Sumba, East Nusa Tenggara (NTT)- Bernadus Missa is not a person who gives up easily.
Bernadus was teary-eyed as he shared the story of his struggle two years ago to have a domestic biogas digester, which transforms animal and human waste and other organic materials into biogas that can be used for home cooking and lighting.
“After I saw a friend having a biogas [digester], I made a resolution to have one too,” said Bernardus, accompanied by his wife Rut Tamu Inah in a modest house on a rocky hill in Kambohapang village in Lewa district, East Nusa Tenggara province.
“They said I had to have at least three pigs. I felt helpless because I only had one. Another requirement was to provide sand and several sacks of cement, and I felt helpless again,” he said, the years showing on his face.
BIRU digester technology is a fixed-dome adapted from a system used in other countries like Bangladesh, Cambodia, Laos, Pakistan, Nepal and Vietnam. The fixed-dome digester is made of bricks and concrete buried under the ground. The system has been proven to be safe for the environment and function as a source of clean energy.
Since May 2009, the Indonesia Domestic Biogas Programme (IDBP) or BIRU has built more than 15,000 biogas digesters in 10 provinces in Indonesia by June 2015.
A religious man, Bernadus Missa said he believed it was a God’s test. “Even though I seemed to be helpless, I convinced myself I had to have one, no matter what,” he said.
Money was not the only problem. Bernadus’ house stood on a rocky hill, making it hard to dig the ground.
The battle then began. With his family, Bernadus dug a 4-cubic-meter digester hole for three months. Usually, it would only take three days but the ground was full of hard rocks.
“Every day, we patiently did it. We smashed the rock for three months until it finished. As religious people, we believe nothing is impossible for God,” he said.
To ensure the dung supply from three pigs, Bernardus humbled himself and asked for dung from fellow villagers, even to other villages until a month. “People mocked me, saying I smelled of pig shit,” he said. He bought a tank of water to mix with the dung at Rp 150,000.
Two weeks later, when the fermentation process of the dung and water in the digester finally yielded gas, the family was very proud and grateful because their toil paid off.
The free cooking gas was only the beginning of the joy. The biogas residue from the bio-slurry retainer had boosted his spirit more. Almost every day he watched the outlet, wondering when the bio-slurry would accumulate enough. In a month, Bernardus could harvest about 140 liters of liquid bio-slurry that he used for organic fertilizer.
“I want the yard surrounding my house to be all green,” he said, pointing to his yard where various plants and vegetables grow.
Bernadus’ effort has borne fruit. His house provides contrasting scenery: a rocky hill that looks arid where green and lush plants grow healthily. The yard has yielded produce for his family, besides his rice field, which is not much.
“I bring this bio-slurry to my friends and they have also enjoyed the benefit for their rice,” he said. After the rice has grown more plentiful and yielded more harvest, Bernadus sold the liquid bio-slurry in a simple packaging.
Syahban, a chili farmer from Lombok Utara in West Nusa Tenggara province, experienced a similar struggle.
The long dry season in Salut village in Kayangan district, where Syahban lives with his wife and their child, forced him to shell out Rp 125,000 for a tank of water, a lot for the modest family. The precious water has to be distributed carefully to fulfill not only daily household needs but also his chili farm that supports his family.
Syahban, who is illiterate and cannot speak Indonesian fluently, said that although he was poor, he and his family decided to save some money to build a 4-cubic-meter BIRU digester in 2014.
“In the beginning, I learned that from a biogas digester we could get free gas and also free fertilizer,” he said. The rising prices of fertilizer made Syahban turn to bio-slurry for his chili plants.
“We got wonderful results,” he said. The plants yielded a lot of chilies for a longer time compared to when he used chemical fertilizer, which he had completely abandoned. Every week for seven months Syahban harvested a total of 1,500 kilograms of chilies, double the yield when he used chemical fertilizer. Syahban managed to save money to build a house.