Background Information About Lombok West Nusa Tenggara

Explorer Lombok with Praya Tour
Nusa Tenggara Barat or NTB, (West Southeast Islands Province) consists of Lombok, Sumbawa and some small islands around them and Nusa Tenggara Timur, NTT (East Southeast Islands Province) consists of Sumba, Komodo, Flores, West Timor and some small islands around them. The islands offer an unprecedented variation in culture and natural beauty. A traveler can observe a mysterious atmosphere in many places together with 'strange practices'. Apart from a few areas, nature is not as green as it is encountered on the western islands. The further you travel to the east, the drier the landscape becomes. This gives the island group its own and very special character. The way of life, clothing, tradition and architecture are related to the natural environment. Despite the many similarities that the islands of Nusa Tenggara have in common, there are also many differences.


Geologically, Nusa Tenggara (together with the island of Bali) forms a continuation of Sumatra and Java. However, this eastern archipelago is no longer on the Sunda shelf (the bottom of a shallow sea where Malaysia, Thailand, Sumatra, Java, Kalimantan and Bali are located). Lombok, Sumbawa, Flores, Lembata and Alor lie on the volcanic inner arch while Sumba, Timor, Sawu and Rote on the non-volcanic outer arch. The islands on the volcanic inner arch are mostly constructed from insulated volcanic tops, with low hilly landscapes in between. The islands on the non-volcanic outer arch consist of hilly limestone areas.

Lombok has three landscape types: a volcanic massif in the north, a limestone plateau in the south and a low plain in between. It consists of only one volcano, but a very high one! At 3726 meters the Rinjani is the highest volcano of the archipelago after the Kerinci on Sumatra. The crater is partly filled with a beautiful crater lake, Segara Anak. A smaller volcanic cone has been formed in this crater lake, which at times still emits ash and smoke. The limestone plateau in the south is a bar and dry area, with many karst symptoms. Agriculture is very difficult here and it is therefore a poor and sparsely populated area. As matter of fact, only the middle of Lombok is suitable for agriculture. This middle is a narrow but fertile river plain. Most inhabitants have also concentrated in this region. The combination of poorer land and less rainfall makes Lombok in many respects the poorer brother of Bali.


The climate of Nusa Tenggara is strongly influenced by the monsoon and trade winds. Monsoon winds are formed by the warming of Asian and Australian air masses during their respective summers. They influence the movement of a low-pressure area, the Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ). In January the ITCZ is in the southern hemisphere and lies across the Indian Ocean and Australia. In July the ITCZ moves northwards and is located above the Asian mainland. The rotation of the earth causes the trade winds that continuously flow from temperate regions to the tropics; in the northern hemisphere of the northeast and in the southern hemisphere of the southeast. The trade winds expand and contract when the ITCZ moves from the southern hemisphere to the northern hemisphere.

In Nusa Tenggara, which is in its entirety in the southern hemisphere, the wet monsoon winds start in December. The low pressure area above Australia then draws air from the area around the equator; most of the rain falls in the months of January and February. March and April are unstable when the monsoon winds come to a standstill and the trade winds come up. This is caused by the fact that the low pressure area above Australia is becoming weaker and the low pressure area above Asia is getting stronger. This attracts a dry southeastern Australian wind that picks up little moisture on the way to the Sunda Islands. July and August experience the strongest and coolest dry winds, while September to November are unstable again.Because the north-westerly monsoon winds first cross the western part of Indonesia before they reach Nusa Tenggara, the winds have already lost a lot of moisture.

The wet season is therefore not very wet and the more easterly one goes, the less rain falls. The dry season is also becoming more pronounced in the east. This general pattern is influenced by the local topography. On Flores, the western areas are slightly wetter than the eastern ones. The north-western monsoon starts here earlier and ends later than in the east. The northern coasts are generally drier than those in the south. The dry Australian air masses that reach the north first are lifted by the mountain ranges and eventually turn into rain in the south. Because of this phenomenon, flat islands will be relatively drier because there are no high areas causing an ascent of hot air. Small mountain ranges or individual mountains influence the weather pattern in a complex way. Like Lombok where the Rinjani caused a rain shadow over South Lombok. The Rinjani receives no less than 3500 mm per year while the south gets the area in the rain shadow, only 700 mm.


Rice terraces are clearly less dominant on the Sunda Islands than on Java and Bali. Because of the dry climate of the islands, the cultivation of rice is difficult. Only where the fields can be irrigated is rice found. That is why intensive rice cultivation is still possible at Lombok.
Because rice can feed only a small part of the population in Nusa Tenggara, they grow a variety of other crops that are more resistant to the dry climate.
Cassava is a root vegetable that thrives well in many climates and in different types of soils and therefore in Nusa Tenggara. The cultivation does not take place in large plantations, but mostly in private gardens. Both the young leaf and the root are well edible after preparation.

Furthermore, there is tobacco on Lombok, a crop that since the nineties much sought after by Virginia tobacco factories. Coffee gardens are encountered in Nusa Tenggara in the higher and cooler mountain areas. Coconut trees (for the production of coconut oil) wave on every island on most coastal towns.
Sweet potatoes and soybeans on fallow rice fields are other frequently occurring agricultural crops. The tropical American cashew is a small and drought resistant tree. It grows well in climates with a variety of seasons and has no problem with nutrient-poor soils. However, since the processing of the nuts is labor-intensive and the sales problems, the cultivation in the past only took place on a small scale.

In the 1990s the government started a program to promote the cultivation, processing and sale of cashew nuts in eastern Indonesia. Since then, the number of hectares planted with cashew trees has increased considerably. The globally valued cashew nut stands out for the way it grows on the tree. The nut, which is found in a kidney formation, stands on a strongly swollen, rust brown (if ripe), fleshy fruit stalk (false fruit). This false fruit, which is up to about eight centimeters, looks much more attractive than the actual, much smaller, green fruit. The sham fruit is also called jambu and has a lower economic value than the nut, especially because of its limited shelf life (the fruit is rotten after 24 hours). This succulent, but acidic and sometimes even sour-tasting fruit is therefore processed almost immediately after picking into jam, juice or vinegar. Unprepared it is not so much eaten. The acajou tree (Anacardium occidentale), where the cashew grows, was brought to India about 430 years ago by a Portuguese sailor from Brazil. From there the tree spread to other Asian and African areas. The Dutch name is a corruption of the Indian word 'kajoe', which became 'cashew' in English. In Indonesian the tree is called pohon jambu mente, kacang mete, or kacang monyet (the monkey nut, because on its tree the nut looks like a monkey sitting upside down). The tree, which can grow up to 12 meters high under favorable conditions, is satisfied with a poor, acidic sandy soil. Even in the vicinity of abandoned tin mines or limestone soils the tree thrives. Because the root system grows deep into the earth, the tree is suitable for erosion. The slightly elongated leaves have a round top, are light green and have a smooth surface. The many small flowers are pink-red and give off a fine, pleasantly sweet smell.

The false fruit and the real are picked at the same time (towards the end of the year) and separated as quickly as possible to prevent rotting. The fruit is washed, sorted and dried. Then the three layers surrounding the cashew nut must be removed. The second layer, contains a thick oil, minyak laka or CNSL (cashew nut shell liquid), which is extracted by steam distillation. The oil is used medicinally in various ways. This is how Indians use it as a 'tourist attraction'. On wood lubricated, the liquid, which polymerizes into a kind of rubber, can be used as protection against termites. If the oil is consumed, it has an irritating effect on the throat. When the oil is extracted, the fruit is opened by hand and the seed, the cashew nut, is taken out. The roasted nuts, both sweet and salty, are a valued but rather pricey. Not only the fruit and the false fruit are used. The bark contains a brown-colored liquid, which becomes black when exposed to oxygen and can be used as ink or dye in that capacity. A gargle from the bark is gargled, causing mouth ulcers to disappear. Resin is extracted from the stem, with which both books are glued and moths are put off. The young leaves are eaten in Java as lalap (raw vegetables that are mostly fish dishes) and the old leaves seem to be able to heal burns. Finally, there is the root, of which an infusion 'the stomach cleaner' (read: to cure diarrhea).

Cattle Breeding In addition to the above agricultural products, there is also cattle breeding. The vast majority of cows that graze on the islands come from Java and Bali and were introduced in the early twentieth century. This so-called Bali cattle, Bos javanicus, is light or dark brown. They are antelope-like animals and have the wild cattle, the banteng, as ancestors. This makes Bali cattle well adapted to the warm climate conditions and also maintains a high reproduction speed under food stress (a calf every six months). Most cows are exported to Java and Bali where they are slaughtered for meat consumption, especially during religious Islamic holidays. Water buffaloes are also held everywhere in Nusa Tenggara. The buffaloes are used as work animals to plow land, among other things. Horses were bred from 1500 and imported from Sumbawa and Timor. The work horses on Lombok, which are mainly put in front of a cidomo (horse cart), come from Sumbawa. Increasingly, the indigenous horses are crossed with imported Australian stallions. The offspring are used during increasing horse racing.


Commercial logging takes place on a small scale at Lombok and the proceeds benefit large logging companies. For the local population itself, the other forest products, the so-called non-wood products, are of great importance. Honey and beeswax have been known products of the Sunda Islands for centuries. Nowadays, Sumbawa's honey is widely popular. Small-scale projects try to stimulate the keeping of bees. Collecting honey and wax from the forest is a laborious task, but it produces delicious honey. Both bamboo and the sharp alang-alang are members of the grass family. The many types of bamboo are probably one of the most important non-wood products. The sturdy hollow stems are used for various purposes such as building houses, furniture manufacturing, hunting (with sharpened bamboo sticks), art objects, musical instruments, water pipes etc.

In Lombok bamboo plays a major role in the construction of numerous modern hotels, which are built according to traditional Sasak architecture. This increased the price of bamboo. A similar price increase also existed for alang-alang. This almost indestructible sharp grass that grows on poor, depleted lands is now being exported to Bali, where it is also used in hotel construction (alang alang is an excellent roof covering). The export became so profitable that Lombok farmers added alang-alang fields to achieve greater yields. Rattan, prickly climbing palms, grow only moderately. The forests of the Rinjani (Lombok) produce a limited amount of rattan. It is primarily used in the furniture industry. The small Sunda Islands produce two types of scented wood: gaharu and sandalwood. Gaharu is a type of resin that is formed when the bark of certain trees is damaged and the wood starts to rot. Collectors cannot see on the outside of a tree if there is gaharu in it or not, many trees are therefore cut for nothing. If a felled tree contains gaharu, the wood must be carefully and slowly dried. Gaharu is a rare and expensive product. The fragrant sandalwood tree originates in the dry open forests between 300-1300 meters from Sumba, Timor, Flores, Wetar (Southeast Moluccas) and surrounding islands.

It was thought that the tree originated in India, but now it is generally assumed that the sandalwood tree was brought to India from Indonesia. It is a slow-growing tree that can reach a height of 15 meters with a maximum trunk diameter of 30 cm. The tree is a semi-parasite and depends on a host plant for its food until it is mature. These growing conditions as well as the fact that the tree needs a lot of light, makes it difficult to set up and maintain plantations. Nevertheless, a lot of energy is put into the planting of plantations, because the yield is high. The sandalwood that is now being exported comes largely from plantations. Nowadays there is a lot of sandalwood in Indonesia itself, as the demand for figurines cut from this wood has increased. Kayu putih oil is extracted from the tree Melaeuca cajuputi (the same family as the clove). The oil is strong smelling and has mainly medicinal applications. They started the kayu putih plantation on the northern border of the Rinjani National Park in 1992. One of the most important products of the forest for the local population is firewood. The vast majority of the rural population is dedicated to cooking and lighting, and even a large number of the urban population cooks with wood. Small industries such as potteries, brick bakeries, lime kilns also use considerable amounts of firewood. The popularity of earthenware pots, which are heated with a wood fire, puts greater pressure on the firewood supplies. The collection of firewood is therefore a meritorious activity. Reforestation programs that are set up here and there now work as much as possible with tree species that can be used for firewood.


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