(Fauzan Riza Adinugraha/Kopernik)

Greater Access to Clean Energy Can Empower Women in Rural Areas


DECEMBER 04, 2017

Larantuka, East Nusa Tenggara. At a time when the Indonesian government is actively pushing for equal development in all provinces throughout the country, many communities in some rural and remote areas in the archipelago are still without basic energy supplies. Limited access to electricity has also caused many communities to rely on kerosene for lighting.

In the East Flores villages of Ile Gerong and Horinara in East Nusa Tenggara, securing electricity sources and clean water is still difficult since the weather is usually scorching hot and dry in the mountainous terrain, making infrastructure development doubly difficult.

Located on the eastern end of the island of Flores — literally "flowers" in Portuguese — both villages ironically suffer from very low rainfall, with the dry season typically lasting for at least eight months.

It is not exactly the best situation to be in, since most people of Ile Gerong earn their living as cashew farmers. Similarly, most people in Horinara are farmers who cultivate corn, tuber, cacao and coconuts.

Kopernik's Wonder Women program

Kopernik — an Indonesia-based non-profit organization that distributes low-cost technologies to recipients in less-developed countries using crowd-funding — reported that women in rural and remote areas are greatly impacted by energy poverty.

"It is because many of them still spend a lot of time in the kitchen. They also need to spend time to gather wood from forests, then spend a lot of time for cooking and boiling water as they still use three-stone cooking fire," Sergina Loncle, communications manager of Kopernik, told the Jakarta Globe on Monday (27/11).

Sergina said that women are also having trouble doing things at night because of a lack of electricity.

"Maybe there is electricity in their villages, but it is not reliable as there is often power failure," she said.

Sergina said that according to these experiences, in 2011, Kopernik initiated a program called "Wonder Women," or "Ibu Inspirasi," aimed at empowering women's livelihoods by expanding energy access.

"We recruit mothers and also young women who want to be involved and want to try to become small entrepreneurs, or commonly known as micro-social entrepreneurs, in technology products sales," she said.

Sergina said that the recruited women are assigned to promote and sell clean energy technology products, including solar-powered lamps, non-electrical water filters and environmentally-friendly cooking stoves, to communities.

"These technologies not only save time and money, but also improve health, are safe to use and reduce threats to the environment as well as open up new economic opportunities," she added.

Norbertha Nogo Hipir, one of the recruited Wonder Women, said she has partnered with Kopernik since 2014. Norbetha, who is called Mama Luku by locals, explained that she was briefly introduced to the Wonder Woman program at her friend's wedding where she met up with a woman, who apparently worked at Kopernik.

"I was explained by her about the importance of appropriate technology usage. She said it is energy that doesn't burn fossil fuels. I was then interested, because I am aware that villagers have difficulty accessing energy. They need to go to the city to get it," she said.

Since then, Norbetha, a mother of four children, has traveled to many places in East Flores to promote and sell the clean energy technology products to the public.

"In the town, I introduced these eco-friendly products to the public. I told them that using these products will reduce the cost of electricity, which is getting more expensive. While in the village, these products are also primarily needed," she said.

Norbetha explains the benefits of non-electrical water filters to villagers in Ile Gerong. (Kopernik Photo/Fauzan Riza Adinugraha)

Norbetha, who also runs small canteens in some schools, said the income she earns from selling clean energy technology products is really useful for herself and for her family.

"My husband retired five years ago and I also have four sons. The oldest is now a police officer. Two of them are currently studying in universities. And the youngest one is still at senior high school," she said.

The Jakarta Globe was invited by Kopernik to the villages of Ile Gerong and Horinara on November 26-27.