Mar 2, 2009

Pesta Birumuh - Bidayuh Rice Growing Festival

What is Pesta Birumuh? It's a Rice Growing Festival among the Bidayuh community of Borneo. Rice is the staple in Borneo and the Bidayuh people’s expertise in growing it is a big part of the reason for their developed culture.

The inaugural Pesta Birumuh, a showcase of Bidayuh culture, heritage and arts at Serian Mini Stadium on March 20 to 23 2009, is expected to attract more than 15,000 visitors including foreign tourists.

For the Bidayuh, the first stage of the rice (padi or paddy) production cycle for wet padi is burning the stalks, which creates an alkaline ash. For hill padi, the hill slopes are cleared of vegetation and burned. This is also known as slash and burn (or shifting cultivation).

See photos of Bidayuh Pesta Birumuh - Land Clearing and Burning and Bidayuh Pesta Birumuh - Land Clearing - Bertabun

Rice production either start in the sawah (rice field) or hill slopes (for hill padi) . Rice seed is planted in a protected bed for wet padi while rice seed are throw in a hole punctured on the ground for hill padi.

See photos of Bidayuh Pesta Birumuh - Padi Planting - Nuruk

For wet padi, when rice seedlings start to mature, they are pulled and transplanted by hand to the sawah, where they are planted in rows, about a foot apart. In the various stages of maturing, the sawah is flooded and dried to maximize growth of the rice plants (padi).

For hill padi, the farmers will wait for the rain to nourish the padi planted in the hole punctured at the ground. See photos of Bidayuh Pesta Birumuh - Padi Shootlets

When the padi is about a foot tall, weeding of weeds and grasses are done to make sure the padi get all the nutrients from the ground so that the padi will bear better grains. See photo of Bidayuh Pesta Birumuh - Weeding - Ngebu

In between weeding and before the padi turned yellow, there is little farm activities but you can still be busy with activities such as snapping photo of waterdroplets or watermarbles on the padi leave blades. See awesome photos of water marbles on padi blades at Bidayuh Pesta Birumuh - Young padi with waterdroplets.

See Bidayuh Pesta Birumuh - Padi bearing fruits

Harvesting or ngutum, comes when the rice plants/stalks are a meter tall and the grains ripening (turning bright yellow). Whereas the first stages of rice growing are done by men, it is the women who harvest, using a small palm-held knife.

For wet padi, the rice stalks are threshed right there in the field, with the separated rice seeds now called beras. In traditional villages, the beras is kept in an elevated rice barn, to protect it from wet weather and rats.

Once the rice seeds are separated, drying of padi will take a few days (weather permitting) before the padi can be stored or send to the miller for processing.

The last stage of the rice production cycle is burning the stalks, which creates an alkaline ash.

Rice production is still extremely important to the Bidayuh and it will be interesting to how future generations take to it.

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