a knife known as an “ani-ani”. I was lucky enough to experience the traditional way of harvesting by stamping the dried rice blades over a block of stone. The grains of rice then fall to a “catch” sheet and are left in the sun for further drying. Eventually, it is taken into a milling process where the husk and bran layer of the rice is removed.

The most famous rice terraces are the picturesque Tegalalang Rice Terrace in Ubad – a favorite amongst tourists. You should pop past there on your next visit.

Images by Chantelle Flores ( All rights reserved.

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