Harnessing The Power Of Natural Resources To Increase Village Prosperity

When a lunar eclipse obscured Indonesia in darkness, a teenaged Tri Mumpuni saw things clearly: she saw a world in which nature impacted all living things, and where communities, societies, and the natural world were deeply interconnected. Propelled by her lifelong love of nature and her desire to improve lives, Mumpuni studied to become an agricultural engineer and participated in rural development projects. Yet, these formative experiences led her to realize there was a central problem in the way things worked, the crux of which has become her life’s mission: “I saw global poverty occur because communities are disconnected from their own local resources."

Today, Mumpuni applies her deep belief in interconnectivity in her work, utilizing appropriate technologies such as micro-hydro power to elevate Indonesia’s poor and energy-deficient communities (approximately one-third of all Indonesians lack access to electricity).

The organization that she founded with her husband in 1993, IBEKA, also shepherds a holistic community development process which she has termed “people-driven development.” Just as user feedback is critical to the success of developing products and business that improve lives, IBEKA empowers and trains people in the communities to understand, manage, and adapt these technologies. Because these communities typically only need a small percentage of the energy they generate, they can sell their excess back to the grid; the funds generated go back into the community in the form of village development funds, which are often applied to improve health care and education, creating more transformative local impact.

There are moments in everyone’s life that pivot and forever change the direction we’re heading; learn more about Tri Mumpuni’s journey.

Also experience Tri Mumpini’s impact in this short documentary about micro-hydro and the power of community.

Photo courtesy of Maggie Lemere. With this story and others, Ashoka and The Lemelson Foundation are building a library of evidence to inspire the next generation of inventors and changemakers. Find more first-person stories of Ashoka-Lemelson Fellows in multimedia vignettes illustrating the intersection of invention and social innovation over the next few weeks on this blog and at Ashoka.org/lemelson-videos.