It’s easy to feel gratitude in Bali on the best of days. There’s always plenty of sun, sea, and sand. Fruits and vegetables come fresh from nearby farms with little interference from middlemen, and the moods of strangers I meet on the street are beautiful. It’s not hard to bump into all kinds of tourists here, after all. Their infectious smiles as they stroll leisurely along the beach walk or bike on the main street, lift me up and make me smile in return.
Even if I am rushing off to get my daughters to where they need to be. Or when I'm on my way to work, to face a mountain of emails and a to-do list that never seemed to shorten.
This morning's two big baskets of fresh veggies was delivered to my door.
But that was a few months and what feels like a lifetime ago.
As hard as it was to hear about how the pandemic is affecting everyone in the world, nothing hit home more than what was happening here, at home. Which is what I’ve come to consider Bali to be.
Touristy hotspots are closed or empty. The streets are devoid of the usual gaggle of kids in colorful clothes and silly hats, sunscreen slathered on their cheeks. The boats that would take people around to nearby islands are docked and quiet. And the boarded-up restaurant windows line the street. And it’s not just the tourism industry that’s affected. Farmers here are facing major difficulties.
Fresh produce rely on a number of unpredicatable variables, making them vulnerable to changes in the environment.
I got talking to Atu Kakyang, a 79 year-old rice and watermelon farmer in Sanur. “In previous years, we’d have buyers lined up at least two weeks before harvest time. This year we couldn’t find any buyers.” He sighed followed by a toothless smile. “Selling farming produce isn’t like selling other goods. If we don’t harvest at the right time, and ship them to buyers immediately, the fruits will rot. And that’s months of time, effort, and finances that disappear into thin air.” It gets complicated as well, as Atu Kakyang has to rotate his crops. Relying on weather patterns to figure out which crops will thrive on his small plot of land.
Atu Kakyang, on his field. This friendly farmer was generous enough with his time for a quick chat in between his duties.
Atu Kakyang was lucky though, his son is social media savvy, and he started to sell his father’s watermelons online. Other farmers can be found on several social media platforms too, lush strawberries that red and ripe. Mouth watering courgettes and aubergines, plump tomatoes, and a variety of onions – something which has become somewhat of a scarcity in bigger cities like Jakarta.
I’ve always been a big believer in supporting local businesses. After all, it’s a chance to connect. And right now it's even more important! Businesses may slow down, but hopefully it won’t halt for the shops, restaurants, and goods providers around you.
In that spirit, we ended up working with Atu Kakyang, purchasing and donating 200 of his fresh and delicious watermelons to communities in need. We're also working with Yayasan Mitra Kasih Abadi, an orphanage housing 20 kids, to cover their operations cost for a month.
I’ve been lucky enough that Gardens of the Sun can remain standing strong. In a climate of uncertainty, it’s important that strength is shared.