How Local Women Strengthen Food Security and Sovereignty: A Success Story from the Heart of Borneo | WWF
How Local Women Strengthen Food Security and Sovereignty: A Success Story from the Heart of Borneo

Posted on 16 August 2019

Not only rich in tradition and ritual, the Dayak people are also rich in stories and experiences in safeguarding their local foods.
They believe that the ancestral blessing is a primary reason for a rich land. This is the story of Mrs. Marsiana Dayun, in “Women, Food and Biodiversity, Stories from Kalimantan” book. 

As the third largest island in the world, Kalimantan has an invaluable source of local wealth. A variety of exotic local foods with high and good nutrition for health become a special colour in biodiversity for the Dayaks. This wealth certainly depends on agricultural management, especially on a small scale in Kalimantan. In addition to ensuring food security and nutritional quality, it also relies on natural conditions and sustainable management of natural resources. And in this agricultural product, women are important pillars and subjects in their contribution to food security.

Considering that around 43 percent of the agricultural work in Indonesia is women, many women then become a source of local wisdom and knowledge on how to grow, process, and conserve local varieties of typical food crops. This proves how important the role of women are in the food production chain. The story of Marsiana Dayun, a female farmer in the village of Ukit-Ukit, Kapuas Hulu, West Kalimantan, an area deep in the Heart of Borneo, is an illustration of traditional farming activities in Kalimantan that are rich in tradition and ritual, as well as adaptive by implementing experiments and learning from the experience of running a farming pattern that has become a part of community life in Ukit-Ukit village.

The farming activities carried out by Dayun and her husband, Antonius Sadau, who never left the agricultural system that had been passed on by the ancestors and the customs of the community in their village. Starting from the process of land clearing and menugal (seed planting) at the beginning of the activity, the use of ash from the burning of agricultural land as the main medium of soil fertility, and the farming system in rainfed land with a rotating pattern to restore soil fertility through the fallow system so as to be able to eliminate the use of fertilizers from outside. 

In Ukit-Ukit, the community always work together (beduruk or situlis) in every agricultural process; when clearing land, planting, until harvesting. The farming tradition in Ukit-Ukit is also loaded with spiritual aspects through a series of traditional rituals, including Pamindara or asking for permission from ancestral spirits or land watchers.

Dayun’s story is a proof that women are the main actors in preserving and protecting ecosystems as well as the continuing availability of food resources and forest sustainability.
Victor Fidelis Sentosa, Marsiana Dayun, Ukit-Ukit, Kapuas Hulu, West Kalimantan
Marsiana Dayun, a female farmer in the village of Ukit-Ukit, Kapuas Hulu, West Kalimantan
© WWF-Indonesia/Victor Fidelis Sentosa
Victor Fidelis Sentosa, Marsiana Dayun, Ukit-Ukit, Kapuas Hulu, West Kalimantan, Heart of Borneo, HoB
The farming tradition in Ukit-Ukit is also loaded with spiritual aspects through a series of traditional rituals, including Pamindara or asking for permission from ancestral spirits or land watchers.
© WWF-Indonesia/Victor Fidelis Sentosa