Pekarangan (Indonesian pronunciation: [pə'karaŋan]) is a type of tropical home garden developed in Indonesia, mainly in Java. Pekarangans typically contain plants, while some possess animals (including farmed fish, ruminants, poultry, and wild animals) and structures such as pens and bird cages. The gardens yield food for subsistence and income, and plants for ornamental use. Along with their subsistence and commercial uses, they are used for social interactions and yield sharing and provide materials for cultural ceremonies and religious practices. Some pekarangans are made, maintained, and spatially arranged according to local values. Home gardens of this kind may have existed for several thousand years, but their first mention is found in a Javanese chronicle that was written in 860 AD. In 2010, around 103,000 square kilometers (40,000 sq mi) of Indonesian land were used for gardens of this sort.
The sustainability and social roles of pekarangans have been threatened by mass urbanization and land fragmentation, which are the factors of decreasing land dwelling area on average. The decrease is consequently followed by loss of plant diversity within the gardens. Additionally, some owners deliberately reduce the plant diversity to optimize yields for commercial purposes. Problems such as pest outbreaks and a rise in household debts have appeared due to the degraded sustainability of the gardens.
Throughout the history of Java, pekarangans have been of little interest to the governments that have ruled the island due to their minimal susceptibility to yield extraction. In the 2010s, they have gained the attention of the Indonesian government implemented through P2KP (Percepatan Penganekaragaman Konsumsi Pangan), a program focused on urban and peri-urban areas that aims to optimize production with a sustainable approach.
In Indonesian, pekarangan can be translated as "land that surrounds a house", "a house's yard", or "plotted land for house construction". However, the term is widely used in scientific literature, specifically in agroforestry and environmental topics, to mean "home gardens". The word pekarangan may be derived from karang, which means "perennial crops".
Scholars offer various definitions of the term "pekarangan". According to Sajogyo, it is a plot adjacent to a house, used part-time. Totok Mardikanto and Sri Sutami define it as a plot surrounding a house; most of its kind are fenced, and usually planted with dense plants with various annual and perennial plants for daily and commercial use. Euis Novitasari considers "pekarangan" to be a form of land use: a system of small-scale additional food production by members and a family, that is also an ecosystem with a densely layered canopy. Further, she describes it as having a clear boundary and containing elements such as the owner's house, a kitchen, a pen, and fences. Simatupang and Suryana argue that it is hard to define "pekarangan" clearly, since its role can vary from a form of farmland to a homestead plot.
A pekarangan generally consists of annual and perennial plants combined; they can be harvested daily or seasonally. Some perennials such as melinjo (Gnetum gnemon) produce leaves consistently. Some other perennials such as coconut, jackfruit, banana, and salak produce fruit all year round. Other perennials' fruiting periods are limited: for example, the semarang guava (Syzygium aqueum) fruits from April to June, mangoes fruit during July and August, and durians (Durio zibethinus) from June to September. Perennials are more common than annuals in pekarangans in regions where rice fields use more than 40 percent of the region's area; elsewhere the situation is reversed, and annuals are more common, though if labor is in short supply, perennials are again favored. Trees are one of the most common components of home gardens, contributing to the image of Indonesian countryside with houses less visible than the "dense, forest mimics" of pekarangans.
In Sundanese pekarangans, ornamental plants, and crops such as cloves, oranges, and mangoes are frequently planted in the front patch, as these are valuable plants that homeowners want to keep an eye on. Starchy crops, medicinal plants, and cash crops are more frequent in the front and back plots, and less in the side plots. Coffee might be used as a hedge in the side and back yards; ornamental plants might have a similar function in front yards. Vegetables are habitually grown in front and side areas to be exposed to light, as tall trees are rare in those areas. Trees with large canopies might be planted in front yards, providing shade for children. Coconuts, fruit trees, and tall trees whose woods are used for construction are planted in back gardens to avoid damage to the house when any of them falls due to a storm. Most plants propagate without intentional human intervention—this natural process is called janteun ku anjeun in Sundanese—due to seed scattering by birds, mammals, or humans after they eat. Because of this, no clear spatial arrangement is found in Sundanese back gardens.
Plants in Javanese and Sundanese pekarangans, among them annual plants cultivated in the dry season (e.g. eggplants), are habitually grown near water sources such as fish ponds, open sewage ditches, and wells. Plants that need high levels of nutrients, such as banana, mango, jackfruit, and other fruit plants, are planted close to garbage dumps. Meanwhile, crops frequently harvested for cooking, such as chili peppers, langua, lemongrass, and tomatoes, are planted near the kitchen.
Some owners of pekarangans keep livestock and poultry (traditionally chickens, goats, and sheep), usually in a household pen. These are usually allowed to roam around the gardens, village areas, and traditional markets to find food on their own. They are penned at night and are usually given additional feed. Other common domestic animals kept in pekarangans are fishes in ponds and songbirds (e.g. zebra dove, Geopelia striata), which are kept in cages on bamboo poles. The economic status of pekarangan owners plays a role in livestock ownership; lower-class owners tend to own several chickens whereas middle-class owners might have a goat or a sheep, and high-class owners may own several cows or water buffaloes. Livestock manure acts as an organic fertilizer for the gardens via composting, and sometimes a nutritional source for pond fishes.
Productive fish ponds are common in Sundanese traditional pekarangans. The fishes are fed with kitchen waste supplemented by animal and human waste. Villagers avoid the domestic use of fish pond water and instead use water from higher-ground water pipes.
The gardens may have a high diversity of soil fauna. According to Widyastuti, the soil fauna diversity in the gardens is suggested to be higher than that of teak forests. The diversity might be caused by the vegetation, which protects soil fauna from direct sunshine, especially in the dry season. Otto Soemarwoto and Gordon Conway accounted that the gardens are also believed to be "a good habitat" for reptiles and amphibians.
There are different findings in relation to wild birds. A high diversity of birds, including legally protected species, within the gardens were recorded in a West Java research while another study in Jambi suggests individual pekarangans are not effective as a means to conserve bird communities. This is because of the edge effects of their irregular shapes, their frequent disturbance, and their proximity to roads and houses. The pekarangans used for the Jambi study had unusually low levels of plant diversity, which may account for the results. Despite this, the gardens apparently still attract birds due to their food resources. A similar finding was repeated in a separate West Java study, indicating children shoot birds in the gardens and take their eggs while adults kill or chase them due to the perception of them as pests.
Plant diversity in pekarangans arises from complex interactions between several factors that are not fully understood. These include environmental stability, the tropical climate that is favorable to plant growth, and their close proximity to the owners' domestic activities. Other natural factors are size, temperature decrease due to elevation, precipitation, and climatic events like El Niño. Anthropological factors include individual preferences and market proximity.
The diversity of plants aids individual plants to adapt to a changing environment, helping them survive in the long term. The biodiversity in the multi-layered system also helps to optimize solar energy and carbon harvesting, cool the domestic climate, protect the soil from erosion, and accommodate habitats for wild plants and animals. The genetic diversity also gives protection from the effects of pests and diseases. As an example, the abundance of insectivorous birds in the gardens helps control pests, helping the garden remain productive.
While on per individual basis pekarangans store only small amounts of carbon due to their size, on per area basis they hold an amount of carbon that is similar to primary or secondary forests, and greatly surpassing Imperata grasslands and fallow lands.
Plant diversity in pekarangans tends to increase as their size increases. Diversity of crop species, however, might reach a plateau in very large gardens. Larger pekarangans have a lower density of crop species because of more constant cultivation patterns. A pekarangan smaller than 100 square meters (1,100 sq ft) is insufficient for plant diversity and crop production. Some plant types, such as trees higher than 10 meters (33 ft), spice plants, and industrial crops are almost not present in gardens of 100 square meters (1,100 sq ft) or less. Home gardens in Java tend to be smaller; the majority of them are smaller than 200 square meters (2,200 sq ft), as suggested by a report from 2004. Meanwhile, similar gardens in other Indonesian islands tend to be larger. Their average size is estimated to be 2,500 square meters (27,000 sq ft); a few reach the size of 3 hectares (320,000 sq ft).
Pekarangans at high altitudes tend to have a smaller size, increased density of plants, and a smaller range of plant diversity. As altitude increases, temperature decreases, limiting plant diversity. Coconuts and fruit trees tend to develop better in lower-altitude pekarangans while vegetables tend to grow better at higher altitudes.
Pekarangans with better access to water—either by climate or by proximity to water resources—are able to facilitate annual crop cultivation. Those in West Java, when observed, perform better in accommodating plant diversity when the wet season occurs than in the dry season. The climatic conditions of Java enable the consistent growth of annual plants in its pekarangans, even in parts of East Java where the climate is drier.
Canopy in those gardens functions as a protection from intense raindrops. Most of their plants' heights are less than a meter, slowing down raindrops when they hit the soil. Leaf litter also helps protecting the soil against erosion. The role of plant canopies in consistently producing organic litter is believed to be more important in reducing erosion than its direct speed-reducing effects on raindrops. Nevertheless, gardens are less effective than natural forests in erosion reduction.
Harvesting of rice—the dominant staple of Indonesia—influence the use of pekarangans in some ways. Production in the gardens decreases during rice-harvesting seasons but peaks during the rest of the year. Lower-class villagers benefit from the consistent productivity of starch crops in the gardens, especially in a period of food shortage pre-rice harvest or after a failed rice harvest by drought.
Settlement dynamics affect pekarangans in various ways. Expansion of settlements to new lands, caused by population growth, is the cause of the wide presence of food crops in newly made pekarangans. People who resettled via the Indonesian transmigration program might support plant diversity in the gardens in the places they migrate to. Plant species brought by internal migrants need to adapt well to the local environment.
Commercialization, fragmentation, and urbanization are major hazards to pekarangans' plant diversity. These change the organic cycles within the gardens, threatening their ecological sustainability. Commercialization requires a systemic change of crop planting. To optimize and produce more crops, a pekarangan's owner must specialize in its crops, making a small number of crops dominate the garden. Some owners turn them into monoculture gardens. Fragmentation stems from the traditional system of inheritance. Consequences from the reduction of plant diversity include the loss of canopy structures and organic litter, resulting in less protection of the gardens' soil; loss of pest-control agents, increasing the use of pesticides; loss of production stability; loss of nutrients' diversity; and the disappearance of yields-sharing culture. Despite urbanization's negative effect in reducing their plant diversity, it increases that of the ornamental plants.
A case study of home gardens in Napu Valley, Central Sulawesi, shows that the decrease in soil protection is caused by insufficient soil fertility management, regular weeding and waste burning, dumping waste in garbage pits instead of using it for compost, and spread of inorganic waste. The decrease of soil fertility worsens the decrease of crop diversity in the gardens.
Products from pekarangans have multiple uses; for example, a coconut tree can provide food, oil, fuel, and building materials, and also be used in rituals and ceremonies. The gardens' plants are known for their products' nutritional benefits and diversity. While rice is low in vitamins A and C, products from the gardens offer an abundance of them. Pekarangans with more perennial crops tend to create more carbohydrates and proteins, and those with more annual plants tend to create more portions of vitamin A. Pekarangans also act as a source of firewood and building materials.
Lower-class families tend to consume more leafy vegetables than the upper-class ones, due to their consistent availability and low price. Low-class families also favor bigger use of fuel sources from the gardens. Pekarangans in villages act as subsistence systems for families rather than an income source. In areas such as Gunung Kidul, food-producing uses of the gardens are more dominant than crop fields due to soil erosion in these regions.
In urban and suburban areas, major fruit production centers, and tourist destination regions, pekarangans tend to act as an income generator. Income from the gardens is mostly from perennial crops. Good market access stimulates the cultivation of commercial crops within the gardens. Other factors that influence their economic significance are their area and the demand for a particular crop.
According to a 1991 article, the poor cultivate subsistence plants in their pekarangans with an emphasis on fruits and vegetables, while the rich tend to plant more ornamental plants and cash crops with higher economic value. An article from 2006 also concludes that the importance of commercial plants increases with owners' wealth. A study in Sriharjo, Yogyakarta Special Region, concludes that poorer pekarangan owners orient toward commercial uses while richer owners orient toward subsistence uses. Ann Stoler argued that as a rural family acquire more area of rice field, garden use becomes less intense, up until the family-owned rice field reach around 2,000 square meters (22,000 sq ft), the minimal size typically needed to feed one family. Past this point, garden use starts to increase.
The buruan (Sundanese for "front yard"), part of a Sundanese pekarangan, is used as a children's playground and adults' gathering place. Integrated with local customs and philosophies such as rukun and tri-hita-karana, the gardens aid other social interactions such as yield-sharing, ceremonies, and religious activities. Especially in urban areas, pekarangans also function as aesthetic ornaments of a house, mainly the front yard.
Pekarangans are mainly developed by women. Forms of such gardens in matriarchal tribes and societies, e.g. Minangkabau, Aceh, and communities in the 1960s Central Java, are more developed than in tribes that tend to be patriarchal, e.g. Batak. For the same reason, matriarchal culture around the gardens started to develop, such as the requirement for the permission of a landowner's wife before selling a plot of land they own – this happens in cities like Tegal. A female-led household would orient their use of the gardens toward household needs. In Madura, however, home gardens are described as the domain of men. Nevertheless, a pekarangan in general, regardless of the culture, is considered a responsibility of the entire family, including their offspring and the offspring's families. The men prepare the land prior to home garden use, plant tree crops, and sell the garden's crops, while women plant annual crops.
In a 2004 report, Javanese pekarangans are suggested to have higher net income-per-area than rice fields. The same report argued that the cost of the Javanese gardens' production is lower than that of rice fields. People who focus on the gardens' production instead of rice fields may gain better yields than their counterparts. Poor villagers, however, tend not to concentrate efforts toward the gardens; maintenance of the gardens as a sole income source would require the use of high-risk, high-reward crops, more intensive care, and income would be vulnerable to market fluctuations. Maintenance of diverse cash crops is more intense than that of rice fields and the intensity would make the villagers' gardening schedule less adaptable to rice farming activities.
In some cases, people are allowed to build houses in the pekarangans of others in exchange for doing work for their owners. The gardens, however, tend to have a low demand for labor, offering minimal labor opportunities.
The philosophy of living harmoniously, referred to as rukun, is followed by the Javanese and Sundanese; offering yields from pekarangans to others is believed to be the medium of such culture. This can be done by offering its products to their neighbors, for example during events such as births, deaths, weddings, and cultural events like the Javanese new year and the Mawlid (observance of the birthday of Muhammad). Some offer their products to cure diseases or to protect owners from dangers. Their products are also given during daily life, especially in rural areas. A rural pekarangan owner usually allows others to enter it for any practical reason: taking dead wood for fuel, pulling water from a well for their own use, or even taking its crops, though permission might be restricted or denied if the owner has only a limited yield for his or her own consumption. Requests to take products from the gardens for religious or medicinal purposes are rarely or never denied, but since some people believe asking permission to take medicinal plants in a pekarangan is taboo, they may also be taken without explicit permission.
Javanese culture interpreted the gardens as pepek ing karang – "a complete design". It can also be interpreted as pepek teng karangan, which, according to the anthropologist Oekan Abdoellah is a way of thinking, indicating agricultural practices within the gardens are a consequence of thinking about the ways to use their produce and satisfy their needs from them. Javanese culture, however, takes offense at the gardens' comparison with forests due to the low social value of forest in the culture. Wayang puppet plays depict forests as "places where wild animals and evil spirits reign" and its clearing, which is done only by men who are believed to have spiritual powers, is viewed as a respectable deed. The backyard of a Sundanese homestead is described as supados sungkur (to be unseen by others).
Associations of plants in Javanese pekarangans tend to be more complex than those in Sundanese pekarangans. In Javanese gardens, owners also tend to cultivate medicinal plants (jamu) while the Sundanese tend to grow vegetables and ornamental plants.
The Sundanese language has names for each part of a pekarangan. The front yard is called buruan, a space for a garden shed, ornamental plants, fruit trees, a children's playground, benches, and crop-drying. The side yard (pipir) is used for wood trees, crops, medicinal herbs, a fish pond, well, and a bathroom. The side yard is also a space for cloth-dying. The back yard (kebon) is used to cultivate vegetable plants, spice plants, an animal pent, and industrial plants. 
Pekarangans in Lampung have their own elements; alongside plants are feet-washing places used before entering into a house's veranda (gakhang hadap), a rice-storage room (walai), an outdoor kitchenette or kitchen, a firewood-storage place, and livestock barn. The front yard is called tengahbah/terambah/beruan, the side yard is kebik/kakebik, and the back yard is kudan/juyu/kebon.
Balinese pekarangans are influenced by the philosophy of tri-hita-karana that divides spaces into parahyangan (top, head, pure), pawongan (middle, body, neutral), and palemahan (below, feet, impure). The parahyangan area of a Balinese pekarangan faces Mount Agung, which is regarded as a sacred place (prajan) to pray (sanggah). Plants with flowers and leaves that are regularly picked and used for Balinese Hinduism liturgical purposes are planted in the parahyangan area. The pawongan area is planted with regular flowers, fruits, and leaves. The palemahan area is planted with fruits, stems, leaves, and tubers. Balinese back yards, which are known in Tabanan and Karangasem as teba, are used as a place to cultivate crops and keep livestock for subsistence, commercial, and religious use as offerings. The Balinese further developed beliefs about what plants should and should not be planted in various parts of their pekarangans, following the teachings from the Taru Premana manuscript. As an example, nerium and bougainvillea are believed to emit positive auras while planted in the parahyangan/sanggah area of a pekarangan while negative auras are believed to appear if they are planted in front of the bale daja, a building specifically placed in the north part of a dwelling.
Taneyan, a Madurese kind of pekarangan, is used to dry crops and for traditional rituals and family ceremonies. Taneyan is a part of the traditional dwelling system of taneyan lanjhang – a multiple-family household, whose spatial composition is laid out according to the bappa, babbhu, guru, rato (father, mother, teacher, leader) philosophy that shows the order of respected figures in the Madurese culture.
In the first establishment or formation of a village or new ground, the intended settlers take care to provide themselves with sufficient garden ground round their huts for stock and to supply the ordinary wants of their families. The produce of this plantation is the exclusive property of the peasant, and exempted from contribution or burden, and such is their number and extent in some regencies (as in Kedú for instance), that they constitute perhaps a tenth part of the area of the whole district. The spot surrounding his simple habitation, the cottager considers his peculiar patrimony and cultivates with peculiar care. He labours to plant and rear in it those vegetables that may be most useful to his family and those shrubs and trees which may at once yield him their fruit and their shade; nor does he waste his efforts on a thankless soil. The cottages, or the assemblage of huts, that compose the village, become thus completely screened from the rays of a scorching sun, and are so buried amid the foliage of a luxuriant vegetation, that at a small distance no appearance of a human dwelling can be discovered, and the residence of a numerous society appears only a verdant grove or a clump of evergreens. Nothing can exceed the beauty or the interest, which such detached mass of verdure, scattered over the face of the country, and indicating each the abode of a collection of happy peasantry, add to scenery otherwise rich, whether viewed on the sides of the mountains, in the narrow vales, or in the extensive plains.
— Stamford Raffles, The History of Java, 1817.
Parts of the quote were also quoted by Ann Stoler in Garden Use and Household Economy in Rural Java, 1978
|Distribution of pekarangan areas in Java|
|Source: Arifin, Kaswanto & Nakagoshi 2014|
By 1902, pekarangans occupied 378,000 hectares (1,460 sq mi) of land in Java, and the area increased to 1,417,000 hectares (5,470 sq mi) in 1937 and 1,612,568 hectares (6,226.16 sq mi) in 1986. In 2000, they occupied about 1,736,000 hectares (6,700 sq mi). Indonesia as a whole had 5,132,000 hectares (19,810 sq mi) of such gardens. The number peaked at about 10,300,000 hectares (40,000 sq mi) in 2010.
Central Java is considered the pekarangans' center of origin, according to Oekan Abdoellah et al.; the gardens later spread to East Java in the twelfth century. Soemarwoto and Conway proposed that early forms of pekarangan date back to several thousand years ago but the first-known record of them is a Javanese charter from 860. During the Dutch colonial era, pekarangans were referred to as erfcultuur. In the eighteenth century, Javanese pekarangans had already so influenced West Java that they had partly replaced talun (a local form of mixed gardens) there. Since pekarangans contain many species, which mature at different times throughout the year, it has been difficult for governments throughout Javanese history to tax them systematically. In 1990, this difficulty caused the Indonesian government to forbid the reduction of rice fields in favor of pekarangans. Such difficulty might have helped the gardens to become more complex over time. Despite that, past governments still tried to tax the gardens.
Since the 1970s, Indonesia had observed economic growth rooted in the Indonesian government's five-year development plans (Repelita), which were launched in 1969. The economic growth helped increase the numbers of middle-class and upper-class families, resulting in better life and higher demand for quality products, including fruits and vegetables. Pekarangans in urban, suburban, and main fruit production areas adapted its efforts to increase their products' quality but this resulted in a reduction of biological diversity in the gardens, leading to an increased vulnerability to pests and plant diseases. Some disease outbreaks in commercial pekarangans occurred in the 1980s and the 1990s, such as the citrus greening disease that damaged many mandarin orange trees and the spread of the pathogenic fungi Phyllosticta, which affected almost 20% of clove trees in West Java. This vulnerability also affected their owners' economic and social conditions; owners became more susceptible to debt, the sharing culture in traditional commercial pekarangans vanished, and the poor enjoyed fewer rights from them.
The Indonesian government launched a campaign in October 1951, namely Karang Kitri, which aimed to persuade communities to plant trees in their home gardens and other types of land. There was no incentive given in the campaign. The campaign ended in 1960. Use of pekarangans was included in a program by the Indonesian government in 1991 under a program called Diversifikasi Pangan dan Gizi ("Food and Nutrition Diversification").
Since the early 2010s, the government, through the Ministry of Agriculture, runs a pekarangan development program named Percepatan Penganekaragaman Konsumsi Pangan (P2KP, "Acceleration on Food Diversification") that is focused in urban and semi-urban areas. The program applies its agenda to a concept named Kawasan Rumah Pangan Lestari (KRPL; "Sustainable Food Houses Region"). P2KP was begun under the Indonesian Presidential Regulation No. 22 Year 2009. There is also an urban women-focused program named Gerakan Perempuan untuk Optimalisasi Pekarangan (GPOP; "Women's Movement for Pekarangan Optimization").
In addition to the national programs, some regions of Indonesia have implemented their own pekarangan use programs. The government of East Java launched a program called Rumah Hijau ("Green House") in 2010. The provincial government later collaborated with the Ministry of Agriculture to improve upon the Rumah Hijau program based on KRPL prototypes in Pacitan, making a new program named Rumah Hijau Plus-Plus.