Prosperity from Clean Energy

With a per capita income of Rp. 2,213,104, Sumba remains one of Indonesia’s and East Nusa Tenggara province poorest islands –a situation that has forced some villages to resort to criminal activities. Sumba Iconic Island’s alternative renewable energy has since brought significant changes to the isle: transforming dry savanna into vegetable gardens, seasonal craftsmen to successful artisans, and cattle raiders to diligent farmers.

The buzz of an electric planer emanates late into the afternoon at Kamanggih village, East Sumba, where Darius Hamba Ndima is busily working on the Santo Petrus Catholic Church. Thanks to the 250 kW of electricity generating from the Bakuhau micro-hydro, everyone is confident the church would be able to serve its congregation well before the 2015 Christmas celebration. “It used to be much harder before, with hand-held planers,” confesses the 44-year old farmer. Now, he can finish a pair of doors and windows every day, place his savings in the local BRI bank, and put his children through universities in the city of Malang.

The Wee Patando village in West Sumba, 216 km from Kamanggih, is yet another example. The 5 kW electricity generated by the solar power plant –built by PT. Surya Energy Indotama– now powers the front terraces, living rooms and kitchens of 32 households. The powerhouse has become a community centre of sorts with women taking turns using the electric iron while children finish their homework. “They help out their parents in the garden in the afternoon, then, study in the evening,” explains Lukas Bulubeleka. “Our expenses are greatly reduced since we no longer need to buy kerosene.”

Irregardless of the kinds of technology installed, SII’s alternative renewable energy initiative has improved the quality of life for the people of Sumba. The micro-hydro electric power plant supported by HIVOS and IBEKA at Kamanggih is helping local traditional weaving, wood working and bakery to thrive. Elsewhere, HIVOS is training local organizations maintain and manage electricity in each village. Today, the Lewa solar-powered water pump is transforming dry savanna into 6 hectare of lush vegetable garden. “HIVOS’ decision to designate Sumba as an iconic renewable energy project for the rest of country was like an answer to our prayers,” explains Danny Suhandi, Head of the Energy and Mineral Resources Office in East Nusa Tenggara.

The majority of people in Sumba rely on agriculture and small trades. Its average per capita income of Rp. 2.213.104 (BPS, 2013) places the island as one of the poorest in East Nusa Tenggara and in Indonesia –forcing several villages to resort to criminal livelihoods, which is where SII and the Donders Social Foundation focus their biogas digester programs today. “We work with mothers raising 6 to 9 children on their own while their husbands are off raiding cattles in other villages. These women are key to transforming communities with special needs,” explains Father Mikael Keraf.

Thence, in Kodi, at the far end ot Southwest Sumba, Kristina Karombo no longer worries of finding her husband arriving home with an arrow in his leg. Thanks to biogas fertilizers Domingus the former cattle rustler now diligently tends his corn field, making sure their children will able to continue their educations. Similarly, in the relatively more prosperous Kamanggih others are becoming as productive as Darius Ndima. Kristina Rambu Ippo, a grandmother of three, weaves her songket late into the evening. Work that in the past took her months to complete can now be finished in a mere two days. Selling for Rp 100.000 a piece, that’s enough money to send her children through university educations in Kupang. (FI/YS).

Related Articles:

→ Switching on Lights, Saving Valuable Lives

→ Burying the Hachet, Harvesting Light
→ Carving Away on the Dark Ages
→ Changemakers & Social Transformers
→ The Enthusiastic Paksoy Farmers
→ From Crises to Innovations
→ Illuminating Sumba, Empowering Women
→ Sumba’s Collective Opportunities
→ 100% Renewable