Sumba Expedition 2015: a gateway to light

September 28, 2015

In September 2015, the Sumba Expedition set off to Indonesia for a fourth time. Sumba Expedition 2015 is part of an ongoing campaign initiated by Hivos to raise awareness of climate change, promote the use of renewable energy and engage a wider public in our climate and energy campaign.

To involve Dutch people – and especially youth – in this initiative, Hivos had organised three previous Sumba Expeditions. This time around, participants from both Indonesia and the Netherlands joined the trip: Dea Sihotang, Novianus Efrat, Saepul Hamdi and Griksa Gunadarma from Indonesia and Sylvia Melzer, Guido van Zurk, Franka Kerkland, and Joyce from the Netherlands.

The expedition team returned from their ten-day trip to Sumba on 11 September 2015, during which they participated in daily life – and lived without electricity – on a remote island in the Archipelago. They worked with the villagers in the fields and experienced firsthand how solar-powered irrigation and slurry from biogas installations make work easier and increase soil fertility, therefore increasing peoples’ incomes. One of their tasks was to help a community build a water pump to bring water uphill for household and irrigation use.

Now, the team’s assignment is to share their stories with the public and use their experience in a crowdfunding campaign to help the Prailangina Elementary School in Kadahang village electrify. This will encourage local children to attend school not only to learn, but also to charge their own lamps and bring them home for light at night to do their homework.

The project aims to deliver 100 percent renewable energy to the islanders by the year 2020 using, amongst others, household biogas installations, mini wind farms, off-grid biomass gasification power plants and solar irrigation pumps. It has already met with considerable success after its first five years and has obtained the full support of local leaders, the Indonesian government and major donors like the Asian Development Bank, all working with the governments of Norway and the Netherlands in the Sumba task force to realize this ambitious goal.

The major beneficiaries of this project are women and children. In the past, it was they who suffered the most from poor energy access; now solar panels and micro-hydro plants are powering the schools and enabling women to generate additional income by producing handicrafts after sunset. Many women on Sumba have set up small businesses, and more children are able to study in the evening at home.

Hivos believes by bringing renewable energy to Sumba it will not only reduce poverty, improve health and increase economic development, but also serve as an example to other countries of how to help tackle climate change while making communities more resilient to climate impacts.

Development without access to energy is impossible; the Sumba Iconic Island project is demonstrating that access to energy is a vital driving force for development, and that the island of Sumba can become living proof that “sustainable energy for all” is both feasible and affordable.