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Borneo Leisure

Wet or dry, rice planting is a way of life

By Rahmat Bin Haji Abdul Rahman

Scientifically is known as Oryza Sativa. L. has sixteen traditional culture steps in rice planting. From clearing to milling. These traditional cultures are unexceptional for folks living in Labi and Kandol in the rural area of Belait District, Rambai in Tutong district, and in Puni in Temburong district which are potential areas for rice bowl of Brunei.

There are two types of rice planting which were being practised by the rural folks in Negara Brunei Darussalam. The hill paddy know as "padi tuggal" and wet paddy or known as "padi paya".

Hill Paddy is prepared by cutting down trees several months before sowing of seeds into the holes. The clearing of the land by cutting down trees, dried and burnt which is unhygience practise causing heavy soils erosion. This traditional method by cutting down of trees, dried for several months during the hot sunny day and then open burning is done cause severe environmental destrcutions.

In wet rice agriculture, seeds are sown in small seedbeds; the seedings are then transplanted one by one to prepared paddy fields. While the plants are maturing, they must be kept irrigated, but as the rice ripens the fields are drained. The rice is then harvested and threshed by hand. Wet rice agriculture is labour intensive, meaning that may people are required to do the job (as in the cultivation of silk worms and tea). Labour is particularly import when the fields are prepared, seedlings transplanted, and again when the rice is harvested. At these times, increasing the number of people working can significantly increase the amount each field can produce. In some areas a farmer can increase productivity by double or triple cropping (2 or 3 crops of rice) each year, a technique that requires even greater concentrations of labour because the harvesting of one crop and transplanting of the next crop occur virtually simulatenaously. At other times during the winter or while the rice is maturing, the demand for labour is greatly diminished. Traditional, the ethnic Dusuns, Lunbawang or Murut, Iban and Kedayans farmers, with their families as their labour force, put everyone to work in the field when labour was needed. During slack periods women and younger children could do other work for the family, including handicraft production.

Traditional agricultural methods and population growth are thus closely related. As the amount produced increased, population increased. As population increased, the added labour led to increased production. The more workers available to help in the field the more rice one field could produce, so it was to a family's advantage to have many sons (since daughters married out of the family, they generally were not considered assets). High infant mortality and the reliance of aged parents on their children for support reinforced the ideal of the large family. At the same time, the larger the family, the more rice the farm had to produce in order to feed them. Consequently, the best chance an ethnic of either Dusun, Lunbawang or Murut, Kedayan and Iban peasant had to improve his life was to have a large family, intensify the family effort to cultivate rice, then use whatever extra income they were able to produce to buy more land until he owned just as much land as the whole family, working together, could farm at maximum productivity. In some cases, even more land might be purchased for rental to tenants.

Appropriate attire for rice planting was, long thin rubber boots that come up to the knees, extended arm band made out of rubber that cover from the wrist to the elbow for repelling mosquitoes, and a sarawong used by the rice planter or a sedge cone shaped hat. The sedge hat actually let the air through therefore it was rather pleasant even under the hot sun.

One of the UBD undergraduate who wants to remain unanimous said, I slowly stepped my feet in to the dried rice fields, I harvested one by one of the paddy panicles. My hands slowly felt itchy because of the strongly-nerved leaf-sheaths. Once, I completed the harvesting on each tiller, I stepped it down as to make my walking in the dried rice fields more grips.

According to Hartwell (1967-1971), the seeds are used in folk medicine for breast cancers, stomach indurations, other tumors, and warts. Reported to be antidotal, aperitif, astringent, demulcent, diuretic, excipient, larvicidal, refrigerant, stomachic, tonic, and vermifuge, rice is a folk remedy for abdominal ailments, beriberi, bowels, burns, diarrhea, dysentery, dyspepsia, epistaxis, fever, filariasis, flux, hematemesis, inflammations, jaundice, nausea, ophthalmia, paralysis, piles, psoriasis, skin ailments, sores, splenosis, stomach ailments, and swellings (Duke and Wain, 1981)

Source: Borneo Bulletin Weekend

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