The archipelago and active volcanoes are characteristic of Indonesia.  As a consequence, peoples who live in Indonesia are embracing the disasters. Talking about the self-sufficient backyard in Indonesia, actually, it became a tradition since long time ago.   And it became an effort as preparedness from the disaster. In fact, volcano eruption, earthquake, landslide, and tsunami is most of the natural disaster which frequently occurs in Indonesia. 

House with backyard full with many species of plants

Traditionally, rice is the main food crop, usually grown in rice fields or sawah.  While in the backyard peoples were grow plants for fruits, spices, and medicines. In addition, other functions of the backyard usually also were used for fish ponds, hennery, or small scale of livestock (sheep or cow).

Java and agriculture

Javanese people are identical to farmers and agriculture.  They have a tradition where ever they move to the new place, they always brought old coconut, banana stem, and rice seed.  For this reason, why 3 crops above became essential for their daily activities.  As a result, today much Indonesian food using these 3 crops as basic ingredients.

Geographically, the western part of Java island has many rivers.  Sundanese tradition (Sunda is an ethnic which live in west java)  can not separate from water. 

Previously, traditional houses in west java usually have a fish pond in their back yard.  Besides they also grew vegetables and medicinal plants. Today, you can find this form when you visit Garut, Tasikmalaya, or Ciamis district in West Java.

Javanese tradition in Suriname

Amazingly, the tradition was maintained well for the Javanese peoples who today live in Suriname.  Nowadays if you do traveling to Suriname, especially in Tamanredjo (Commewijne district) and Nickerie, you will see a similar tradition, related to the backyard utilization for self-sufficient. 

Many Javanese peoples who live there, they still have a similar tradition with their ancestor in the Java island.  As an example, rice as the major crop was one of the crops that they grew first when they arrive at the first time in Suriname.

In youtube when you see the video song from Dany Kasanramelan (Javanese-Suriname singer), you can see around from the location set up during the song. It proved, that they still live with Javanese tradition.

Types of plants in the backyard

Overall, the diversity of plants grew will ensure a self-sufficient backyard for foods and medicines. Here is the list of plants usually found in the Indonesian house back yard:

  • Carbohydrate source plants: cassava (Manihot esculenta), Sweet potato (Ipomea batatas), Taro (Colocasia esculenta)
  • Fruit plants: coconut (Cocos nucifera), banana (Musa paradisiaca), papaya (Carica papaya), guava (Psidium guajava), water apple (Syzygium aqueum), star fruit (Averrhoa carambola), rambutan (Nephelium lappaceum), jack fruit (Artocarpus heterophyllus)
  • Vegetable plants:  cassava (Manihot esculenta), katu (Sauropus androgynus), amaranths, some legumes, hot pepper (Capsicum annum), Kelor (Moringa oleifera). For some information about traditional vegetable in Indonesia, you can read here
  • Medicinal plants:  ginger (Zingeber oficinale), galangal (Alpinia galanga), turmeric (Curcuma longa), Temulawak (Curcuma xanthorrhiza), Temu ireng (Curcuma aeruginosa), Kapulaga (Amomum compactum), Kejibeling (Strobilanthes crispus), Sirih (Piper betle), Sambiloto (Andrographis paniculata), Kumis kucing (Orthosiphon Aristatus), brotowali (Tinospora crispa)
  • Border plants: teakwood (Tectona grandis), some species of bamboos (Bambusoideae)

For many years, the utilization of the backyard tradition has proven to be effective. Especially for the families who willing to ensure food availability for their daily needs.  As a result, peoples are easy to consume nutritious food which came from their own backyard.  Self-sufficient backyard in Indonesia has existed for many years till modernization comes.

Recent challenges

Modernization causing land conversion and urbanization.  In Fact, it also causes the changing of lifestyle.  Step by step, then the tradition also being forgotten. 

The big population also becomes a big issue that causing a land conversion. Nowadays, many peoples live in urban areas.  Housing without a backyard, also more common now.  The reasons are the price and expensive living costs in the urban area.

Most urban are workers.  They work in the industrial sectors.  Farmers?. Indonesia facing serious problems with the farmer population.  The problems are come from the existing farmers getting older, and the young generation seems doesn’t interested in being a farmer.


The problem of the self-sufficient backyard in Indonesia probably can be solved by introducing farming in a different way.  If yesterday, the farmer was identical with the dirty and old fashion work/activities. 

But now it can be changed by introducing urban farming with technology-based.  For example, hydroponic.  Urban farming touching a few technologies can be fun and interesting for the urban. 


  • Azka Lathifa Zahratu Azra,  Hadi Susilo Arifin, Made Astawan, Nurhayati HS Arifin.  2014.  Characteristics Analysis of Pekarangan to Support Food Consumption Diversification of the Household in Bogor Regency.  Jurnal Lanskap Indonesia, Vol.6, No.2, 2014
  • Penny Pujowati.  2016.  Characteristics of Java Ethnic Pekarangan to Support Food Security in Karang Mumus Watershed, East Kalimantan.  Ziraa’ah, Vol 41, No. 1, p137-144
  • Tinde R van Andel, Amber van der Velden, Minke Reijers.  2016.  The ‘Botanical Gardens of the Dispossessed’ revisited: richness and significance of Old World crops grown by Suriname Maroons.  Genet Resour Crop Evol (2016) 63:695–710
Categories: Edible

Muryanto Paiman

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

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What is urban farming? why it will become future trend? · April 11, 2021 at 6:58 pm

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