Most of the Komering people live in southeastern Sumatra, in the province of South Sumatra. The Komering people are part of the Lampung ethnic group. 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).
They use the Komering language, but they also use Indonesian, which is taught in school. The Komering language has several distinguishing features that differentiate it from Malay, although they are both part the same language family.
What are their lives like?
The Komering live on both sides of the Komering River. However, 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. 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. Water supply through river irrigation is only found in Belitang in East OKU regency, which is predominantly inhabited by Javanese people. The local people have heard about other varieties of rice that mature in only three or four months, but have not tried them yet. The Komering plant rice in six-month cycles.
What are their beliefs?
Most Komering follow Islam, which strongly influences their culture. However, they 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 only one hour from the 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.