Backyards is an important element in the Javanese settlement. Not only as an open space between homes or neighbors, but also as a means to support the fulfilment of daily needs.  Backyard utilization of Javanese people, is the topic to remind the local wisdom of Javanese people in the Landbouw-kolonisatie area in Metro, Lampung. I was born in Metro and spent my first 20 years there.

Backyard term in Javanese Language

Backyard is common in the Javanese tradition.  Pekarangan or kebun in Indonesian language looks has similar meaning with the backyard.  Pekarangan (originally from work “karang”)  is the area which located surrounding the house.  While “kebun”, similar with words from two incriptions. “kebwan” in Kamalagi from 831 and “kbuan” in Watukara from 931. Both of words has the same meaning with “Kebun” (Subroto, 1985).

Flat forest near to the water sources

Landbouw-kolonisatie is a program that focuses on opening new agricultural field. This is the reason why the forest between the Way Sekampung and Way Seputih rivers is a suitable place. The area is a lowland tropical forest area with flat contours and there are several small rivers that eventually lead to the two major rivers.

The location

During 1932 to 1941, with the permission from local peoples, thousands of Javanese families have been successfully arrive at the location. They then live in 70 different settlements (Bedding or bedeng). The bedengs distribute in several areas between Gunung Sugih and Sukadana. Nowadays, the Bedengs area is currently located in Trimurjo sub-district in Central Lampung, all sub-districts in Metro City, and 3 sub-districts in East Lampung; Pekalongan, Batanghari, Sekampung.

Backyards Utilization
The location of Landbouw-kolonisatie during 1932-1941 in Lampung

The Infrastructures

The main goal of the program is wetland farming for rice production.  Irrigation infrastructure was built to increase the success possibilities.  In 1935, Argoguruh dam successfully operated.  This dam can distribute the water from Way Sekampung rivers to all Landbouw-kolonisatie areas.  To accelerate the transportation of agricultural products and new colonists, new road was also built.  The new 19 kilometers road from Tegineneng to metro become access from Metro to Tanjung Karang (Bandar Lampung).

Bawon system

The Sawah area (paddy field) is located in the lower area near the settlements.  And the main crops is rice.  The yield from paddy field is high. And during harvesting season, only few workers available.  In the same time, almost all peoples also busy with their own plants.  It causing many of rice cannot harvested.  In fact, it became the reasons to attract new peoples to come.  New comer is became workers to harvest the rice. Then the program was popular as bawon system.  Bawon is the salary (paddy) after the workers harvesting the rice.

The first settlements for colonists (bedding/bedeng) is simple wood barracks.  But after the land clearing success, they build their own houses.  what’s interesting is how these colonists then utilize their backyard.  There are similarities among them, on how the utilize their backyard.  They use and optimize their backyard to support their daily needs. 

The Reasons of backyard utilization

At least there are some reasons on how they choose and grow the crops in their backyard.  Firstly, is for food.  We can find some alternative food crops (exclude rice) in their backyard.  Secondly is medicinal reason.  Javanese medicinal traditions were using various medicinal plants. Javanese people always use traditional ingredients (Jamu) to cure and maintain their body. And thirdly, is for future saving, related to the shelters and other uses.  Usually the crops is woody plants. And Fourthly, is for the ritual both religions or tradition.

The BBC plants are always easy to find in the settlement

The bamboo, banana, and coconut (BBC) is always easy to find in the colonists settlement.  The design of the settlement also unique.  The house is about 5-10 meters from the road. Banana and Coconut is grown randomly in the left, right and back part of the backyard.  At least there are one type of banana in the yard.  Coconut is also few, only some plants grown in the backyard.  But, bamboo is always became border plants in the back part. They grew bamboo along their border with the neighbor behind them.

The design of settlement still exist today in Bedeng 51 Batanghari (photo from google earth)

The similar backyard design is easily find in all colonists settlement till 1990s.  But unfortunately, nowadays, the area have denser population.  Bamboo as land barrier has been gradually lost. But in some younger new settlements, the design is still exist and preserve. Banana and coconut in the backyard, and bamboo as border can still find in Batanghari area. In some areas outside the first Landbouw-kolonisatie, the design which represent backyard utilization is still exist.

The other crops

Backyard utilization for Javanese peoples, more to support the primary needs and preparing for difficult situation.  The have experience in some occasions, with longer dry season.  limited water causing limited rice as food (paceklik).  To prevent the food limitation during Paceklik, the also grow some food crops as alternatives such as singkong (Manihot esculenta), ubi jalar (Ipomea batatas), and Talas (Colocasia esculenta).

Some vegetable crops also grown in their backyard in a small scale.  Especially Pepper (Capsicum annum), tomato (Lycopersicum esculentum), Katuk (Saurpus androgynous), Bayam (Amaranthus spp).  While in some families they also grew medicinal plants such as Kencur (Kaemferia galanga), Jahe (Zingiber officinale), Kunyit (Curcuma longa).


  • Baskhara M. and Widaryanto E. 2013. Sistem Pekarangan Permukiman Masyarakat di Kawasan Karst Jawa Timur Bagian Selatan.  Prosiding Temu Ilmiah IPLBI 2013. p15-20
  • Pargito. 2020.  Social migration and environmental change in Lampung Indonesia. IOP Conf. Series: Earth and Environmental Science 485 (2020) 012040
  • Subroto Ph.  1985.  Sistem Pertanian Tradisional Pada Masyarakat Jawa. Tinjauan Secara Arkeologis dan Etnografis.  Departement Pendidikan dan Kebudayaan. 1985
Categories: History

Muryanto Paiman

always love to learn from nature.  Passionate on studying plants in some aspects: the DNA, Identification, propagation, and their uses