In this edition of Earth Voices, we feature the micro hydro village of Luku Wingir, located on the island of Sumba, in East Nusa Tenggara province. Luku Wingir was selected as a pilot village for the Village Model Initiative for Gender Integration in Renewable Energy Sector program, which accelerates gender mainstreaming in the renewable energy sector in Sumba. Initiated by Hivos and the Ministry of Women Empowerment and Child Protection, the multi-stakeholder program allows inter-sectoral collaboration, including government agencies (from village to national level), local communities, local NGO, and academics.
We sat with Mrs. Rita Kefi from Hivos Southeast Asia, and local civil society representatives, namely Mrs. Trouce Landukara and Mr. Aryanto Umbu Kudu to learn more about the life of the Luku Wingir community and the socio-economic impact of its community-based micro hydro project.
Indonesia is the largest archipelago country in Southeast Asia with a population of 250 million. Indonesia has high energy needs with challenging natural conditions. Even though the Indonesian government notes that the electrification ratio in Indonesia has reached 99%, in fact several regions in Indonesia still have difficulty in accessing energy. One of the contributing factors is the imbalance between urban and rural infrastructure development. There are still around 433 villages in Indonesia that have not yet been electrified (President Joko Widodo's speech 3 April 2020), including 325 Papuan villages, 102 West Papua villages, 5 villages in East Nusa Tenggara, and 1 village in Maluku. However, the definition of a village being ‘electrified’ varies.
Getting to know the Luku Wingir community
Luku Wingir village, an area of 51.8 square km, has a hilly natural landscape with considerably dry land. To get to Luku Wingir it takes about 1.5 hours from Waingapu, the capital of East Sumba district. Although since 2018 road conditions have improved for car and motorbike accessibility, the route is not traversed by public transportation and therefore access is still limited.
There are about 400 people living in Luku Wingir village, with almost the same ratio of men and women. Most households cultivate corn, cassava, vanilla and cashew nuts for selling to Waingapu. Apart from farming, some people raise pigs, cows, buffaloes, horses and goats. The agricultural and livestock systems there still use traditional methods, so the quantity and quality of farming and raising products are not optimal. Modern agricultural equipment has not yet entered the village, it is only limited to chemical fertilizers. “As for livestock, the villagers are not familiar with the livestock fattening method. If only they are trained and equipped with the knowledge about this, it will help to increase the meat production and increase their income” said Mr. Aryanto who has closely worked with the farmers in the village.
Most households rely on traditional biomass stoves for cooking, while a few have been provided biogas stoves by the government. For lighting, several houses are equipped with solar panels, some of which have been funded by the village government.
Before Christianity arrived in Sumba, the Anawaru tribe in Luku Wingir followed the local religion, namely Marapu. Marapu adherents worship the spirits of their ancestors, and they practiced religious rituals that are closely related to nature. For example, there are prayer ceremonies in the forest, near the springs and near old trees to respect their ancestors and nature. Even though this ritual has now disappeared, people still have a close spiritual relationship with nature, and embrace values that are in harmony with nature.
Micro hydro and economic opportunities
Due to inadequate infrastructure problems, Luku Wingir is one of the villages of Sumba that has difficulty accessing energy. The community had been relying on kerosene/ oil lamps until 2015.
Life in Luku Wingir has changed when it started receiving electricity from a 26 kW micro hydro system installed in the neighboring village of Waimbidi village. The project was funded by the regional government budget. In the construction and development process, both Waimbidi and Luku Wingir communities were directly involved. They were both also provided with training for maintenance. Thus, there is a sense of shared responsibility among the two villages to maintain the micro hydro. For instance, during a flood the two communities worked together to rehabilitate the micro hydro plant.
Women were not involved in the construction phase nor the regular maintenance of the micro hydro. Women are more actively involved in the utilization and operation of micro hydro. For example, in Luku Wingir’s village-owned enterprise (BUMDes), there is a women-led business unit called the energy and natural resources unit which is responsible for collecting electricity fees and directing the funds to the village cooperative. This fund will be used to cover the operational costs for technicians and micro hydro’s maintenance.
In the last four years, electricity access has been relatively stable for 24 hours. In the village itself, there are 25 households that are not yet connected to the micro hydro due to their location being far from the center of the village. Even though not all households can enjoy access to electricity evenly, the micro hydro has benefited the village economy. Households can carry out productive activities at night. In addition, the quality of education has also improved because children's learning time outside of school hours has also increased.
The impacts of climate change and how society adapts
Climate change has had a real impact on the lives of the Luku Wingir community. Corn planting that normally could be done in December, now has shifted to February or March. Moreover, because the supply of native Sumba seedlings has decreased, the farmers were forced to use seeds from outside Sumba (e.g. hybrid plants) that are not adaptive to the Sumba’s natural environment. This affects the quality of crop production, and consequently impacts farmers' income.
Climate change, however, has encouraged the community to adapt. Due to the threat of unstable food supply, households use their backyards to grow food crops for their own consumption and for sale within and outside the village. Being self-sufficient in food supplies also helps the community to thrive during the COVID-19 pandemic. Given its location, the Luku Wingir communities have limited contact with big cities and tourists. So far it is relatively safe and trade activity remains as usual.
In addition, the traditional Sumba weaving group has been reactivated, as a new business to support income generation. Sumba weaving is still handmade in the traditional way. The dyes used are also natural dyes from leaves, roots, and fruits.
Luku Wingir is a fairly developed village compared to five other villages in the surrounding area. There are several factors driving this development. Luku Wingir benefits from its location in a sub-district village. Moreover, since it was selected as a gender-energy model village, it received attention from the government. Furthermore, it also benefits from the formation of OPD (Regional Apparatus Organization) in East Sumba and the supporting program that aims at accelerating the village's economic development.
However, there are still challenges that hamper Luku Wingir’s economic growth. In our conversation, Mrs. Trouce and Mr. Aryanto proposed a couple of recommendations to address these challenges.
- Equitable and inclusive energy access
Equitable access to energy for all houses in the village is fundamental for inclusive economic growth. Not only will this ensure all families have access to electricity and clean cooking, but it will also enhance farming, agri processing and market activities.. Providing electricity to the 25 un-electrified households requires extending the distribution line of the existing micro hydro system. This would mean creating a road, which will also enhance transportation and logistics routes, opening additional market access routes.
- Skills-building for agri-processing
Developing the villagers’ skills will help to increase the value of their agricultural products Luku Wingir has great economic potential that can be developed, such as processing cashew nuts, bamboo, or creative economy (such as ikat weaving for example). However, the limited skills of the community prevent the village from developing added value to the products it produces.
As a pilot village, Luku Wingir has successfully set an example of how energy access using community-based micro hydro has helped to enhance the local economy, and encouraged two villages communities to work hand-in-hand, while preserving nature and respecting the local values of gotong royong (collective actions).
While every village has its own challenges and requires a tailored solution, the best practices from the case of Luku Wingir may be adopted elsewhere, especially for neighboring villages that can mutually benefit from a micro hydro project.
Composed by Cherika Hardjakusumah, with editing support from Dipti Vaghela