ecoTalk: Dr. Ni Luh Kartini – “Everyone Must be Responsible for Their Own Waste”



In our latest ecotalk, we profile another inspirational local figure, Dr Ni Luh Kartini, who simply wants us to reconnect back to nature and manage our own waste for a cleaner environment.

For Mrs. Kartini, waste can be “gold.”

“When we manage it well, waste is gold,” says Dr. Ir. Ni Luh Kartini, MS, Head of Laboratory of Soil Biology, Soil Concentration and Environment, Faculty of Agriculture, Udayana University. “That’s why we always encourage composting solution at home rather than sending our organic waste to landfill.”

Dr. Kartini obviously practices what she preaches: she separates her non-organic and organic waste at home. For the non-organic waste, she deposits in a waste bank; for the organic kitchen waste, she manages at home by turning it into solid and liquid compost that she will then use for her tiny garden. Thus, only about 5 – 10% (residue) of her waste goes to landfill.

Dr. Kartini’s organic farm pilot project in Kintamani

The Singaraja-born docent is determined in her effort to bring back organic farming, especially through the help of worms (“You know a soil is healthy when there are worms in it”). Back in 1994, she founded her own foundation, Bali Organic Association (BOA), and their pilot project was located at Batur Selatan village in Kintamani, a project that started in 1998—and only officially launched in 2019!

It’s not easy to redirect our current life trajectory back to (respecting) nature, but she’ll keep trying nevertheless. Particularly since she is now playing three important roles: a founder of BOA, a university docent, and a part of the advisory team to the new Bali governor regarding waste management. So she definitely has the influence.

So what solutions does she offer on responsible waste management? She thinks there is one key aspect to manage the waste issue in Bali. Find out what it is in our ecoTalk with the farmer’s daughter below…

So tell us about BOA Foundation ongoing project?

We have a pilot project in banjar Yeh Mampeh, Batur Selatan village, in Kintamani, where we implemented the organic farming system that involves seven components: cows, worms, biogas, bees, fishes, organic plants, and agrotourism. We started it back in 1998, and finally this year it was officially launched by the Regent of Bangli. It’s not easy to convince people to go organic but we started gaining momentum since 2000 when President Jokowi announced his plan to create 1000 organic villages, and in 2009, Bali has also declared its intention to become an organic island.

In reality, organic farming is far more beneficial. Biogas (from cow manure) can be used to produce electricity and is an eco-friendly alternative to a gas stove. You can even still farm in the dry season with the organic system. Currently, the government has been subsidizing organic compost and 10,000 organic composts come from Bali.

Your work deals with food security and organic farming, can you tell us why it’s important?

For me, it stems from life. We need sustainable food, shelter, and clothes in our lives, within a sustainable environment. When I was little, despite having a simple shelter—in the sense that it wasn’t as luxurious as today—but at least we had enough food around us. We can easily get it from nature because, at that time, nature’s cycle is still good: season changes, and so does the food. Our water still runs clear and we can find fishes in it. If you go for a picnic with only rice, the rest of the food you can find from nature.

Unfortunately, today’s modern agriculture promises everything is provided for. And so now most farmers are abandoning organic compost—from the natural they now turned to factory-made fertilizers. As a result, we are currently facing a situation where nature has gone from being independent in being able to produce itself to be dependent [on chemical fertilizer]. One by one, our natural resources are gone: we lost the worms, eels, grasshoppers, bees, fishes; and clear water now becomes dirty.



The purpose of our movement is that we want to return to real nature. Nobody’s happy with a broken nature; no life necessities are fulfilled with it. All this time, the environment is at the bottom of the priority list, and now we want to put it on the top of the list, and we can achieve it with the wisdom of our Balinese ancestors.

We have what we call here in Bali, bhisama, which is a rule that must be followed by everyone and is immovable. For example, you can’t build another temple within a 5km radius and you can only build something on the ocean only as far as you can throw a stone with your hand.

Which aspect has a crucial role in improving the condition?

Spatial design! Linking food security with city spatial design is very important, and Bali should maintain it since we are a tourist destination. A visit to Bali should offer what’s naturally there, and we can rely on ecotourism where travelers could, for example, stay in a resident’s house. But in reality, development is rampant without great care to the environment.

Spiritually, many Bali ceremonies are held to worship the forest, lakes, ocean, humankind, and God. Now it’s up to us Balinese how we react to it, how do we implement it? The same goes for people who hail from outside Bali: there’s a saying that goes, “Di mana bumi dipijak di situ langit dijunjung,” which means that people who come here must respect the local wisdom. Don’t just go looking for financial benefits—support Bali by not converting the land.

I really admire Yogyakarta because they recently just issued a regulation that designates rice fields as “eternal land”, meaning that you can’t build malls on the land. [Unfortunately] Bali is not able to do that yet. That’s why spatial design is key; then we adapt it to the concept of Nangun Sad Kertih Loka Bali (the working program of new Governor, Wayan Koster) that covers upstream and downstream. The philosophy of Tri Hita Karana in its interpretation also states that we must be respectful to the environment.

Spatial design regulation has actually been included in the Regional Regulation on Spatial Planning no.16/2009 but hasn’t designated rice fields as eternal land. What’s stated is that in 30 years, only 10% of rice fields may be converted.


“If they don’t manage the plastic well then it’ll become a big problem that will be handled by the village leaders up to the president.”



Is all of that related to the waste management issues—especially plastic—we’re facing today?

I remember in the 80’s, when plastic was still considered exclusive because it was not produced that much yet, an acquaintance from Germany commented, “If they don’t manage the plastic well then it’ll become a big problem that will be handled by the village leaders up to the president.” And it’s happening now! Even the President has issued the Jakstranas (National Policy and Strategy) to handle the almost unmanageable waste problem.

For me, the solution is simple: everyone who produces waste must be responsible for it themselves, including the producers who all this time just take the money but burden the environment with their products’ packaging. Meanwhile, organic waste can be managed within the household by composting, or at least by the banjar or village management.

I have been practicing waste separation for the past 15 years now, so only about 5 – 10% of my waste goes out of the house, the rest I sell to waste bank or pemulung (independent waste collector).

How would you advise those who feel like they don’t have the time to manage their own waste?

Well, I think it all comes down to intention. I don’t have a housemaid, I often arrive home late at night, but I still have the time to manage my waste because it’s in line with my heart. We need a character revolution to nurture more love towards the environment, and sadly we are extremely lacking. That’s why school education is important. We need to build our children’s character so they have the compassion, and not just prioritize profit that’ll make them care less about what’s happening with the environment around them.

Teachers need to understand the waste situation too. We have four teachers in life: family (rupaka), school (pengajian), government (wisesa), and God (swadhyaya)—have the first three become good teachers and display exemplary behavior? We have a saying, “guru kencing berdiri, murid kencing berlari” (teacher urinates standing up, student urinates while running). So have we become good role models? We need to question those ourselves. 

Mother earth is sad and crying because her body is filled with trash, residues, chemical pesticides. This is what we will inherit to our grandchildren. So let’s take action to develop a morally-responsible character, a mental revolution, as well as upholding rules and regulations consistently and giving heavy sanctions to violators.



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *