Traditional Wisdom in Action: Sustainable Water Resources Management in Ciptagelar, West Java

Among the numerous indigenous communities in Indonesia, Ciptagelar community stands out as a concrete example of harmonization between humans and their living environment. This community, located in Ciptagelar village, Sukabumi, West Java, still adheres to local wisdom in managing natural resources.

The life the indigenous community in Ciptagelar, rooted in the traditions and culture of rice, is closely related to the management of forests and water resources. In order to ensure the sustainability of irrigation, they divide the forest area into three zones, with one of them being designated and protected as a source of spring water.

The Ciptagelar community also implements water governance system specifically regulated by traditional institutions and structures. Generally, water usage is allocated into three main functions: for rice irrigation, household needs, and electricity generation from micro hydro turbines.

Organized Water Management

Water management in the Ciptagelar indigenous village is carried out by the local community members who have assigned specific tasks and responsibilities. The "Rorokan Minintin" or Ulu-ulu, for instance, is responsible for ensuring the regular maintenance of water sources.

Rorokan Manintinis entrusted with the task of leading the inspection and maintenance processes of water sources and channels flowing to the rice fields and settlements. As for the management of micro hydro turbines, it falls under the responsibility of Rorokan Turbin.

Within the traditional institution of Kasepuhan, Rorokan Manintin or Ulu-ulu operates under the coordination of Rorokan Pamakayaan, which handles agricultural affairs. Meanwhile, Rorokan Turbin is part of Rorokan pandai under Rorokan Jero, directly coordinating with the traditional leader, Abah.

Each Rorokan has a specialized team called Barisan which will help the Rorokan to manage water resources. ​Besides considering ancestral guidance and competence, the selection mechanism within this traditional institution is also based on lineage.

Learning from Indigenous People

There are valuable lessons to be learned from the practices of water resource management in the Ciptagelar indigenous village. Firstly, water management based on traditional wisdom emphasizes the balance between human and the environment.

Living in harmony is the key to the success of sustainable governance. This poses a challenge to modern society, which often views water resources as means for development, leading to exploitative utilization.

Secondly, the regulation of water resources in this indigenous community is a collective agreement. Community participation in every aspect of water management and utilization is crucial to create a sense of ownership and responsibility.

Thirdly, the water management organization in indigenous communities has a clear structure and authority, with strong and respected leadership. This could serve as a lesson for universal management systems that often face dualism of authority.

From Local to Global

The water management practices, such as those carried out by Ciptagelar indigenous community, demonstrate alignment with sustainable principles. The Indonesian government has also adopted some of these traditional wisdom practices into legislation and integrated them into policy implementation.

 As the host country of the 10th World Water Forum, Indonesia will showcase the local wisdom of water management from Bali community. The irrigation system known as "Subak" will serve as a global learning experience in managing sustainable water resources.

The 10th World Water Forum, scheduled to take place in Bali from May 18 to 24, 2024, invites all parties to shere knowledge and best practices in water management. Every country in the world undoubtedly possesses unique local wisdom that can be shared ad learned collectively.

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