On the steep slopes of Mountain Rinjani, it gets very cold at night, but as soon as the sun comes out, a scenic panorama is revealed. Rice, garlic, tomato, chili, cabbage fields unfold in the valley against the background of the still active volcano. The indigenous Sembalun community settling here has scarce space to live.
The steeper slopes cannot be cultivated. A part of their traditional land overlaps with the Mount Rinjani National Park, other areas where turned into big, privately-owned, plantations. A huge state-of-the-art greenhouse in the middle of the land traditionally used by the Sembalun for cattle ranching, on the territory of the national park further reduces the land available.
The introduction of modern large-scale agribusiness and private land ownership has over the last decades considerably devastated the natural resources, diminished the forest and threatened the water sources. It is forbidden to extract any kind of wood or hunt animals. Whoever wants to fell a tree needs to receive a permission, subject to a proof that 10 new trees have been planted. Newly-married couples have the obligation to plant 4 new trees and care for them.
Traditionally, of the 24 000 hectar belonging to the customary Sembalun land, only about 4000 are converted to be used for fruit and vegetable agriculture, pasture land for livestock, rice fields, settlement and harvest stocks. The remaining area is remains for the biggest part intact nature, consisting mainly of forests.
In recent times, cattle running free have become a problem, together with forest fires, damaging the intact or freshly reforested areas.
Sembalun is divided into two villages; Sembalun Lawang and Sembalun Bumbung which only 2 km apart. The area looks like a dry lake, transformed into a fertile land.
Sembalun Lawang is set in an ancient and fertile caldera to the east of Mt. Rinjani, the preferred access route for summiteers. The rich soil produces high quality market garden crops, including the famous garlic and rice, staple of local farmers. Seismic activity is monitored daily at the government Rinjani Volcanology Centre.
The beautiful valley of Sembalun is also known for its hill walks, recently restored traditional village, active cultural performers and local weavers. Some home stay (losmen) accommodation is available and trek services are based at the Park’s Rinjani Information Centre. Also enquire about the local walks: the Sembalun Lawang Village Walk, to experience the scenic beauty of the village or/and the Sembalun Wildflowers Walk, a two day one night hike to see the wildflowers at Propok in Gunung Rinjani National Park.
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