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Adaptation and Human Civilization in Relation to Water Resources

The attic of these traditional houses serves as a repository for smoked food items like corn, beans, and Se'i meat.

  • Date:
    16 Oct 2023
  • Author:
    frey kehati

This year’s World Food Day brings a very important message: “water is life, water is food, Leave no one behind”. It serves as a strong reminder of the crucial role water plays in food security and the right to fair access to water. For those living in dry climates with little rainfall, water becomes even more precious. But why is it so? Well, water, which is essential for human survival, is actually quite hard to come by.


Ironically, on the other side of the world, a lot of water is wasted due to pollution. This is truly disheartening when we consider the different value water holds due to its availability. Humans rely heavily on water in their daily lives. As this year’s World Food Day theme emphasizes, “Water is Life”. Therefore, it is crucial to ensure that water remains accessible and its sustainability is maintained.


Throughout history, human settlements have gravitated towards water sources. The significance of water and its availability in shaping civilizations is well-documented. Regions blessed with abundant access to water not only boast fertile lands but also often foster more advanced societies. Take, for instance, Mesopotamia, widely regarded as the oldest known human civilization. This ancient civilization flourished in an area characterized by the presence of two major rivers, the Euphrates and the Tigris. Numerous other ancient civilizations across the globe owe their existence to the proximity of water in their territories. An illustrative example can be observed through the prevalence of place names that refer to nearby water sources in these areas.


Throughout history, human settlements have always gravitated towards water sources. The existence and well-being of life have been intricately intertwined with water, making it an indispensable resource. Hence, even minor alterations in water quality or availability can exert profound consequences on human existence.


Regrettably, the contemporary treatment of water by humans increasingly neglects the vital aspect of sustainability. The significance of water has undergone a transformation, diminishing its value and relegating it to a mere means of survival. Consequently, water is now regarded as something ordinary, employed solely for immediate survival needs.
This shift in perspective has resulted in a disregard for the proper handling of water resources. Rivers are carelessly polluted with various forms of waste, construction activities take place without considering their impact on water pathways, and water usage is no longer subject to thoughtful consideration of future conditions. Alas, the recognition that humans are not the sole inhabitants of this Earth, and that water has been an elemental presence since time immemorial, seems to have been neglected.


Despite the numerous civilizations that have thrived around water, there are also many regions in other parts of the world that are actually facing a clean water crisis. This could be due to climate change or dry weather conditions with little rainfall. Does this then render these areas uninhabitable?




Throughout history, civilizations have thrived in regions that lack water access. Despite facing arid conditions and limited water resources, many small communities have not only survived but also flourished. Water plays a vital role in their existence, similar to its importance in water-abundant and fertile regions. However, when faced with water crises, these communities have effectively adapted to ensure their sustainability.


There are various ways in which humans adapt to such challenging conditions, offering valuable insights into achieving equitable water access for all individuals while considering the needs of the natural environment. One such method is by embracing local wisdom. A notable example can be found in the Timor Plain, known for its arid climate and meager rainfall. The Duku Dawan people, who inhabit this region, have ingeniously devised a distinctive and sustainable food storage system.


Referred to as ume kbubu, these meticulously crafted traditional house designs were intelligently created to overcome the challenges posed by water scarcity and a limited growing season in their region. The Dawan tribe’s distinctive food storage system stands out for its astute utilization of water resources. In the arid plains of Timor, water holds immense value and power. With their ingenious food smoking technique, they are able to optimize water consumption during the food preservation process.


The attic of these traditional houses serves as a repository for smoked food items like corn, beans, and Se’i meat. This method not only facilitates storage but also enables drying and preservation of the food. During colder weather, the exceptional design of these traditional houses effectively guides smoke from the stove into the attic, ensuring that food remains well-preserved and accessible throughout the year.


In various parts of the world, humans have developed numerous strategies to adapt to their natural surroundings. A prime example is the value humans place on water, as they acclimate to different climatic conditions. By taking a moment to reflect, it becomes evident that our ancestors likely lived in a similar manner, adjusting their lifestyles according to the prevailing natural conditions. Additionally, the Dawan tribe’s invaluable teachings on adapting to the environment can serve as an exemplar for our own existence, while fostering respect for other entities on this planet.


In the specific context of Lampung Province, particularly the area encompassing Sungai Langka Village, a distinct scenario unfolds, differing greatly from the Dawan tribe community. This locale benefits from an abundance of water, owing to its proximity to a spring area that has been utilized for generations, including during colonial times. The lives of the inhabitants in this region undoubtedly revolve around these springs, prompting the development of local wisdom focused on resource management, conservation, and gratitude for the bestowed natural resources.


In every little village, the allocation of water distribution differs depending on the flow of water, so as to protect the precious springs from being exploited. But the magic doesn’t stop there! The tight-knit community joins forces during the suro festival, unleashing their cooperative nature while planting incredible bamboo, winong, kemadu, and banyan trees, which have the superpower of absorbing water like nobody’s business. These folks take it to a whole new level with cultural practices like goat slaughter called Ruwat Bumi, the grand Ambengan feast, the heartfelt Kenduren prayers, and the enchanting tirakatan spring rituals – all born from their eternal love and gratitude for water, the liquid of life itself.


The residents of Sungai Langka Village proudly display their local wisdom, demonstrating the importance of adapting to their surroundings. They make sure both humans and the precious water sources are safe and sound in their abundantly water-rich land. It’s like a real-life adventure, where they learn to harmonize with nature for a sustainable future.


This year’s World Food Day theme knows exactly what’s up – with a spotlight on the vital role of accessing water, it’s all about securing those precious food resources. The awesome Dawan community totally gets it. They acknowledge just how much they rely on water for nourishing their crops and feeding their bellies. They’re the true heroes of water and food security.


A food storage system has been developed by them to optimize their water usage. Additionally, the residents of Sungai Langka Village ensure equal water access without excessive use or exploitation. This teaches us the importance of local wisdom in maintaining food security in different circumstances.


On World Food Day, we not only celebrate, but also pause to contemplate and take action. By observing the local wisdom of the Dawan tribe community and the Sungai Langka Village community, we can learn how to integrate water access and sustainability. It is our hope to draw inspiration from them and apply these valuable insights to our global endeavors in creating a fairer and more sustainable world for all.






Muhamad Rasyad Lubis, “Kearifan Lokal dalam Pengelolaan Mata Air di Desa Sungai Langka Kecamatan Gedong Tataan Kabupaten Pesarawan Provinsi Lampung,” Jurnal Hutan Tropis, no. 1, (2018): 94-95