Women and Food Security | WWF
Women and Food Security

Posted on 30 March 2019

The role of women is very crucial, where women are the main actors in almost all agricultural processes.
By: Ari Wibowo
Mahakam Landscape, WWF-Indonesia


We often find the role of women are very strong in households. Dayak women in Borneo are known as tough, strong and hardworking women. It is common to see women carrying rattan bags (in local language is called anjat) containing tubers, vegetables or even firewood and carrying them with straps that are hooked in their heads and bring them for several kilometres from their houses or carrying full of loads in ketinting from the fields to home.

The involvement of women in household food security is not only in the kitchen but is almost fully involved in the management of land for food management in the field of dry land.

The role of women is very crucial, where women are the main actors in almost all agricultural processes, except for cutting and burning land, which women are prohibited from doing and those can only be done by men.

Furthermore, when cutting down the harvest, weeding (cleaning the remaining burnt), cutting the grass, menugal, grazing, ngetam (harvesting rice), mihili pare (cleaning rice from the stem), netap (winnowing rice) to drying the rice, are done by women.

In some Dayak communities, especially for Bahau Lung Gelat, a Dayak community located in Mahakam Ulu District, an area that is also included in the Heart of Borneo in East Kalimantan, women must be the first one to plant rice, after then, followed by the men to start the rice harvest party ritual.

Women also manage food needs for one year before the annual farming period begins again, where the rice from the fields is brought and stored in the barn. Even carrying rice into barns (ngeluno) should only be done by women.

In the barn, there are separated various types of rice that have been planted. Then the women will make chips before the rice harvesting party (lali ata), and it has been recorded to date there are 14 types of local rice varieties which are still cultivated in annual farming activities in the village. They are also proficient in managing food produced from the fields, as well as those obtained in the forests around the field.

In traditional culture, the role of women of Dayak Bahau Lung Gelat is very strong as well as being a main actor in a family food security. They are also involved in village decision-making, both independently and in the community.

The presence of women in village meeting meetings is also very strong, but sometimes they are still hesitant and embarrassed in expressing their opinions and ideas.
Ari Wibowo, East Kalimantan, Heart of Borneo, Indonesia
The involvement of women in household food security is not only in the kitchen but is almost fully involved in the management of land for food management in the field of dry land.
© WWF-Indonesia/Ari Wibowo
Ari Wibowo, Mahakam Ulu, East Kalimantan, Heart of Borneo
In some Dayak communities, especially for Bahau Lung Gelat, a Dayak community located in Mahakam Ulu District, an area that is also included in the Heart of Borneo in East Kalimantan, women must be the first one to plant rice, after then, followed by the men to start the rice harvest party ritual.
© WWF-Indonesia/Ari Wibowo