Islamic boarding schools lead way in waste management

Lombok, West Nusa tenggara (NTB)- Islam teaches that cleanliness is half the faith. The tenet is religiously practiced at Isti Daduddarain Islamic boarding school in the Medana village, Lombok Utara regency in West Nusa Tenggara province.

The school, which was established in 1995, is led by Ustaz Lalu Wildan and has about 100 students and staffers. It is a humble compound and classrooms had holes in the roofs and walls.

The ongoing construction of a mosque inside the compound is a contribution from residents around the boarding school. Although the mosque is far from finished, the students and teachers have begun using it for their daily prayers.

Despite its modest facilities, the school has an efficient waste and energy management system. In 2011, Ustaz Lalu Wildan built an 8-cubic-metre domestic biogas digester to transform animal and human waste and other organic materials into biogas, used for home cooking and lighting.

BIRU (Biogas Rumah, or Home Biogas) digester technology as used by the boarding school, is a fixed-dome adapted from a system used in other countries like Bangladesh, Cambodia, Laos, Pakistan, Nepal and Vietnam. The digester is made of bricks and concrete buried under the ground, and  has been proven to be environmentally safe and function as a source of clean energy.

Initiated in May 2009 with the support from the Netherlands Embassy, Indonesia Domestic Biogas Programme (IDBP) or BIRU has built more than 15,000 biogas digesters in 10 provinces in Indonesia as of June 2015.

The BIRU programme is the initiative of Hivos and SNV implemented by Hivos and Yayasan Rumah Energi (YRE) in cooperation with Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry, with support from Norwegian Embassy, Energising Development (EnDev) Programme, and partners, to promote modern and sustainable renewable energy for the Indonesian society.

By using the biogas digester, the boarding school today can save up to Rp 150,000 per day because it does not have to buy LPG for cooking meals for the resident students and teachers.

The interesting thing about the biogas digester in the boarding school is the ingredient, which is human waste.

“We have four toilets connected to the digester. In the beginning, we used cattle dung but when the construction worker said that we could use human waste, I decided to use the waste from the students,” said Ustaz Lalu.

Using human waste as biogas ingredient needs a special trick. Preventing detergent from entering the septic tank is crucial because detergent will kill the bacteria needed in the fermentation process of waste and water in the digester.

“I have explained to all my students that they have to keep in mind that detergent or soap must never enter the toilets. The students understand and have shown discipline in following this rule because they know this is for their own good,” he said.

Anticipating the increasing number of students in the boarding school, the management has expected that the cooking needs would also increase. Thus, they plan ito add one more digester, a 12-cubic-meter one this time.

“Every time we need to cook more for an event, we still use firewood. That’s why we want to add another digester, so we won’t be dependent on LPG and wood,” he said.

The students in the school come from various provinces. The education in Isti Daduddarain, which means “preparation of happiness for earthly life and the afterlife,” equals that of junior high school and upon graduation students are expected to become a hafiz or a Muslim who has completely memorized the Quran.

The boarding school has also utilized the bio-slurry, the residue of the biogas plant, for organic fertilizer in the vegetable fields at the school’s compound. They grow eggplants, chilies, bitter gourds, long beans, tomatoes, and sugar cane and they get steady vegetable yields they use for the food for the students.

The news of their success story has spread and the school gets a lot of visits from other boarding schools wanting to learn about biogas.

“Praise be to Allah, we can manage our waste well. We are trying to create food and energy sufficiency,” he said.

The same waste management system has been implemented by At-Taubah Educational Foundation in Cibogo village, Lembang district in Bandung regency, West Java.

Using a 4-cubic-meter digester built in 2012, the foundation that has 600 students uses food waste as the ingredient for their digester.

Wiwik Dwikori, a veterinarian from Bogor Institute of Agriculture (IPB) who becomes the staffer at the foundation along with her husband.
Wiwik Dwikori, a veterinarian from Bogor Institute of Agriculture (IPB) who becomes the staffer at the foundation along with her husband. Photo: Sonang Elyas/BIRU

“Praise be to Allah, trash is not a problem anymore,” said Wiwik Dwikori, a veterinarian from Bogor Institute of Agriculture (IPB) who works  at the foundation along with her husband.

Even though the boarding school has only 150 live-in students, it has a policy to provide lunch for the entire students and teachers, including those who do not live there. With about 600 students having lunch there, food waste became a problem until they decided to install a BIRU digester.

“From a big container of food waste, we can have four hours of free non-stop cooking,” Wiwik said.

As the school coordinator, Wiwik pays serious attention to waste management. The school teaches the students to sort organic garbage from the non-organic waste to make utilizing the organic waste easier.

“Islam teaches that cleanliness is half the faith. I want to make sure we can apply the teaching here,” she said.

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