The Indonesian island of Bali, with around 1.6 million estimated farmers, has a direct democratic system of water distribution despite its irrigation system being completely hierarchical. Water governance is deeply intertwined in the rituals, the belief-system, the identity, the infrastructure, and even the notion of time. With channels and canals that are often over a thousand years old, the agricultural system and the ecology of the island have become deeply intertwined, acting as one organism. Efforts to drastically change Balinese agriculture in the seventies during the Green Revolution in Indonesia wreaked great havoc on the ancient and sophisticated system, and over the years the modernization efforts were withdrawn.
While one might be surprised at the deeply democratic nature of the island, despite it appearing rigidly hierarchical, the reasons behind the intense cooperation would be even harder to pick up on. Interestingly, it is the threat of pests that…
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