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Wet rice cultivation and the Kayanic peoples of East Kalimantan: some possible factors explaining their preference for dry rice cultivation (1). (Research Notes).


In Kalimantan, as in other Indonesian islands, wet rice cultivation has been encouraged by government policy, which often equates dry rice cultivation with "traditional", "extensive", "wasteful of land", whereas wet rice cultivation is equated with "modern", "intensive", "productive", and "rational". Inland groups in Kalimantan, so-called "Dayaks", are considered to be dry rice cultivators and are under pressure to switch from dry to wet rice cultivation. In fact, however, many Kalimantan inlanders, including Kayanic groups of East Kalimantan among whom I conducted anthropological research for two and half years (1996-8), have a knowledge of both dry and wet rice cultivation. Among Kalimantan groups, the Lun Dayeh (or Apo Duat group) (2) are, in addition, known as being traditional wet rice cultivators. Moreover, the Lun Dayeh are not alone, and wet rice cultivation, at least in the form of "rawa" or "swamp rice farming", has been reported among a number of Borneo swiddeners, for example, the Iban, Land Dayak , Kantu', Maloh, and others (see Pringle 1970, Sather 1980, Wadley 1997, Low 1848, Dove 1980, Seavoy 1973, King 1985). There is, however, little detailed discussion of such cultivation. This may reflect not only ideological factors but also the fact that wet rice cultivation is often carried out on a small scale and is frequently secondary to dry rice cultivation for many of those who practice it. Several recent studies challenge the view that dry rice cultivation is "primitive" and historically precedes wet rice cultivation. Instead, rice agriculture, as practiced in Kalimantan and in other parts of Island Southeast Asia, using both dry and wet fields, has been described as the remains, or characteristic feature, of an ancient Asian rice agricultural system, which itself is the result of adaptation to the varied and special environmental circumstances of Southeast Asia (for example, see Watabe 1983, 1993, Tanaka 1991). Characteristic of this agricultural system, wet rice fields are cultivated in a similar way to dry rice fields, without tillage except for puddling (3) (regarding the details of these types of rice farming, see later).

In this paper, I will first describe Kayanic wet rice cultivation and outline its characteristics. I will then speculate as to why Kayanic people prefer dry rice over wet rice cultivation, although they appear to have practiced the latter since the time they lived in the Kayan basin, for some 350 years. There are several obvious reasons for this preference, including environmental and technological constraints, but here I wish to stress historical and cultural factors.

First, before beginning our discussion, it is necessary to mention some terminological problems. To clarify the differences that exist between different types of wet rice cultivation in Southeast Asia and other parts of the world, I shall use here Schneeberger's terminology and distinguish between "ladang", "rawa", and "sawah cultivation" (1979:46-53). "Ladang" or dry field cultivation is so-called slash-and-burn and is widely practiced in interior Borneo. "Rawa" cultivation involves the utilization of natural swamps or wetlands with or without control of water-levels by the use of dykes and is practiced, as noted above, by a number of Borneo groups, including Kayanic people. "Sawah" is the most elaborate form with developed irrigation systems, that is, dykes, water conduits, reservoirs, and so on, as seen among the Lun Dayeh, Javanese, in mainland Southeast Asia, and also in East and South Asia. Here we need to refine these distinctions further.

The principal difference between rawa and sawah fields is, in fact, not just irrigation but rather the total system of the water regulation, that is, the techniques used to control water impoundment in the field. These techniques consist of three main elements: leveling (to make the field bed flat, so as to keep the water-level equal, involving usually tilling, puddling, or trampling), bunding (to surround the field with dykes), and inundating (to fill the field with water, not only rain water, but water supplied by a constant source). Thus, rawa fields can be described as wet rice fields that lack one or some of these elements, in contrast with sawah fields which have them all. There are many different forms of traditional rawa fields in the world, all of which depend on some uncontrolled water source, such as rainfall or tidal rivers, or which are made on steep slopes without leveling, or lack dykes. Typical sawah fields are seen widely in East and South Asia, where rice farming is done with the use of catt le and/or tilling tools like hoes, ploughs, and harrows. Following this definition, strictly speaking, some of the wet fields that are used by the Lun Dayeh belong in the rawa category, even though they are locally called "sawah" (see the case of Kelabit fields without leveling in Talla 1979) and so too, similarly, are Javanese fields dependent on rainfall (see Ohki 1990). Thus, various types of rice fields range between the two extremes of ladang and sawah. In addition, the wet rice cultivation now being promoted by the Indonesian Government is netither the Javanese nor Balinese sawah system, but rather, one developed following the "Green Revolution". Modeled on an East Asian type of sawah (Tanaka 1998: 140-42), it is characterized by intensive tillage which, in fact, is not always suitable to Southeast Asian environments. In general, the traditional wet rice fields of Kayanic people have dykes, simple water conduits consisting of small canals or bamboo pipes, but involve no leveling except for puddling, whi ch may partly contribute to leveling. Their wet rice cultivation is thus a form of rawa cultivation, while their neighbors, the Lun Dayeh, practice sawah cultivation using simple leveling tools.

Concerning the terms "dry rice" and "wet rice": in general, it is difficult to establish a clear distinction between the two, for many varieties of rice can grow in both dry and wet fields. Wild rice can be divided into perennial and annual types; the former tend to prefer swamp or wetlands, such as ponds or river banks, while the latter can equally adapt to dry land. The ancestor of cultivated rice is likely to have been an intermediate strain between the two (Sato and Fujiwara 1992: 65). Until today, there are rice varieties which are used in both wet and dry fields, as seen in India, Laos, Thailand, China, and Japan (Watabe 1983: 213-15, 1993: 62-7, 72-4), and also, as we shall see, in East Kalimantan. Therefore, I mean by "dry rice" and "wet rice" those varieties planted, respectively, in dry or wet fields (in the latter case, both rawa and sawah fields), as defined and practiced by local people. Also, I exclude here terms with geographical reference, such as "upland rice", "hill rice", or "swamp rice" (e xcept for the term "rawa cultivation" above), emphasizing, instead, the way in which rice is locally cultivated. Indeed, "dry rice" fields may exist on lowland flats and "wet rice" fields on hillsides or even mountains.

Ethnohistorical Background

The "Kayanic peoples", as I use the category here, consists of the following three subgroups, which are not only related linguistically and culturally, but which also share a common historical background (see Map 1):

1. The Ga'ay or Mengga'ay language group, also identified with other names such as "Modang-Menggae" (Guerreiro 1995: 1), "Segei-Modang" (Rousseau 1990: 16), including the Long Glat, Long Way, and other Modang in Kutai; the Segai (Menggae and Mengga'ay) in Berau and the Ga'ay (Mengga'ay, or Ga'ay Long Ba'un, and Gung Kiya:n) in Bulungan. The term "Ga'ay /Mengga'ay" seems to have been generally used by both Ga'ay and non-Ga'ay, before some powerful Ga'ay groups started to differentiate themselves from others by the use of settlement names such as Long Glat, Long Way, and Melan. Guerreiro suggests that their language, which is phonologically and lexically different from other Kayanic languages, shows some similarity to the Chamic group (Rhade) in Vietnam (1995: 8).

2. The so-called Kayan language group, widely dispersed today, and including the Uma:' Suling, U. Lekwe:, U. Tua:n, U. Mehak, U. Wak, U. Heban, U. Laran, and U. Lekan (including the U. Lasa:n and U. Teliva') and other Busang in East Kalimantan; the Uma:' Aging and U. Pagong in West Kalimantan; the Uma:' Juman, U. Bawang, U. Lesong, U. Semuka, U. Nyaving, U. Pu, and other Kayan in Sarawak (see Sellato 1981, Ngo 1988, Uyo 1989, Rousseau 1990, and Guerreiro 1995). All identify themselves with the Kayan basin, except for those who are known today, or who used to be called, "Busang (Busa:ng)" (those in the middle-upper Mahakam). According to these latter groups, their old village was situated on the Busang river before they settled in the Apo Kayan. In this paper, I provisionally call this group the "Kayan-Busang".

3. The Bahau group of the middle-upper Mahakam, lower Kayan, Malinau, and middle-upper Baram, whose older ethnonyms are "Ngorek", "Murik", "Baw" and so on (Sellato 1995, Kaskija 1995); for example, the Hwang Tri:ng, H. Anah, H. Siraw, H. Boh in the Mahakam, the Ngorek, Pua' in the lower-middle Kayan, and the Merap in the Malinau. They themselves use the endonym "Hwang Baw /Bao: /Tembaw (hwang = the people of)" since their migration from upper Baram to the Bahau-Pujungan basin. They tend to consider themselves part of the Kayan-Busang and Ga'ay groups who strongly influenced them (Devung 1978: 1-2, Blust 1984: 134 n.15, Sellato 1995: 5-7), while the latter distinguish the former because of linguistic differences and/or lack of developed chieftainship and social stratification. Sellato suggests (1995) that they share cultural characteristics with their neighbors, the Lun Dayeh. The Kayanized Uma:' Apan (Hopan) and the Ga'ay-ized Wahau (Wehea) also originally belonged to this group.

Here I outline Kayanic ethnohistory based on my field data from East Kalimantan. From their oral histories and present distribution, many Kayanic groups seem to have come first from northern Sarawak, mainly from the Baram basin. The Bahau (and part of the Lun Dayeh) were formerly scattered over the northern tributaries of the Baram and possibly other rivers such as the Limbang and Trusan. The Kayan-Busang settled an area from the southern Baram to Usun Apau and part of the upper Baluy. Both groups coexisted, fought or allied, and mixed with one another in the Baram basin (see Map 2). Then the Ga'ay came. They were a warlike people with a strong chieftainship and an iron industry, clever diplomats, and traders. These latecomers were probably the main impulse behind the great migration of Kayanic people across the Central Borneo ranges, for a demand for heads, slaves, and forest products to maintain their chieftainship urged them towards the frontier. The Ga'ay, who allegedly originated from "Tiong Kok" (4), seem to have come from somewhere north of the Baram basin, possibly from around the old Brunei kingdom on the Lawas (see Nicholl 1980). From here, they migrated southward, allying themselves with the Bahau and Lun Dayeh, or driving them into the Kelabit-Kerayan highlands (see Map 3).

The first settlers of the Kayan basin, probably part of the Ga'ay and their Bahau allies, named this river Kejin / Kejien / Kejuyn (in Ga'ay) / Kaya:n (in Bahau of Mahakam), which means "our place / our territory". Later, it became their ethnic label, "Kaya:n / Kiya:n / Kayan", just like the endonyms of their neighbors, "Ulun Benua (in Bulungan)", "Ulun Pagun (Tidung)", and "Lun Bawang (Lun Dayeh)" (benua, pagun, bawang = a village, longhouse, country). Successive immigrant streams, however, flooded and fully occupied the area. This triggered serious conflict, wars, and finally further migration from the Kayan basin, "their place." Comparing several Ga'ay oral genealogies, we find that there were two dominant immigrant streams into the Kayan basin. One was followed by the Long Way (of Long Bleh, Long Tesak, and Long Bentuk villages in Kutai; and Long Lesa:n in Berau), who had already entered the lower-middle Kayan from the Bahau-Iwan basins by about A.D.1500 and who remained settled there for some 250 years ( roughly calculating one generation at about 25 years, see Table 1), and then gradually invaded the upper Kayan and the headwater areas of the Berau (c.f. Guerreiro 1998:72). They were joined by the Long Nah, Wehea, and other Ga'ay. In the other stream, the Long Glat and their Kayan-Busang allies moved directly into the Apo Kayan sometime around 1650, mainly by way of Usun Apau and the upper Baluy highlands where they had been long settled (from 1350-1650, according to oral genealogies, see Table 2). After the two streams met in the Kayan basin, the struggle for power and land must have become severe, for two-thirds of the Kayan-Busang (and a part of the Bahau) were obliged, or decided willingly, to return to Sarawak (and later, partly to East and West Kalimantan). This was also stimulated by another factor: Uma:' Juman's power over the Kayan-Busang was strong enough to resist other Ga'ay chiefs of that time (see also Harrisson 1961, Low 1882, Nyipa 1958, Sandin 1975).

Through this process, new ethnic categories were established. From early times in Sarawak, ethnocentric Ga'ay used to call other inland groups "Ken'yeah / Ken'yah", a name which means "inlanders" or "barbarians". (5). It was originally used to refer to all of their neighbors, such as the Kayan-Busang, Bahau, Lun Dayeh and others; or, they used the term "Lembueh / Lembuih /Lembus", with the same meaning as "Ken'yeah", but having less pejorative connotations. However, having allied and mixed with the Ga'ay for a long time in the Baram and Kayan basins, part of the "Ken'yeah" started to consider themselves "civilized" and naturally preferred other ethnonyms. Hence, some living on the banks of Kayan river called themselves "Kayan" and some in Bahau similarly became "Bahau" (except for some groups, such as the Hwang Tri:ng, Busang, and others, who brought their names from the Malaysian side of the border). Finally, the Kayan-Busang and Bahau came to call all newcomers to the Kayan basin "Kenyah", a translation of "Ken'yeah", to emphasize their political superiority over the latter. That is why the Kenyah today consist of persons speaking various languages, with resemblances to the Kayan-Busang, Bahau, Ga'ay, Lun Dayeh, and others. There seem to be several reasons why the Ga'ay felt themselves superior to the "Ken'yeah". According to oral histories, some of the latter did not know blacksmithing originally, or boat-making, and some ate tubers or sago (6) instead of rice, and others formed less stratified societies. Kayanic peoples are generally known as indigenous smiths, but I suspect many of the most skilled came from the GA'ay subgroup ("ga'ay" may derive from gay, an engraved sword, according to Guerreiro's field data from Long La'ay village in Berau).

Thus, these presentday Kayanic peoples, or those living in "Kejin/Kayan", expanded over the island. Those in East Kalimantan scattered into the lower Kayan, Malinau, Segah, and Kelay, then, continuing farther, to the Mahakam, Belayan, Kelinjau, Telen, and Wahau (see Map 3), in the process, raiding, driving out, or assimilating earlier settlers such as the Belusu' (Berusu'), Betaneng/Petaning (mixed into the Bulungan and extinct), Menung (Ot Danum today?), Lebbo' (Lebu, a subgroup of the Basap, see Guerreiro 1985: 108), Penihing, and Tunjung-Benua' (who had lived in headwater areas of the Mahakam, Kelinjau, and Telen). They once occupied even coastal areas, especially in Bulungan and Kutai; but then, the great majority returned to the middle-upper areas, as seen in their contemporary ethnic distribution shown in Map 1, except for those who remained in the lowlands and converted to Islam.

Wet Rice Cultivation among Kayanic Peoples in East Kalimantan

Now I wish to turn attention to Kayanic wet rice cultivation, drawing materials from both my own field data and from the studies of others. Most of my research was carried out in Kutai regency, especially in Long Pahangai district on the upper Mahakam. I also made short visits (1-2 months) to the following districts: Long Iram, Long Hubung, Long Bagun, Muara Ancalong, Muara Wahau (Kutai), Sambaliung, Gunung Tabur, Ulu Segah (Berau), Tanjung Palas, Peso', and Malinau (Bulungan).

Case 1: The Uma:' Suling (Kayan-Busang, Long Pahangai)

The Uma:' Suling, one of the largest subgroups of Kayan-Busang in East Kalimantan, inhabit the upper Mahakam of Kutai. Today, they are divided into four villages in Long Pahangai district (4441 persons in 1997): Long Pahangai (1193 persons); officially divided into Long Pahangai 1, 962, and Long Pahangai 2, 231), Long Isun (401), Naha Aru: (204), and Lining Ubing (161). During my research in Long Pahangai village (mainly 1996-7), there were about 110 farms owned by a single household or sometimes a few households, 15 of which, at least, had wet rice fields alongside their dry fields (this number may be larger, as it is possible that I may have missed the wet fields that were in fallow at that time). My first impression was that these wet rice fields were sawah fields and had been created as a result of recent outside influence, for the village contained the post of the district officer (kantor camat) , as well as other offices (including DEPERTA (Department of Agriculture)), schools, a health center (PUSKESMA S), a Catholic church, a mosque and so on. Almost all of the fields, however, were not sawah but rawa fields (7). They had dykes, a simple irrigation system with small ditches or bamboo pipes, and were sometimes combined with fish ponds; but they were usually not tilled or leveled. These fields were concentrated on swampy flats around shallow streams (mainly of the Isau, a tributary of the Mahakam) or were located at the foot of a hill behind the village. They were cultivated for several years, and then left fallow just like dry fields, or they were totally abandoned if their productivity markedly decreased. One exceptional villager, who had learned techniques of sawah cultivation in a city, commented: "The reason why people of this village cannot stabilize the productivity of wet rice, or continue to use a field without fallow, is because of the lack of tilling." His words show the characteristic of their traditional style of wet rice cultivation, though, in fact, tilling is not always effectual in increasin g the productivity of wet rice fields in Kalimantan.

According to the Uma:' Suling, they used to practice rawa cultivation not only around Long Pahangai but also in the Meraseh (a tributary of the Mahakam), their old territory including their former settlement at Long Isun. Based on a rough calculation from oral genealogies, they seemingly came from the headwaters of the Mahakam (Bato' Masa:n) to Long Isun some 150-175 years ago (see Table 3). Then, part of this group moved to Long Pahangai between 19 10-20. If they have farmed wet fields since their first arrival at Long Isun, they have been practicing rawa cultivation in this region since the 1800s.

As to why wet rice cultivation is not more extensively practiced, the villagers gave me several answers. The dry land of this region is generally fertile enough to satisfy their subsistence requirements. They can do wet rice cultivation only where there exists swamp land suitable for it; and there is not much swamp or wet land in the region, and such land as exists is usually in narrow spots. Some of the springs and streams used as water sources dry up during times of serious drought. Such explanations were often heard when I went to other Kayanic villages. The rice yields of the Long Pahangai villagers in fact showed no significant difference between dry and wet fields. It was a lean year during my research, and almost all the farmers producted about 20 blek of rice harvest from one blek of rice seeds (blek = a milk can) (8) . Farms in the Isau area which included a quantity of wet rice fields produced 18.55 blek on average (minimum 15, maximum 21 blek). Only those in the Danum Bua:' (a tributary of the Maha kam) got 45.3 blek on average (min. 25, max. 64). This difference seems to depend not on farming type (ladang or rawa) but rather on the vegetation that covered the farm land. Twenty percent of the farms, including those of the Danum Bua:', were opened in old secondary forest which had been left fallow for 1020 years at least, and all of them showed higher productivity than the rest. The latter were made in young secondary forest (5-8 years) or in continuous fields (2-4 years).

A few months after harvest (in May or June), the Uma:' Suling villagers, like Kayanic peoples in general, enter the forest to look for new farm sites, exchange information, negotiate with each other, and finally start to open fields (in Long Pahangai, more than 50 percent of the farms, including both dry and wet rice fields, are 1-2 ha, 20 percent 2-3 ha, 20 percent less than 1 ha, and under 10 percent, more than 3 ha). Many people start to clear wet fields after they have opened dry fields, seemingly because the former are much easier and faster to clear. Clearing is done with a traditional iron bush knife (mala:t) an iron ax (asey), and wooden hooks which are used to draw grass (kawit) towards the person who is cutting it (see Scheme 1). Chainsaws may be used to open primary or old secondary forest. Slashed grass and trees are cut up and piled in the field to be dried, or sometimes they are left to decay, depending on soil conditions. People prepare rice seed beds within or outside the field, check and repa ir dykes, ditches and pipes (today, they also use plastic pipes and rubber hoses). With some money, other tools such as hoes, sickles, or cattle are also available (harrows and ploughs are rarely seen in the region); nevertheless, only a few households do tilling with hoe or cattle-trampling. Instead of tillage or leveling, the villagers do a kind of puddling with their bare feet when they catch fish in the fields before transplanting so as to save the seedlings from damage. After drying the fields for three weeks to one month, they fire them just like dry fields, and then inundate them. Transplanting seems to be generally practiced today, but some still dibble and sow rice seeds before inundating the field. About one month after planting, from October to November, the first weeding starts in both dry and wet fields, if needed. The people use spatula-shaped weeders (peluka'), or weed by hand in wet fields. The second weeding in dry fields takes place around November to December. The harvest starts in February and continues usually until the end of March. The rice panicles are reaped with a half-rounded knife blade (gentu'), collected in baskets, and brought back to the village where the rice is threshed by foot. Rice is later pounded with wooden pestles and boat-shaped mortars (usually two- to four-holed); or, for some money, it can be mechanically threshed by the village rice-miller.

There are 25 rice varieties commonly seen in Long Pahangai, five of which were recently introduced from the outside. The 20 local varieties are categorized into parey and parey ubak, that is, ordinary and glutinous rice. There are 12 ordinary varieties, consisting of 9 dry rice, 2 wet rice (parey luma' peka' = "rice of the swampy field"), and one early ripening variety used for religious purposes (called parey hava' or udo:'). There are eight glutinous varieties, including seven dry rice and one wet rice.

Case 2: The Hwang Tri:ng (Bahau, Long Iram)

The Hwang Tri:ng, a Bahau subgroup in the middle Mahakam (today, divided into Tering Lama and Tukul villages in the Long Iram district, and Muyub Hilir village in the Melak district), also cultivate wet rice in almost the same way as the Uma:' Suling. Five villages of different neighboring ethnic groups have been studied (Devung et al. 1991-2): the village of the Tunjung, that of the Tunjung and Benua', of the Hwang Tri:ng, of the Kapuas mixed with the Busang from the upper Mahakam, and of mixed Tunjung, Banjar and Bugis. Wet fields in these villages are generally dependent on rainfall as their water source. Most of them are continuously used without fallowing, except those of the Hwang Tri:ng which are cleared only during years of drought (Devung et al. 1991-2:63, 85). There are periodic droughts (usually every 4 to 5 years) in Borneo, seemingly related to the El Nino (see MacKinnon et al. 1996:34). One of these drought years occurred during my research (1997-8). The Hwang Tri:ng open wet fields (average 1-2 ha) with slightly curved bush knives (lubo') and iron axes (hay), fell larger trees and plants, and dry and fire the cleared vegetation, just like their neighbors in the upper Mahakam. After about a month, the rice sprouts are transplanted from the nursery bed to the field. This is done around the end of September or the beginning of October. They weed with spatula-shaped weeders (peluka') until the rice starts to ripen. It is then harvested with knives (gantu'), and later threshed by foot (Devung et al. 1991-2:85-91) (see Scheme 1).

The people consider this form of cultivation to be traditional. It may, however, be less practiced today than it was when the Hwang Trimg still lived in the Kayan basin. This is because in their present territory oil and iron percolate into their wet-field water sources (Devung personal communication). Indeed, the village is located on a rolling plain above coal and oil reservoirs. Villages in the upper Mahakam, like the Uma' Suling (about 150 km from Tering Lama), are situated on more fertile uplands, which extend to the Kayan basin and partly include volcanic soils (MacKinnon et al. 1996:24-8). Moreover, they have another reason to prefer dry rice. According to the people, wet rice has a smell, seemingly of mud. In contrast, many varieties of dry rice are said to be fragrant (Devung personal communication). (Similar views have been reported from East Timor, see Metzner 1977).

The Hwang Trimg make a terminological distinction between dry rice and wet rice, paray and paya:', in contrast to the Kayan-Busang and Ga'ay who use the term party / pare: (in Kayan-Busang) or play (in Ga'ay) to refer to both dry and wet rice. There are five local varieties of wet rice and three from outside, and 17 varieties of dry rice, including five glutinous rice varieties (hae:') and two foreign varieties (Devung et al. 1991-2:88, 101-3). It is interesting that the Wahau, Ga'ay-ized Bahau people of the Wahau and Telen (Muara Wahau district), also use the term paya:' for wet rice, although they seldom practice either sawah or rawa cultivation because of the frequent flooding of streams in the region. King reports that the Maloh of West Kailmantan also make such a distinction between ase and paya (1985:154). It is not clear whether the latter is a common Maloh term or a loan word from Malay, Iban, or another language. The term paya:' in Hwang Trimg has the same meaning as padi paya' in Malay and Iban, alt hough the Hwang Trimg actually use peka' or bawa Tri:ng to refer to swamp lands or marshes (like the Kayan-Busang).

Case 3: The Pua' (Bahau, Pujungan) and the Kenyah

Sellato and WWF (World Wide Foundation for Nature) staff recently conducted research in the Bahau basin, where the Kenyah and some Bahau (the Pua') practice rawa cultivation, especially in Long Tebulo, Long Alango, Long Kemuat on the Bahau, and Long Pua' on the Pujungan (Day 1995: 6; Dyson 1995:10, 23; Damus 1995: 25; Lamis 1995: 12-3). Also, I heard that there are old wet field sites in Lurah, but it is not clear whether these were made by previous Kenyah settlers, such as the Bakung (1945-69, see Ngindra 1995:5-6), or by the Bahau of much earlier times (such as the Nyibun, Berap, or Ngorek Apo, see Sellato 1995).

Their wet fields are also of rawa type and the methods of cultivation they follow are by and large the same. The Bahau basin, near the Malaysian border area in the Bulungan regency, consists of steep slopes with volcanic soil, dotted with numerous small swamps and marshes. In Long Alango, the Leppo' Ma'ut Kenyah start clearing in May and dry the cut vegetation for about one month. They utilize swamps or old sites of fish ponds for farming, a practice they reportedly learned from people in Kerayan and Malaysia. They fire the fields, cut up the larger unburned timbers, repair dykes, and inundate; they do not till or trample, except for a small number of people who own hoes. A plot in the farm is chosen to serve as a seed bed. Planting is done in July in two ways, either broadcast or by dibbling. Seeds are then covered with soil and the field is flooded with water. Transplanting takes place in August. The people weed for three months until the fields are harvested in January (Damus 1995:25-7). Alternatively, the y prepare seed beds first, and clear the fields in September, after dry rice planting is completed (Day 1995:16). The methods used in Long Pujungan (by the Uma' Lasa:n Kenyah) are almost the same. They do not till and they fallow their wet fields just as they do their dry rice fields (Day 1995: 16-7). However, there seems to be a kind of puddling with bare hands and baskets after fields are inundated (Sellato 1997: 32), a method possibly learned from the neighboring Lun Dayeh (Sellato personal communication). The Pua' of Long Pua' also make rawa fields around the village and along the upper Pua', irrigating them with bamboo pipes (Dyson 1995:23).

A major difference in the agriculture of the Bahau basin compared with Uma:' Suling and Hwang Tri:ng is the frequent use of stone tools. Sellato suggests that megalithic remains such as urn-dolmen and stone tools found in the middle-upper Bahau seemingly belonged to the Bahau settlers of earlier times and that the Kenyah acquired them from the former (Sellato 1995:13-20, see also 1996). The fact that these Kenyah actively practice wet rice cultivation may reflect a lack of iron tools in the past. Dry rice cultivation involves heavy work, such as clearing thick undergrowth, felling large trees and cutting them into pieces, and removing weeds from hard soil, work for which the people typically need metal tools. On the other hand, vegetation in wet rice fields is not as thick and is slower to recover; weeds can be uprooted with bare hands, and large trees have difficulty rooting in wet earth. Indigenous cultivators themselves recognize that work on wet rice fields is much easier, so that the old or the sick ofte n make rawa fields around a village (Dyson 1995: 27, Day 1995: 17). I also know of several old couples in the upper Mahakam who recently switched from ladang to rawa cultivation nearer to the village. They told me that they had become too old to open dry fields far away from the settlement as they had done before, when they were younger.

Twenty-seven rice varieties are grown in Long Alango, nine varieties of dry rice (mainly glutinous) and 18 wet rice varieties (Damus 1995 37-54). The Kenyah of Apau Ping plant 38 varieties, 35 of which were collected and examined. These included 23 dry varieties, including 10 glutinous ones, six wet varieties, and another six for both dry and wet fields (compare with Setyawati 1995: 7). In Long Pua', they plant 18 varieties, seven of which are glutinous. It is not reported, however, whether these are planted in dry or wet fields (Dyson 1995:26). The Bakung Kenyah of Long Aran have 51 varieties of dry rice, including 12 glutinous varieties (Ngindra 1995: 31).

Case 4: The oral history of the Long Way (Ga'ay, Muara Ancalong)

Sellato (1997: 31) summarizes by saying that wet rice farming on the Pua' and Pujungan Rivers seems to be of some antiquity, while that of Long Alango appears to be relatively recent. In fact, some people in the latter region consider their techniques of wet rice cultivation to have been adapted from the outside, from Malaysia, Kerayan, or Java (Damus 1995:25, Lamis 1995:12, see also Devung 1996:67). But I suspect that rawa cultivation has existed there at least since the arrival of early Kayanic immigrants from Sarawak, and that the Kenyah learned it from the former. Here are some interesting data from Kayanic oral history: The Long Way, one of the Ga'ay subgroups, have numerous stories of their golden age in the Kayan basin. Among them is that of Baeng Wuang Ngo:k (or, Beang Wang Ngo:k in Wehea), one of the most famous chiefs among the Ga'ay and Wehea. According to a genealogy I recorded, he lived on the upper Kayan Iut around 1650 (see Table 1). He was so perverse, haughty and untrustworthy from his youth that his followers at last ran away, and he was obliged to leave with his family for the village of relatives on the upper Kayan. On their way, they stopped at a village called Min Bea Gueng Lang Me' Hengoy (me' hengoy = wet rice field), where the people made wet rice farms. Baeng amused himself by destroying some dykes and letting out all the water. This made an old villager, Tung Kela: Jiw, so angry (he was apparently a kind of guardian responsible for the irrigation system of the village) that he scolded the insolent boy, who then killed him. As soon as the village chief heard of this, he drove Baeng and his family out of the village.

One more story: After their migration from Kayan Iut, part of the Long Way settled in the headwaters of the Belayan (Tabang) sometime around 1750 (see Table 1). They found this region particularly suitable for wet rice cultivation and farmed only in this way. Years later, however, there was a serious drought and their fields suffered from water shortage. One man destroyed the dykes of other peoples' fields in order to flood his own. This started a quarrel and people began to fight with each other, until there was a murder. At this, the village chief forbade his followers to make wet fields. His name is unmentioned in the story, but apparently it was Baeng Lewi:ng, who, according to oral genealogies, lived five generations after Baeng Wuang Ngo:k.

If oral tradition is reliable on this point, wet rice cultivation (probably rawa) was already being practiced when the Long Way and Wehea were still living in the Kayan basin. Even though there are some discrepancies in the genealogies, the dates of the events above seem accurate to some extent. In fact, the Long Way appeared in Kutai near the end of the 18th century. It is said that the Ga'ay and Bahau migrants allied themselves with the Muslims in the Mahakam basin, seemingly those of small kingdoms in the middle-lower Mahakam, such as Martapura, which had been conquered by Kutai, and together they attacked the Kutai Sultanate sometime in the 1780s or 90s (Dewall 1846-7). So, the Long Way must have arrived in the upper Belayan by this time.


The basic characteristics of traditional wet rice cultivation among Kayanic people can be summed up as follows: fields are cleared with bush knives and axes; they are then dried and fired, or the cut vegetation is allowed to decompose; seed beds are prepared and the rice seedlings are transplanted, or seeds are sown directly using a dibbling stick (some legends suggest the possibility of broadcasting seeds in the past); fields are weeded with a spatula-shaped weeder; rice is harvested with a blade knife; threshing is done by foot, and pounding with a wooden pestle and mortar. Fields are usually cleared in swamps or marshes, are bunded with dykes and irrigated using ditches, bamboo pipes, or reservoirs, or depend on natural rainfall. Sometimes rice cultivation is combined with fish breeding. Cultivators do not till, level, or puddle with special tools, such as a harrow, hoe, puddling wheel, or cattle, except for foot- and hand-puddling before transplanting (sometimes as a public village event, see Yuga et al. 1985-6:63). Farmers usually cultivate both dry and wet rice. Some fields are continuously used; others need to be fallowed.

Wet Rice Cultivation among the Lun Dayeh

For a comparison with the Kayanic rawa method, I want to look now at sawah cultivation as practiced by their neighbors, the Lun Dayeh. There are significant regional variations in the way in which wet rice is cultivated among this group, but two groups may serve as examples: the Kerayan Lun Dayeh of East Kalimantan and the Kelabit of Sarawak.

Case 1: The Lun Dayeb (Kerayan)

The Kerayan Lun Dayeh in general make use of both dry and wet rice fields. Among them, the main sawah cultivators today are the Lun Ba:'/Lun Nan Ba:', a linguistic subgroup in Kerayan Ulu and Kerayan Tengah (ba:', nan ba:'= swampy land). Others, such as the Lun Tana: Lu:n and Lun Ngilu', cultivate more ladang than sawah. In Kerayan, in several villages in Kerayan Darat, such as Long Api, Kuala Belawit (Yuga et al.1985-6: 55-95), people pasture water buffaloes (krubau) for three months in their fields after harvest. At the end of June or the beginning of July, they take all the buffaloes to the forest, then clear the land with slightly curved bush knives (karit lemidik) and wooden hooks (aud). Later they transport the slashed grass by boats (alud) and level the land with oar-shaped spades (ukad), which can also be used for repairing dykes, transplanting, and other tasks (see Scheme 1). In flat areas, they do not divide fields into smaller plots with dykes, but, in some cases, prepare a single plot as large as two hectares. Ditches or bamboo pipes for conducting water are checked and repaired. Before preparing seed beds, they drain the fields and catch the fish that would otherwise damage the young seedlings. A month after sowing, they transplant the young rice plants using the ukad. The seedlings are carried in alud, and a forked bamboo stick (ropang) is used to plant rice sprouts in deeper mud. They weed with spatula-shaped weeders (blu'ing) until the rice ripens. The panicles are then reaped with a straight bamboo knife (getu), or an iron knife, if the latter is available, they are threshed with bare feet, and pounded with a one-holed mortar on which one or two persons stand while pounding. It is said that they used bamboo rafts (raft) instead of the alud before the 1960s. At that time, iron spades (shovels) also came into widespread use in the region, but some, even today, prefer the ukad (Yuga et al.1985-6: 128-30). Milling machines were introduced around 1974 (Yuga et al. 1985-6: 137). Various traditional dev ices, such as scarecrows to protect the rice from birds or other animals, are seldom used today (1985-6: 133-4).

Case 2: The Kelabit (Bario)

On the other hand, Kelabit rice cultivation, as practiced at Pa' Ramapoh village in Bario (Talla 1979: 312-25), appears quite different. Until the 1950s, the Pa' Ramapoh people used an ornithological calendar to fix the start of the farming year. At that time, after seasonal floods, they trampled the fields with their bare feet, made dykes (bubpun) of grass and mud, and divided the fields further into a patchwork of plots with smaller dykes (atak) for better water control (sometimes creating as many as 300 plots to one acre). Rice grains were soaked in water for two nights, then removed for two nights, and finally washed and broadcast in inundated seed beds. Men spent time checking ditches, canals, and bamboo pipes, and making farm huts. After transplanting, the people turned the bubpun and atak, now covered with grass, upside down, in order that the decomposing grass might fertilize the soil. They weeded twice and protected the ripening rice with various devices intended to frighten away birds and animal pes ts. Harvesting was done with a straight bamboo knife (pranih bulu') and threshing with bare feet. Kelabit rice fanning, however, was drastically changed during the 1955-68 period, first, because of the spread of iron tools that gradually seem to have entered the region during this time. Farmers now started wet rice cultivation in May or June, cleared fields with slightly curved bush knives (tunggul pelamidik) or iron machetes and with hooks (a 'ud). Cut grass was left to decay for about one month, then turned over. Meanwhile, farmers inundated their fields and leveled the ground with hoes and boats (alud tanah), which were apparently introduced from Kerayan. Soaked seeds were broadcast in the seed beds and later transplanted. Weeding was done with a spatula-shaped weeder (baluing) and the people set up scarecrows to protect the maturing grain from pests. The pranih was used for harvesting (Talla 1979: 329-43). After 1968, water buffaloes (kerubau), which were introduced from Kalimantan, became popular and tod ay the people use them mainly, as in Kerayan, for trampling and fertilizing their fields or for carrying logs and firewood (Talla 1979: 346-7). In some cases, they are also used for tilling and puddling. (whether buffaloes puddle or only trample a field probably depends on the depth of mud and the size of a plot.) In earlier times, they claim to have pastured deer for the same purpose, also to utilize their meat and their horns for machete handles and other objects (Talla 1979: 383-5, see also Sellato 1997: 37). Fields were also used for fish breeding (carp), but carp in fact damage or destroy dykes (Talla 1979: 348).


Although the situation in Kerayan before the 1960s (or, before the '30s, when Catholic missionaries first entered the region) is obscure, we can say that among the Lun Dayeh of the Kerayan-Kelabit Highlands, iron tools were formerly scarce. Only in the early twentieth century did a shift apparently occur from stone or bamboo tools to iron ones. The spread of water buffaloes seems more recent, though some early records show their use for trampling and puddling (for the Kelabit, see Hose and McDougall 1912: 97, and for the Kerayan in 1939, see Schneeberger 1979: 52). In the past, deer may have been used instead of buffaloes, at least by the Kelabit. It is interesting that Kerayan farmers made use of a combination of oar-shaped spades and rafts or boats, features which they share with the Ifugao and Toraja. By contrast, the Kelabit had no leveling tools but rather used two kinds of dykes to control water level, just like the Batak of Sumatra (see Takaya, Tachimoto & Furukawa 1981). Other features are almost the same. Nevertheless, there are some variations in other areas; for example, the Lun Dayeh of Mengalong (in Sabah) bum the slashed vegetation like Kayanic groups (Grain 1973: 6).

Rawa Cultivation as a Malayan Type of Rice Culture

Compared to the water impoundment systems of the Lun Dayeh's wet fields, Kayanic peoples bund and inundate their wet fields, but do not level them. They do not use cattle for trampling or puddling either. Such a system, not sawah but rawa cultivation, seems to be broadly shared by many ethnic groups in Borneo. Wet rice cultivation among Sarawak groups (e.g. Iban, Land Dayak, Malay) shares basically the same features as Kayanic rawa cultivation, for example, non-tillage, sowing and transplanting with a dibbling stick, bunding with dykes, and dependence on rainfall or stream or spring irrigation, and frequent use of fallowing (Fukui 1980: 712-4, 738-40). West Kalimantan groups (Maloh, Kantu'), in addition to dry rice, also grow wet rice as a secondary crop in swamps and irrigated fields (King 1985: 154, Seavoy 1973: 221-3). Further, wet rice fields like those of Borneo are reported in Sumatra (Takaya, Tachimoto & Furukawa 1981, Marsden 1966: 66), Thailand (Kaida 1987), Japan, Madagascar (Takaya 1988), Nigeria ( Wakatsuki 1990), and elsewhere. Rawa cultivation thus exists widely in the world.

Kayanic rice cultivation can be said to typlify a "Malayan type of rice culture" (Tanaka 1991). Tanaka distinguishes various types of rice culture in Asia, considering them as sets of techniques, tools, and practices (including rituals) with their separate historical backgrounds and distribution. He categorizes them into three major types and describes those of the Southeast Asian Archipelago as comprising a "Malayan type", distinctive from the other two, the Chinese and Indian types, which are characterized by intensive tillage with plough or harrow drawn by cattle, harvesting with sickle and threshing by beating or cattle-trampling, and so on. In terms of practices and techniques, the rice culture of the Southeast Asian Archipelago (the Malayan type) is thought to be less affected by the other two than that practiced in continental Southeast Asia and is considered to have preserved techniques derived from an "original, primitive type" of rice culture, which is supposed to have originated somewhere in the re gion extending from southern China to northern India (Tanaka 1991: 307). Regional variations in the Malayan type give rise to five subgroups; wet fields in (1) inland Malaysia and Sumatra characterized by the coexistence of cattle-trampling, foot-trampling and non-tillage; (2) the coastal area around the Sunda Sea, without tillage; (3) the Philippines, Sulawesi and Borneo, with a combination of cattle-trampling, foot-trampling, and puddling with an oarshaped spade; (4) East Indonesia with a combination of cattle-trampling and puddling with a digging stick; and (5) Java and Bali, whose rice culture had been much influenced by both the Indian and Chinese types so that it has lost its original Malayan features (Tanaka 1991: 307, 326-54). The most important point relating to this paper is that Tanaka considers the Malayan type to be a mixture of old rice culture types including both ladang and rawa cultivation, developed in a different way from the other types of rice culture on the Asian Continent (Tanaka 1991: 307, 323, 326). Fukui, who questions the hypothesis that dry rice cultivation originally preceded wet rice cultivation, also suggests that the flexibility of rice farming technology shared by different groups in Sarawak is a result of environmental adaptation (involving both dry and wet fields, depending on local conditions) (1980: 717, 724-5). Kayanic wet rice fields thus belong to subgroup (2) of the Malayan type, or in some cases to subgroup (1).

The lack of intensive tillage does not signify primitiveness or backwardness in the case of the Malayan type, but is rather a reflection of adaptation to the natural conditions of the Southeast Asian Archipelago, such as its deep peat, thick layers of twined grassroots, frequent flooding, erosion, and so on (Tanaka 1991: 338, Fukui 1980: 714, 732). Though tool-tilling with cattle, as practiced in East and South Asia, at once functions for clearing, soil-refining, leveling, kneading, and fertilizing the soil, non-tillage can produce higher rice productivity than elaborate land preparation in some areas of Southeast Asia (for example, in Thailand, see Kaida 1987: 87). In other areas, cattle- or foot-trampling and leveling with an oar-shaped spade like that seen among the Lun Dayeh above can replace tillage. Trampling is widely distributed throughout Southeast Asia, not only in the archipelago but also on the continent, and in parts of East Asia as well, such as Taiwan and the Ryukyu Islands of Japan (Tanaka 199 1: 328-33). An oar-shaped spade also appears among the Toraja of South Sulawesi and the Ifugao of Luzon (Tanaka 1991: 335-7).

Discussion: Preference for Dry Rice Cultivation

Here the question arises: Though the Malayan type of rice culture is broadly shared throughout the Southeast Asian Archipelago, the Kayanic peoples as well as other Borneo groups generally prefer dry rice cultivation to wet rice cultivation. Why does wet rice cultivation remain marginal? Is the matter to be explained only by environmental reasons?

I have indicated some of the reasons my informants gave for preferring dry rice cultivation. These include restrictions of nature such as soil and water conditions, the scarcity of swamp or wet land suitable for rice cultivation, periodic drought, frequent floods, and so on. Secondly, some individuals and ethnic groups are fond of the taste of dry rice or its fragrance when compared to wet rice. Thirdly, some say that their dry rice fields are fertile enough without having to plant wet ones, except under exceptional circumstances. In fact, the productivity of the rawa fields in Long Pahangai is, more or less, the same as that of dry fields. Dry rice cultivation in infertile uplands of Kalimantan may have advantages in terms of nutrition, for the quantity and density of forest vegetation as an alternative manure is usually richer in dry land than in swamp or wet land.

Fourthly, from a technical point of view, the lack of leveling in Kayanic farming (and among other groups as well) is an obstacle to the adoption of wet rice cultivation. As already noted, intensive tillage is not necessarily done in Southeast Asia. As long as the wet rice fields are cleared on flat land, puddling or trampling is enough to improve water impoundment. However, some people living in mountainous areas, like the Kayanic peoples, may have difficulty establishing wet fields because flat land in such areas is usually limited to riverbanks or to the foot of mountains. To open wet fields on a large scale would require utilization of the slopes. But, here, without leveling techniques, water depth cannot be controlled, so that some rice seedlings wither or decay from not enough, or too much, water. Water levels can be controlled to some extent using dykes as seen in the case of the Kelabit, but even such a method is not perfect.

Efficiency might be a fifth reason. Remember that wet rice cultivation is often considered by local people to involve less "hard work" than dry rice cultivation. This is because the latter includes such arduous tasks as felling trees and rebuilding farm huts whenever new swidden sites are cleared. In contrast, working wet fields can be done without intensive labor. The regenerating vegetation is usually less thick on wet rice fields because it is generally slower to recover; there are seldom large trees, and weeds can be easily pulled out of the softer soil. Also, though they often require fallow periods in Kalimantan, wet rice fields are used longer than ladang, so that wet rice cultivators can stay in a given place for a longer period of time. Those who can no longer perform heavy work or participate in mutual help, such as the old and the sick, stop clearing ladang and switch to wet rice fields. At the same time, however, wet rice cultivation takes much more time in general, in working in muddy fields, man aging dykes, ditches, and opening other gardens for vegetables which cannot grow in wet fields except for taro or kangkung (swamp cabbage, Ipomoea aquatica). Dove reports that, among the Kantu' in West Kalimantan, almost all who work wet rice fields spend more time at this work than those who farm dry fields (1985: 377, table 99). Comparing them with farmers in Central Java, he further explains (1986) why the Kantu' prefer swiddens to irrigated fields. Measuring rice productivity in terms of land, a Javanese sawah yields 2.75 tons per hectare at harvest (and if harvesting twice a year, it will be much higher), while a Kantu' swidden yields 0.75 ton per ha. However, if measured in terms of labor, a Kantu' household gets 7.9 kg of rice per workday as a return on labor, whereas a Central Javanese household (that owns the land its members cultivate) gets only 4.2 kg. So, the return on labor in a Kantu' swidden ranges from 88 to 276 percent higher than on a Javanese sawab (Dove 1986: 224-5).

This efficiency relates to the existence of an iron industry. The poor vegetation of swamps or wet land can be dealt with using only bare hands or stone tools, but such methods would not suffice for clearing primary or old secondary forest and for weeding well-rooted vegetation from hard soil. So, if some people who have a non-metal culture acquire iron tools which can be used to slash vegetation regardless of its condition, they are very likely to switch to this new agricultural system in order to finish their work more speedily. We already saw this with people who formerly practiced wet rice cultivation with stone tools in the Bahau and Kelabit-Kerayan regions. In the case of the Kelabit, farmers before the '50s spent much more of their time involved in land preparation than they do today. They used to trample plants into the soil, turn over cut grass several times, make mud dykes mixed with grass, and turn them over. After the spread of iron tools, however, they abandoned this technology and managed their sawah just like ladang fields. This shows the impact of iron-working on rice farming in Kalimantan. From archaeological studies, Yokokura writes (1992) that metal hoes (of Yunnan and Han styles) were found mainly at Early Metal sites of North and North-Central Vietnam, instead of the iron weeders seen mainly in southern Indochina and the Malay Peninsula. This suggests the coexistence of two different agricultural traditions in early Southeast Asia: on the one hand, rice cultivation with metal hoes originating in China, and, on the other, cultivation without hoes, adapted to the natural environment of Southeast Asia. In the latter tradition, the appearance of metal tools to cut down vegetation and to weed seems to have had greater impact on local agriculture than soil tilling (Yokokura 1992: 272, 305-9). Rice farming in the Southeast Asian Archipelago evidently belongs to the latter tradition in developing alternative techniques and tools. The Kayanic peoples were probably one of the intermediaries in the spre ad of blacksmithing into Central Borneo and thus may have promoted ladang cultivation through the process of conquering their neighbors. Interestingly, several local legends of Berau and Bulungan also suggest the possibility that stone tool cultures persisted until recently, not only within isolated areas like Bahau and Kerayan, but quite commonly over much of these regencies.

This must have promoted, as a sixth reason, the mobility of Kayanic groups and vice versa, whose frontier-oriented way of life motivated their great migrations from north to south, from Sarawak to East Kalimantan. As seen in their ethnohistorical traditions, those migrants always rushed ahead into their New Worlds. Their migrations, especially of the Ga'ay, were quite swift and ambitious when compared with the movements of their neighbors. The latter also migrated far and frequently, but more often within a given area quite familiar to them, that is, within their own territory. For example, when they arrived in the upper Mahakam, the older settlers of the region such as the Ot Danum, Sihang, Bukat, and Punan, fled towards Central and West Kalimantan, from where their ancestors seem to have come. The Tunjung and Benua', who belong to the Barito linguistic group (Hudson 1978: 16-7), once occupied the whole Mahakam basin, but then moved downriver being pushed back by the Kayanic immigrants. I do not know much ab out Lun Dayeh migration, but they have probably been moving back and forth innumerable times within their territory between Apo Duat and the Kerayan-Mentarang ranges (according to some informants from Bulungan, and also compare Harrisson 1967: 126-9 and Talla 1979: 13-8). A typical strategy that the Kayanic peoples used for invading their neighbors' territories was to disturb the latter by frequent headhunting and raiding. At last, they acquired the land they sought, after its inhabitants had given and moved to other regions. From these facts, I suspect that the mobility of the Kayanic peoples was related not only to a quest for new farm lands, rich supplies of fish and game, or by erosion around their villages, but also by a quest for honor and wealth. Their chieftainship was based both on descent and personal skills in trade and warfare, that is, looking for various forest products such as bird nests, gold, gaharu, and also human heads, captives and other loot. Whenever the resources of forest products or e nemies became exhausted locally, the people had to leave and migrate further to find new lands where they could maintain their social structure. To migrate from time to time is an inevitable destiny in such a system. Of course, various other societies were also engaged in trade and war like the Kayanic peoples, but I wish to point out the latter's strong attachment to these activities. They once occupied even coastal areas of East Kalimantan (especially of Bulungan and Kutai), whereas the greater part of them turned back to middle-upper river areas after a while. Also, part of them, mainly Bahau subgroups, intruded into the Mentarang-Tubu basin, but they were less attracted to the fertile lands of the Kerayan. In both cases, the Kayanic peoples did not cling to those regions, though it appears possible they might have had they really wanted to. One may explain this by saying that the return of those immigrants from coastal to upland East Kalimantan was a reaction to Islamic and Western powers from outside the island; others may state that they just migrated at random, passing through not the Kelabit-Kerayan region but the Kayan basin. Still, whatever the case, we can assume at least that they were much interested in pursuing a mobile life and preferred it to a stable life as citizens of trading ports or as intensive wet rice cultivators.

Dry rice cultivation is indeed suitable for a mobile life. Migration over long distances sometimes takes many years. As Guerreiro and Sellato note (1984), first a male team goes to open a path toward the destination, and on the way makes farms to reserve food for the villagers. Then they turn back to the village and move things and materials from the old longhouse to their new farms. Finally, the people migrate, making provisional farms each year until they reach their final destination. In this process, they may prefer to make ladang rather than to spend time looking for swampy spots or in making dykes and irrigation systems, only to abandon them the next year. It would be just the same during wartime and trading activities. Having decided to travel some distance away, they gradually advanced in opening farms each year. Sometimes, they made even other ethnic groups help them with their needs (food, torches, and other service), or taught them rice farming if the latter did not know it at that time (for exampl e, the Long Glat and the post hunter-gatherer Penihing, see Sellato 1986). If they take a short trip, for a few or several months, they will not make farms but take rice with them or receive it from a supply-party of their village. In fact, their rice surplus was seemingly utilized for these purposes, rather than only for selling within the village or neighboring areas. In this way, the Kayanic peoples came to concentrate on dry rice cultivation, so as to save their time for raiding, headhunting, dealing with forest products, migrating, building new longhouses, holding village events like feasts and rituals, and so on. Such a social orientation seems to be a strategy of farmers who live in less fertile lands.

Various activities of the Kayanic peoples above were controlled by hereditary chiefs, and this naturally strenghtened the corporate life of the people. They used to form themselves into a single farming group (daleh in Kayan-Busang, laleh in Bahau, leleh in Ga'ay) for mutual help as well as for protection, where all the households had to make farms side-by-side. If it were impossible to form a single daleh, they divided themselves into two or three groups. After deciding upon a new location(s) for the next year, no one could make a farm elsewhere without special reasons. This could be also a factor for preferring dry rice cultivation, as locating dry fields is much easier than finding a large, continuous wet tract. Sometimes there may have been quarrels about water between the villagers, and the chief may have prohibited the making of wet fields, as we saw in the oral history of the Long Way. Also, with dry rice cultivation, members of a daleh could save time and spend it for mutual help; they accomplished ag ricultural work without delaying, so that they could all together participate in the next activity, such as war or trade. Thus, dry rice cultivation stimulated Kayanic expeditions across the island, which, in turn, were made possible by the existence of iron tools with which to conquer both nature and man.

Concluding Remarks

In this paper, I first described Kayanic wet rice cultivation in East Kalimantan. Like many other ethnic groups in Borneo, the Kayanic peoples have a knowledge of both dry and wet rice cultivation. In contrast to the sawah systems encouraged today throughout Indonesia, Kayanic wet rice fields, though equipped with dykes and simple ditches, are left unleveled. Kayanic groups insist that they have practiced rawa cultivation since they lived in the Kayan basin. However, they tend to concentrate on dry rice farming and generally consider their wet rice fields to be secondary to their dry fields. Several factors, such as low productivity of wet land, or the preferred fragrance of dry rice varieties, help explain this preference. The lack of leveling techniques by which wet rice fields can be established in mountainous areas may also be a factor. Iron-working introduced into Central Borneo mainly by the Kayanic peoples encouraged both ladang cultivation and human ambition. People started to explore the forest, conc entrated on trade and war, and conquered or allied themselves with various groups, all of which in turn accelerated an increase in dry rice farming. Being strongly attached to honor and wealth in connection with their chieftainship, they kept on expanding further and further over the northern part of Borneo, at the expense of a more sedentary life style based chiefly on wet rice cultivation. I do not mean to say that either all these factors must exist in the process of developing dry rice preference in general, or that some of them are inherent only in regard to the Kayanic peoples. Rather, I suggest each of these factors, such as nature, taste, technology, mobility, and social structure, may work, more or less, to change a mode of rice cultivation through historical processes at work within a given society or region. The Kayanic peoples, especially the Ga'ay, were very likely attracted not only to internal affairs like warfare but also to external trade which flourished in ancient Southeast Asia. And their subsistence may have experienced gradual change in adapting to a new life style as agriculturists compatible with specialists in forest products, or also forest-wanderers, who are self-sufficient in rice within a frontier zone. Thus dry rice cultivation became dominant in association with an increase in social mobility. But we need much more data in order to be able to examine these hypothetical factors further.

(1.) Research was supported by the Japanese Ministry of Education and Culture and the Daiwa Foundation. I would like to thank these financial sponsors and my Indonesian counterpart, Mr. Simon G. Devung and Mulawarman University. I also wish to thank all my informants in East Kalimantan. I also received much advice on this paper from Dr. M. Masuda of Tsukuba University, Dr. K Tanaka of the Center of Southeast Asian Studies of Kyoto University, and Dr. B. Sellato of Institut de Recherche sur le Sud-Est Asiatique.

(2.) Here I adopt the term "Lun Dayeh", following Crain (1978:124), as a linguistic category to distinguish the Lun Dayeh (including the Kelabit and Lun Bawang) from Murutic groups. Hudson names this group the "Apo Duat Group." According to some oral histories, part of the Lun Dayeh (at least those in Bario) seem to have been in close contact with Kayanic peoples in the past. In East Kalimantan, Lun Dayeh is pronounced Lun Daye:. The phonetic description used in this article follows Guerreiro (1995: 26, appendix 3). ex.) /e/: [ e], /e/: [[epsilon]], /u/: [u] (nasalized vowel), /: /: length of the precedent vowel, 1'/: [?] (glotal stop in all positions)

(3.) There are several stages in the process of rice farming in East and South Asia. For land preparation, people first till the field before introducing water, so as to soften the soil and at the same time level the field bed with cattle and various tools such as the plough, harrow, hoe, or oar-shaped spade. Then, before transplanting the rice seedlings, they puddle, i.e., stir up the inundated field with their bare feet, cattle, or tools, like the oar-shaped spade, in order to level the field and also to plug up the crevices and leaks in its surface for better water impoundment. This stage broadly exists in Southeast Asia in place of the intensive tillage seen in East and South Asia and it sometimes takes the form of a village event like fish-catching or mud-playing. Trampling (with bare feet or cattle) is basically a kind of puddling, but in some cases, it is done both before and after inundating fields (see the Lun Dayeh example).

(4.) Part of the Ga'ay such as the Long Glat insist they came originally from Tiong Kok, the location of which they do not know. This term possibly originates from some South China dialect like Fukienese, "Tiong Kok", or from "Trung Quoc" in Vietnamese, both of which mean "China". Some Kenyah in Bulungan state that their ancestors left Tiong Kok for Brunei in the age of a Tiong Kok king, "Akalura".

(5.) The original meaning of the term "ken'heah" seems to be "unknown land (for us)" or "frontier", as heard in expressions like "u:n ken'yah Kejuyn (= wild lands in the headwater of Kayan River)", "Suen Ken'yeah Yaeng (=Mont. Yaeng / Unya:ng in some wild land)" and so on.

(6.) "Sago" among those groups refers not only to Metroxylon sagu but also Eugeissona utilis, Arenga, Caryota, and Corypha (Sellato personal communication).

(7.) The U. Suling's neighbors, Long Tuyoq villagers (the Long Glat, Uma:' Tepay and U. Pala:), practice sawah cultivation, which was introduced by a TAD project in the early '80s.

(8.) The people use blek (literally "tin can" in Indonesian), or a condensed milk can, for local measure of rice seeds. As a standard, they sow 3 cans of rice seeds per hectare. Ordinary rice harvest amounts to from 25 to 50 cans per 1 can of seeds; and 50 to 75 cans represents a good harvest, while less than 25 is considered poor.


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Author:Okushima, Mika
Publication:Borneo Research Bulletin
Geographic Code:90SOU
Date:Jan 1, 1999
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