Expedition Sumba 2014

October 8, 2014

Sumba is a relatively unknown island in the Indonesian archipelago. The majority of its 650,000 inhabitants are poor, self-subsistence farmers without access to energy. But it is on this remote island that Hivos decided to develop an ambitious plan: provide the people of Sumba with 100% renewable, locally-produced energy by 2025, and make Sumba an iconic island, a replicable model for comparable areas in the world.

Until today, not many Indonesians or global citizens were aware of this daring effort, which has been taking place on Sumba since 2010. So to promote this ambition, Hivos went in search of motivated people who would commit to participating in a unique experience: ‘Expedition Sumba’.

This year, Hivos organised its third Expedition Sumba, this time with biogas at its heart. The goal is that the expedition team will spread the word about Sumba and the ongoing renewable energy projects on the island. Expedition members act as ambassadors of the project and share their experiences as a means of attracting crowdfunding. The funds collected this year will go toward the installation of biogas digesters on Sumba.

Following a long recruitment process, four Dutch and four Indonesian citizens were selected to go to Sumba from 30 August to 6 September 2014. The expedition made its journey from west to east, starting in Kendautana, a village where water is a luxury. Here, there was a biogas installation already in progress. For two days, the expedition members helped to dig through the rocky lime soil and mix concrete to lay the foundation of the biogas digester, before building a dome to cover it. All the work was done by hand with simple tools.

The journey subsequently continued to Lewa village, where the expedition members witnessed to what extent energy intervention can improve people’s lives. Lewa is so dry that local farmers can only grow vegetables for 3 months out of the year. They have to endure severe drought for the remaining nine months. Biogas digesters produce a by-product called bio slurry, which is very important in helping fertilise the soil. So now, the combination of readily available bio-slurry and Hivos’ solar water pumping installation makes year-long cultivation is possible.

The journey ended in a village named Laimbonga, where despite enjoying a better economy, the inhabitants are still very keen to have a sustainable source of energy. As the expedition members saw everywhere on Sumba, it is not just a question of having electricity, but how energy can seriously improve the present living standard of the people.

Expedition Sumba is part of Hivos’ climate and energy campaign, which aims to achieve 100% renewable energy worldwide. The campaign’s primary goal is to garner public support in the Netherlands and Indonesia for affordable access to renewable energy in developing countries in general, and on Sumba in particular. By 2025, Sumba will be a global example of how renewable energy can both fight poverty and stimulate sustainable development.