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An Indonesian Village Where Farmers Are Still Guided By The Stars

For decades the village of Cirompang in West Java has been self-sufficient when it comes to food. Residents rely on ancestral wisdom to grow and harvest rice.

Rice harvest in West Java, Indonesia
Rice harvest in West Java, Indonesia
Yudi Rachman

CIROMPANG — The women at Cirompang village in the Indonesian province of Banten make music with mortars used to pound rice. It's a sign that harvest season has arrived.

Cirompang village is located in an area of indigenous land near Halimun Salak National Park in West Java. Even when the seasons are erratic or there is a drought, residents say there is never a shortage of food here.

Indigenous elders, or olot, decide when to plant seeds and harvest their crop based on the constellation of stars in the sky.

"When the rice is blooming the pests usually start attacking. So we have a way using the stars to avoid that," says Abah Amir, one such elder.

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Women in Cirompang — Photo: Yudi Rachman

Villagers believe their method can predict pests like worms and mice as well as drought. Amir says pesticides and other poisons used to kill pests are not permitted in the village. Instead, they use the knowledge of their ancestors. "To anticipate pests we change the date of planting because the stars are always moving," he says. "In the village, no single pest is allowed to be killed because they have the right to live. If you kill the pest bad luck will follow."

Cirompang village is 637-hectares large. It includes forests and fields of rice and vegetables. Rice is normally planted twice a year by hand. No tractors or gardening tools are used.

As for irrigation, the villagers depend on rainfall and the river. There are certain rules in place to protect rainwater. Trees from the forest, for example, can't be cut down. Amir says the farmers have certain days off as well.

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Paddy field in Java, Indonesia — Photo: java tourism

After the harvest, grains are distributed to residents in the village and stored in barns. If a villager runs out of grain, they can ask for extra helpings from the barns.

The harvest feeds all 1,690 residents of Cirompang each year. They are prohibited from selling their harvest in the market, says resident Abar Amir. "Rice can be stored in the barn for long time ... And the variety of paddy is not allowed to be sold. The seeds did not come from the government or anyone but directly from nature."

The indigenous community of Cirompang have also began to plant other vegetables — peppers, tomatoes, cabbages, cucumbers, and onions — to meet their daily needs.

Cirompang is living proof that ancestors knew a thing or two about self-sufficiency when it comes to food.

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