Introduction / History
Most of the Komering people live in southeastern Sumatra, in the province of South Sumatra. The name "Komering" comes from the Komering River, which is their life source. There are two subgroups within the Komering people - the Komering Ilir ("downstream") and Komering Ulu ("upstream"). The Komering Ilir live in the Tanjung Lubuk district around Kayu Agung city in Ogan Komering Ilir (OKI) regency. The Komering Ulu live in Ogan Komering Ulu (OKU) regency in the districts of Cempaka, Buay Madang, Belitang, Simpang, Martapura and in Baturaja city. The Komering language has several distinguishing features that differentiate it from Malay, although they are both part of a larger language family. The Komering people are part of the Lampung ethnic group. The people use the Komering language, but they also use the national language, Indonesian, which is taught in school. The Komering can understand the dialects of Kayu Agung, Ranau, Daya, Lampung Krui and Lampung Abung. Not only can they comprehend speakers of those dialects, but they are also able to carry on conversations with them, with each person using his own language to communicate.
What Are Their Lives Like?
The Komering generally live on both sides of the Komering river. However, there are differences across the river in numbers of inhabitants and level of prosperity. The side of the river that has a main road normally has more people and is more prosperous. As a result, the people in villages on the side of the river without a main road tend to move to villages that have a road. In some areas the Komering have also begun to leave their tradition of living very close to the riverbank because they are often forced to move due to erosion of the riverbank and frequent flooding. Nowadays the tradition of living on the bank of the river is being replaced by a tendency to live on the side of the road. Dense settlements line the main paved roads, with little distance separating the villages. In general, rice cultivation among the Komering still relies on direct rainwater or irrigation systems supplied by rainwater cisterns. Rice can be grown only if there is enough rain. Rice is planted in six-month cycles here. The local people have heard about but not yet tried other varieties of rice that mature in only three or four months. There are two types of rice fields according to the water system used - rain cistern irrigation, which is planted once per year and river irrigation, which is planted and harvested two or three times per year. Most Komering areas use rain cistern irrigation. Water supply through river irrigation is only found in Belitang in East OKU regency, which is predominantly inhabited by Javanese people.
What Are Their Beliefs?
Most Komering are followers of Islam, which strongly influences their culture. However they also still believe in spirits and superstitions. They often call a shaman to heal sick people or to cast out demons. Changing religions is very difficult. Marriages between Komering and people from other ethnic groups who are not Muslims is forbidden, unless the other person becomes a Muslim as well.
What Are Their Needs?
The Komering River has the potential to become an irrigation source. If this could be done, it would enable year-round planting of rice. Additionally, instruction about the use of 4-month rice would assist agricultural effectiveness. Model projects involving new methods of rice cultivation can be seen in South OKU regency, only one hour from Martapura (a Komering area). Over two years, that area produces five times as much as the methods used in the Komering area, even during the dry season.
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