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Saving the Mount Merapi-Merbabu Forests through Biogas Development

Bioconversion and Bioprocessing-Based Business

Wood serves as the primary energy source for communities residing on the slopes of Mount Merapi and Merbabu, including those in Selo District, Boyolali Regency. Even with the program to convert kerosene to gas fuel, the community’s preference for wood as the main energy source remains unchanged. Wood remains the primary choice in Selo because it is perceived as cheap (free) by the community, even though obtaining it is not easy. People must venture into distant and steep forested areas to harvest wood.

The logging activities conducted by the community pose a threat to the conservation of the Mount Merapi and Merbabu National Parks (TNGM and TNGMb). This logging has led to significant degradation and deforestation, endangering the endemic flora and fauna of the area. The steep biophysical conditions of the area exacerbate the impact of logging on these two areas, which serve as watershed areas. Some of the impacts already felt by the communities around the slopes of the two mountains include erosion, landslides, and the depletion of several water sources.

The majority of people living in Selo District (80%) are farmers and cattle breeders. Currently, there are no fewer than 4,000 cattle in Selo (Monograph, 2017). The large cattle population in Selo could be a potential solution to the high dependence on firewood. The utilization of cow dung to reduce this dependence has begun by the Karya Manunggal Farmer Group in Samiran Village, Selo District. They convert cow dung into energy as a substitute for firewood through biogas.

The first biogas unit from the Karya Manunggal Farmer Group was built in 2011. Initially, many farmer members were skeptical about this biogas technology. However, over time, biogas owners experienced the direct benefits of using biogas. The use of firewood decreased by 40%, while the use of LPG gas decreased by up to 100%. Cooking became more comfortable and free from the smoke of burning firewood, and the cow pens became cleaner, among other direct benefits. Eventually, after three years (2014), all 43 members of the Karya Manunggal group had biogas installations with capacities ranging from 4m3 to 12m3.

The biogas installations built by the Karya Manunggal farmer group members are the result of learning from various references. Eventually, they found an installation technology that suited their needs and was inexpensive. They only needed 3 million rupiahs for a 4m3 biogas installation, while building a 12m3 biogas installation only cost 6 million rupiahs. Their biogas installation costs became cheaper because they used a mutual cooperation system. The construction was done together and voluntarily. Until now, their village is known as the biogas village.

A study conducted in 2014 showed that each 4m3 biogas unit was able to reduce firewood consumption equivalent to 1 dekuren acacia tree in 1 month. This means that each biogas unit prevented the owner from cutting down one tree per month, or the equivalent of 12 trees per year. If calculated further, in one Karya Manunggal group, they have contributed to the conservation of the Mount Merapi and Mount Merbabu National Parks by saving 516 trees from being cut down annually.

Due to this success, the Karya Manunggal biogas village has become a model for many parties in biogas development. Some of the group members have even become facilitators and trainers for other residents around the slopes of Mount Merapi and Merbabu.


Uyung Pramudiyanto

“The earth does not belong to us, we belong to the earth.”

-Chief Seattle

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Bioconversion and Bioprocessing-Based Business
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