Areas of Java under irrigated rice cultivation (sawah), ca 1937


Especially on the crowded island of Java, the clearing of forest for food production had a dramatic effect on the landscape.  Although rice can be grown in so called `dry fields', that is without irrigation, it does best in `paddy' fields submerged in water for considerable periods.  Producing these conditions in a hilly landscape requires extensive terracing and diversion of water.  By the end of the colonial era, vast areas of Java had been transformed in this way.

Further reading

Atlas van Tropisch Nederland. Batavia:  Koninklijk Nederlandsch Aardrijkskundig Genootschap, 1938.

Eng, Pierre van der, Agricultural growth in Indonesia: productivity change and policy impact since 1880 (Houndmills: Macmillan, 1996.

Ravesteijn, Wim, ‘Controlling water, controlling people: irrigation engineering and state formation in the Dutch East Indies', Itinerario 31 no.1 (2007) 89-118.

Map number from Cribb, Historical Atlas of Indonesia (2000)


Year span

1938 - 1938