Burying the Hachet, Harvesting Light

SII and Donders Social Foundation partnership in Kodi is helping improve livelihoods in one of Southeast Sumba’s most economically-underdeveloped districts. The work-in-progress biogas project will allow children to study in the evening and discourage the villages’ adult men from roaming at night to steal and rob. Proof that there’s more to SII than alternative  renewable project.

Domingus Dengi Bokol has been out in the field since morning, clearing weeds under the hot sun. Accompanied by his wife and eldest son, the Kalena Ronggo resident of Southwest Sumba diligently collects woods, bamboo, and stones for the construction of the village’s cattle pens and the planned 8 m3 biogas digester. During his spare time, he would lend his hand working on his neighbours’ land –unimaginable spectacle for those who had known the small muscled man’s past exploits.

Like his father and most of the men in the Kodi district, Domingus was predisposed to taking “evening strolls” –a turn-of-phrase that takes ominous meaning in a village still lacking electricity. Joining a group of 6 to 10 men armed with spears, arrows, machetes, and stones, Domingus would roam the countryside as far as West, Central and East Sumba, rustling other people’s buffaloes, pigs, and horses. The men also attacked market fairs, spending their ill-gained profits on food and gambling. “My wife always warned me I was digging my own grave,” Domingus remembers, “so, I beat her up.”

Until one early morning when he returned home with an arrow stuck deep in his ankle –the result of a robbery gone wrong in a neighboring hamlet. The villagers –equally-versed in cattle raiding– had prepared a trap, dispersing Domingus’ gang and killing one of his accomplices with a spear. That day, Kristina Rarombo held back her tears as she wheeled her husband on a cart to the nearest hospital. A subsequent meeting with Father Mikael Keraf brought further salvation. The priest’s Donders Social Foundation has been helping mothers who were left fending for themselves and their many children while their husbands were out stealing and robbing.

The organization gradually engaged the whole village to revive their long-lost values. “The true indigenous Marapu belief actually forbids people from stealing and harming,” explains Father Mikael. Together they constructed a Learning House and restored ancient rituals and prayers. A partnership with SII provided something else as well. “The biogas project is encouraging villagers to collect cattle dungs and coverting it to green renewable energy,” says Father Mikael. “Instead of slaughtering or stealing, people are now keeping live stocks.”

For Domingus, planting corns and building cattle pens have proven to be better life choices than being shot at with spears. He is earning an extra Rp. 200,000 a month helping out in his neighbour’s garden –enough to buy rice for the family. The man who as a young boy had struck his teacher and ran away from school is now even providing his kids with proper education. A happy man who no longer batter his wife and spends his evenings at home, few would have taken this affable man for a former rustler. And with the completion of the biogas project, his family would no longer need to cower in the dark waiting for a safe dawn. (FI/YS)

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