The site was inscribed in 2012, in recognition of the “outstanding universal value” of Bali’s subak system, which dates back to at least the 12th century and is still in practice. It embodies the Balinese philosophical principle Tri Hita Karana (three causes of goodness), which seeks to create harmony between humans and the spiritual realm, between humans and nature, and among humans.

The subaks ensure the equitable distribution of water to farms, maintain the irrigation system, mobilize resources and mutual assistance, resolve conflicts, and ensure the performance of rituals. The World Heritage Site includes a selection of subaks that “exemplify the interconnected natural, religious, and cultural components” of the subak system, where farmers still grow traditional Balinese rice organically and follow all traditional rituals.

The public-private partnership that proposed the inscription envisioned a broad, participatory and inclusive management system for the site, involving government agencies at different levels, village leaders, and the subaks themselves. Yet successfully realizing this vision is no small task, given Indonesia’s complex bureaucracy and very hierarchical social structure. Bali is also undergoing rapid socio-economic changes, which the establishment of the site could itself accelerate by attracting more tourists and investors.

In 2013, at the request of the Government of Indonesia, SEI launched a two-year project to support the development of an effective participatory management structure for the site. This report focuses on the needs and contexts of the subak landscape of Catur Angga Batukaru (CAB), which has the largest number of subaks and villages in the World Heritage Site.

The SEI project included several rounds of interviews and focus group discussions in four villages – Rejasa, Sangketan, Wongaya Gede and Jatiluwih – as well as a subak assembly in May 2014 to build consensus among the 20 subak heads (pekasehs) of the CAB, which resulted in the establishment of a coordination forum.

The report outlines the governance challenges that have arisen since the establishment of the World Heritage Site, the challenges and changing conditions faced by the subaks, and the subak members’ expectations of the site. It ends with several recommendations.

Download the report (PDF, 9.3MB)

Low-res version (for slow connections; PDF, 1.6MB)

Read a policy brief summarizing the findings »