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Monday, November 2, 2015

Bali’s mountain dwellers govern with ancient palm leaf treatises

Deep in the mountains of eastern Bali sits a traditional Aga village, whose inhabtants – legendarily the island’s first – still reside and abide by ancient ways.
Long before Indonesian independence, and even before the 11th century, when the fleeing courtiers of Java’s Hindu Majapahit dynasty landed in Bali, the village of Tenganan Pegringsingan had written forestry regulations. The edicts defined the forest as the 225-square-mile area of trees in these steep, 40-percent-grade hills.
According to the ancestral notes, the woods must be communally owned and managed, and cannot be sold or transferred to anyone outside the Aga community.
There are even oral and written regulations on hunting and woodcutting. Only dead branches can be collected, and no woodcutting is permitted, except with permission from customary leaders.
And today, residents old and young still honor these edicts, choosing to follow the written instructions of their ancestors instead of pushing forest resources to the brink.
Thirty-three-year-old Durpa Adnyana, for instance, makes a living collecting wild honey in self-designed, homemade bee houses he fashions from short lengths of bamboo. He collects sweet mango flower honey six times a year, and the tiny kelebees’ sour honey, favored by local shamans, twice a year.
In tune with the ancient conservation statutes, Durpa sets personal limits. “If six hives are ready for harvest, I will only take honey from two,” he explained. “To take more would be heartless to the bees.”...


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