The local variety of rice was traditionally harvested twice a year. Three decades ago, with the population on the rise, other varieties of rice were introduced, together with chemical fertilisers and pesticides. Initially more rice was grown, but the soil become less fertile. Gradually, the amount of rice produced from a square metre declined from one kilo to only half a kilo.

A few years ago the villagers of Laplapan turned back to the organic farming. It works like this.

Women  harvesting rice, Laplapan village near Ubud, Bali.
Women harvesting rice, Laplapan village near Ubud, Bali. Image: Stan Florek
© Australian Museum

The rice grows for about three months. Then it’s cut and trashed by hand in the field. Planting and harvesting is timed in such a way that number of neighbours join in the harvest of each family‘s field, in one day.

After harvest the field is flooded and ducks, mostly females, are brought in to make their contribution. From the muddy bottom they eat the grains of rice lost in the harvest, eat insects and any other morsels. They diligently fertilise the field and, because of their wholesome diet, lay an impressive quantity of eggs.

After a week of such a feast the ducks are removed and the field is left for the rest of the organic matter to decompose. The muddy soil is turned over with a little tractor-like machine. About four weeks after the harvest the rice is planted again.

The soil’s restoration to its organic health is marked by the return of leeches – as symptomatic to the healthy rice field as frogs are to the natural environment. But the best news is that organic farming increases richness of soil and the Laplapan villagers expect to soon to be able to harvest three times a year one kilo of rice from a square metre again.