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Traditional delicacies, such as kue cucur and serabi, as the offerings for Beberi Laut Darat
In July, a coastal village in Central Kalimantan held a simple customary ceremony called Beberi Laut Darat to mark the beginning of the planting season and pray for the upcoming harvest season. This year’s ceremony also embodies new hope for villagers in facing climate change.
In the decades-long ceremony, the villagers brought out seven types of traditional delicacies, such as kue cucur and serabi, and put the offerings to the open ocean and several sacred places in Sabuai village, Kotawaringin Barat, Central Kalimantan.
This year, the annual tradition was held rather differently due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Fewer people came, and the ceremony was quieter than usual.
“Usually people from different villages would come and join, but now the participants were from our village only,” said Syahrani, a public figure in the village who also led the ceremony.
The ceremony held this year, however, carried a strong sense of a new beginning.
For two years, the farm fields in Sabuai village were flooded with standing water. In the past years, the locals had been dealing with unpredictable weather and heavier rainfalls, which resulted in a widespread flood all year long.
This July, the drier weather finally arrived, giving hope that paddy farmers can go back to their work on their land in the new season.
Syahrani and his neighbors are hoping for brighter days in the coming months. “Some farmers have begun to prepare their field and plant the rice seeds,” Syahrani said.
Rice has been a stable source of income for the local community. Sabuai village is known as a paddy granary in Kotawaringin Barat.
Unlike its neighboring villages, Sabuai has a vast area of relatively flat land surface, allowing the locals to grow rice, a dependable and profitable crop. “I was born and raised in Sabuai, and there’s always been paddy fields here,” said the 53-year-old Syahrani. “Other villages nearby have yet to have any paddy fields.”
Moreover, villagers who live near the coconut tree-lined beach in Sabuai village are accustomed to fishing and rice farming.
“Actually, the local people here are used to taking up different jobs,” said Syahrani, citing that he works as a fisher, a boat maker, and a rice farmer.
Still, last year was a tough year for almost everyone in Sabuai.
The Covid-19 pandemic was bringing tough challenges to those working in the fishery industry, too. “The fishers were struggling because the shrimp price was drastically falling and they could only sell the shrimps in local markets,” Syahrani recalled.
The changes in weather patterns and the pandemic have underscored the importance of livelihood diversification for rural communities to overcome the challenges from the climate crisis.
“Lately, there are programs aiming to help local farmers,” said Syahrani, who heads the village governing council (LKMD).
The programs, facilitated by the Indigenous Peoples Alliance of the Archipelago (AMAN) and supported by Yayasan Inobu, are training local farmers to maximize their yields and improve their ability to tend the land sustainably. The programs also allow farmers to get necessary support and farming tools, including tree-climbing tools to help farmers harvest coconuts. There are training sessions on how to process coconut into virgin coconut oil.
By incorporating commodity processing, farmers can generate added value and increase their profits from the products they sell.
Local communities are also starting to make use of their dormant land. They are set to launch a community-based restoration project, in which locals will plant tens of thousands saplings on 50 hectares of vacant land in their village.
Many of the trees for the restoration project are fruit-bearing trees, such as durian, longan, matoa, petai and dogfruit.
Moreover, they will also grow ginger on the restoration site. Many residents have grown the tropical land at their home yards, but now it is intended for commercial cultivation.
In the long term, the local communities can enjoy the fruit harvests, which can be consumed for the locals or be sold for profits.
“Excavators will arrive here soon to clear the land, and the locals can start planting fruit-bearing trees,” Syahrani said.
And in the coming weeks, Syahrani and other farmers will return to the paddy fields and also learn new skills to cultivate their crops. Sabuai farmers are now ready to diversify their livelihoods and adapt to the changing climate.