From room number 12 in the Betang Sungai Utik house, Batu Lintang Village, Embaloh Hulu District, Kapuas Hulu Regency, West Kalimantan, the sound of Lidia Sumbun starting a fire was heard.
This woman, who was born and lives in the Sungai Utik longhouse, is a member of the Iban Dayak community. He always maintains the culture of his people, including the preservation of local rice seeds using traditional farming techniques.
Taking care of the kitchen and serving hot coffee to family members and guests staying the night has been the routine of Iban women since dawn. This long house consists of 28 rooms and 18 separate houses or houses, like the houses of the general public. Overall, there are 286 people or 86 families living in the house.
That morning, Lidia and several local residents held the Ngelaboh Pun, a rice seed honoring ritual. In one year of farming cycle, there are several rituals that are performed from the beginning of clearing the fields to harvesting.
A set of offerings has been prepared since the night, such as ladong or bags woven using rattan. This bag is filled with pulut, boiled chicken eggs, palm wine, local vegetable seeds, dried rose flowers [ Ocimum tenuiflorum L], smoked kepayang, as well as several types of rice companion plants, called sengkenyang. The location of the ritual is under the mawang fruit tree [ Mangifera pajang ], in the garden where Lidia usually does her activities.
According to R. Masri Sareb Putra , the Dayak people have a view of traditional farming as a foundation of life with sacred values. Because the fields are their source of livelihood. For this reason, starting from seeing the land that will be made into fields, until after the harvest, there are always traditional ceremonies.
The form of preserving rice
The Ngelaboh Pun ritual is a form of observance of the customs of the Iban Dayak people, preserving the Pun rice in the family. In their knowledge, rice has the order of life. There is Padi Tua or Padi Pun and Padi Sangking [companion rice]. All rice varieties can become Pun Rice or Sangking Rice, except Pulut Rice.
In each family, rice has been planted for hundreds of years. This includes Lidia’s family who has planted rice called Kara’k Bird Rice which is estimated to be around 200 years old, four generations above.
In 2021-2022, Lidia planted 12 types of local rice. Call it Entemu Rice, Karak Bird Rice, Yellow Rice, Crab Rice, Ragum Rice, Aji Rice, Kelamai Rice, Nanga Raun Rice, Tapis Rice, Pulut Impun, Pulut Kantu, and Pulut Lilin.
Most of the sources of food for the people of Sungai Utik are indeed supplied from nature, some are deliberately planted and some grow wild.
Since September 2021, we, the Semengat Padi research team, which consists of researchers, academics and the Dayak Iban indigenous people, have been trying to document the food wealth of the Dayak Iban indigenous people in Sungai Utik. So far, 104 varieties of local rice have been recorded, 103 types of tropical fruit, 77 types of local vegetables, 22 types of wild mushrooms and 22 types of spice plants.
The high diversity of local rice species is due to seed exchange activities that are still being carried out today, between residents in the Sungai Utik environment and outside villages.
“Rice and food sources can be sustainable because we are firm in maintaining the existing rituals,” continued Lidia.
Regang, a Sungai Utik resident who participates in the Ngelaboh Pun ritual in Lidia’s fields, brings a sintung or basket that functions as a store for the seeds of Pun and Sangking Paddy.
“The sintung rope is placed towards the rising sun, so that the fortune obtained is the same as the sun,” he said.
Penian or shelves made of wood in an odd number are arranged along with the planting of red and white flags [ tambae ]. The odd number along with the offering plate is a symbol of a request to Petara [God in Iban belief] and ancestors, so that what they desire is perfected. Through the tambae flag , the community knows about Petara’s presence
“If the tambae has multiplied, then it is believed that Petara has returned to where he came from,” explained Regang.
Regang has to leave at dawn to perform this ritual, so as not to hear the song of the ketupung bird [ Sasia abnormis ], which is considered a bearer of bad news. Knowledge of reading situations from natural signs is still very strong in the Dayak Iban indigenous community, Sungai Utik. This is the main reason they are so strong in maintaining environmental sustainability.
The obligatory snack served during Ngelaboh Pun is selukung , made of glutinous rice wrapped in pelad [ Licuala petiolulata ] leaves or a type of fan palm leaf which is still abundant in the Sungai Utik customary forest. All people involved in this ritual will receive the same number of selukung.
Since the beginning of planting rice, to be precise after carrying out the Mungkal Tegalan ritual [ritual of planting pulut rice], the Dayak Iban adhere to a taboo that applies to all residents. There is a ban on forging iron which is feared will interfere with the growth of rice.
Prohibition of shaving hair and mustache, which is likened to breaking rice stalks. The prohibition against weaving until the rice is musat [rice is 3-4 weeks old], as well as the prohibition on making hoop bracelets, which are feared will hinder the growth of the rice at the same time.
All taboos will end when the Basuh Charcoal ritual is performed. Namely, the ritual of praying for agricultural tools that have been used to produce rice well, as well as forgiving each other if something goes wrong during planting rice. To make amends, you usually have to pay a customary [pemali] fine in the form of one chicken or iron.
The offerings of the Basuh Charcoal ritual are used the same as other rituals such as pulut, rendang, palm wine, tumpe, areca nut, betel, and lime. However, there are additional ingredients in the form of; charcoal, rice dregs, pak bu leaves, jali [ lecithin circle ], paddy rice, palm wine, and holy water .
The next day , these ingredients are sown in the fields accompanied by besampi [prayers], a sign that the owner of the field has released his period of abstinence.
The Ngalaboh ritual is closely related to the view of the Dayak Iban people on the world. Like other indigenous people , the Iban people in Sungai Utik see the world as a place that is also inhabited by other than human beings . The view that humans are not the only subject in their cosmology.
Humans are only part of the world, not the main actor. The position of humans and other subjects is the same. It is from this perspective that they understand Padi Pun as a subject that has roles and responsibilities to humans and other subjects. Human acknowledgment of the role of Padi, too, they pinned by calling ” Segat Padi”.
The term ” semat ” is central to Iban cosmology. This term is often interpreted by the Iban people by calling it a spirit. That passion exists in humans and other subjects.
According to Noerid Haloei Radam, the Dayak people believe that rice is sacred and must be treated according to their dignity. From the time it is planted until it is put into the barn, it must be cared for always, properly.
Take Care of the Sungai Buluh Peat Protected Forest
One example that is being pursued is in the Sungai Buluh Peat Protection Forest (HLG). The local community living in this peat area is working on sustainable land management.
This 12,766 hectare peat forest is located in three villages in Mendahara Ulu District, East Tanjung Jabung Regency, Jambi. The three villages are Pematang Rahim, Sinarwajo and Sungai Beras. These villages obtain area management permits through the village forest scheme.
“It is an extraordinary pride for our village because this Village Forest Decree was handed over directly by Pak Jokowi (President Joko Widodo),” said Suryani, Chair of the Pematang Rahim Village Forest Management Institute (LPHD).
He still displays the photo of the delivery of the decree in the living room of his house. The residents of Pematang Rahim Village have made various efforts to protect the forest. Among other things, he said, routine patrols with East Tanjung Jabung KPH and the company.
From the monitoring of the patrol team, this group has made a canal which is suspected of transporting illegal logging timber that is 1,300 meters long. They also cleared land which is estimated to reach 38 hectares.
In addition to false rumors about permits, there are also non-definitive maps circulating in the community that serve as an excuse for encroaching on their village forest.
LPHD Pematang Rahim once submitted a request to use village funds to support forest protection efforts, but until now the village government has not approved it on the grounds that it is not a priority sector.
In fact, he said, referring to the attachment to the Regulation of the Minister of Villages, Development of Disadvantaged Regions, and Transmigration Number 8/2022 concerning Priority for Use of Village Funds in 2023 makes this possible.
Apart from protecting the forest for the residents of Pematang Rahim village, he said, they are also trying to increase their economic level by raising fish in cages.
Unlike fish breeders in general cages who raise tilapia, carp or catfish, fish farmers in this village raise toman (Channa micropeltes ).
The main food that Syamsudin and the other farmers are given there is small fish that they get in the river.
This village has the largest village forest management permit compared to the other two villages, namely, 5,088 hectares. During the big fire in 2015, their village forest area of 1,400 hectares was also burned.
After the fire, the community already planted this land with oil palm. In 2018, the former fire land was planted with areca nut and liberika coffee, including land that had previously been planted with oil palm.
Many of the village forests managed by the Sungai Beras LPHD have also been planted with community oil palm. “About 700 hectares have already been planted with oil palm,” said Abdul Hamid, treasurer of the Sungai Beras LPHD.
The area that has been planted with oil palm has been interspersed with swamp jelutung trees ( Dyera polyphylla ( Miq.) Steenis). Apart from forestry plants, he said, Rawa jelutung sap also has economic value.
Currently, the jelutung swamp tree in the Sungai Beras village forest is starting to produce sap. However, Abdul said the selling price is so low that they don’t plan to harvest it yet.
Currently, Sungai Beras LPHD is working with KKI Warsi to develop a tree adoption program.
The three village forests in the Sungai Buluh HLG area are under the Tanjung Jabung Timur Production Forest Management Unit (KPHP) Unit XIV.
Muhammad Izuddin, Head of KPHP Tanjung Jabung Timur Unit XIV, said that the continuation of oil palm in the village forest area will refer to the Regulation of the Minister of Environment and Forestry Number 9/2021 concerning Social Forestry Management.
The existence of community participation through social forestry schemes, he said, was very helpful for the KPHP in protecting the area. Joint patrols with the community and various parties, he said, were their routine activities.
In addition to patrols, KPHP has also built a land fire monitoring tower in Sinarwajo village.
Jambi peat conditions
Referring to KKI-Warsi data, there are 602,000 hectares of peat areas in Jambi, with degraded conditions and experiencing deforestation. Of that area of peat, around 1227,991 hectares became plantations, leaving only 133,000 hectares of forest cover.
“If peatlands have been degraded, it needs a rehabilitation process that takes 30 to 50 years to be said to be successful,” said Richard Napitupulu, an academic from the Faculty of Agriculture, University of Jambi (UNJA).