By the will of Allah, The Strange Two were recently blessed with the opportunity to visit a small permaculture farm in Yogyakarta, Indonesia aptly named Bumi Langit or Heaven on Earth in english. Upon arriving it quickly became apparent why it was named so. We approached the mouth of the mountain leaving the city behind and began our ascent. Surprisingly after only about ten minutes of meandering through the mountain roads we had reached the farm, apparent by a modest sign made from a piece of laminated paper pinned to a post with the words ‘Bumi Langit’ and an arrow pointing to the entrance.
What ensued turned out to be the most enlightening and educational two weeks of my life. I was warmly greeted by the founder of the farm, Pak Iskandar Waworuntu who proceeded to give me a personal tour of the entire farm.
Over the next two weeks I would grow increasingly close to this truly inspirational man, following him around absorbing the vast amount of knowledge he had gained over his many experiences in his lifetime. He has always been an advocate of re-establishing our relationship with the earth, fulfilling our responsibility as stewards of the planet. What he has created at Bumi Langit is a shining example of man’s ability to live harmoniously with nature, not stripping the earth of its goodness in order to benefit us in the short-term, but to live a pure life that nourishes the body, the earth and the soul.
8 years ago when Pak Iskandar decided to create this off-grid farm, he did so with the principles of Permaculture deeply embedded in its soul, where both man and nature thrive together; certainly one can not without the other. I spent time working on the farm, learning the techniques used to maintain a perfect balance between man and nature. I learnt how systems had been put into place to ensure resources were being upcycled to minimise waste, a sin that goes against the essence of Permaculture. Let me take this opportunity to show you a few of the many systems put in place to upcycle “waste”.
Human and animal waste is processed in a biodigester, a by-product of which is Methane gas. This is channeled through a network of pipes to houses on the farm and even the farm cafe to be used as a cooking gas. So not only is this greenhouse gas not being released into the atmosphere to contribute to global warming, but it is being used for a purpose that would otherwise require the combustion of a fossil fuel; win and win!. What’s more is the effluent from the digestion process known as slurry is very fertile so is deposited directly on to the beds as a natural fertiliser. Permaculture at its best.
Another example is the use of grey water in the ponds. Grey water is wastewater that is sourced from baths, showers and wash basins and enters a small pond where it is purified by aquatic plants. And of course, the ponds have fish that serve as a brilliant source of fats and protein. The bones are also used as a soil improver. Once the first pond overflows the water enters a second pond that harbours more mature fish ready for consumption. And finally the water enters the main pond which provides a habitat for the ducks (and even more fish!).
The farm boasts a wide variety of organically grown fruits and vegetables without the use of any artificial insecticides or fertilisers. This of course comprises the majority of the food consumed by the residents of the farm. Any food scraps that aren’t eaten by the cats, chickens and ducks are thrown into the compost heap ready to become rich fertile soil.
One of the most important criteria for choosing a plot to set up a ecovillage is access to water. Without your own water supply you are at the mercy of the water companies that provide you with fluoridated water that has been subjected to harsh chemical treatment. When Pak bought this land 8 years ago there was no evident water source. He mentioned how people thought he was crazy for buying land with the prospect of starting a farm that had no irrigation. But Pak Iskandar is no ordinary man. After years of being in synchrony with the earth, he has developed an understanding of how energy flows. Using some basic equipment he was able to detect the negative energy of water beneath the ground. After a few failed attempts of boring over a hundred metres into the ground, finally water gushed forth. Water that had been trapped in a rock for over 200’000 years. Nothing had gone in nor out of this water. Man had not yet meddled with this water supply and contaminated with poisons. “This is healing water”, said Pak.
I mentioned that the farm is off-grid. During the day, two basic diesel engines generate the electricity. At night, the engines are turned off and batteries charged over the course of the day by solar panels are used to generate electricity. Pak Iskandar admits this needs to be addressed, as although it is better than being connected to the grid, it is still using a fossil fuel that is not a sustainable energy source and produces pollutant gases.
When speaking about the diesel engines he said “…i’d rather burn diesel than connect to the grid because if I burn diesel everyday i hear my sin in the sound of the engine…every night I will have a reason to ask for forgiveness from God and ask for help from God to be free from that element of negative aspect” [sic]. Suffice to say I was humbled by his level of ecological consciousness and how his deep connection to the earth is rooted in his faith.
As I sat in the airport waiting to board my plane I realised why I had become so emotionally attached to Bumi Langit. It wasn’t the fresh organic food, or the healing water or even the eco-friendly lifestyle. Never in my life had I witnessed a truly Islamic lifestyle. A way of life that cares for the earth, cares for the animals, and cares for the people. And this was all due to the nature of the people that make Bumi Langit heaven on earth. These were amongst the most compassionate and conscious people I have ever met. People who have made an active decision to emancipate themselves from the prevailing corrupt systems and lead by example to show the world there is an alternative, that we don’t have to remain as economic slaves existing just to pay bills until we die. That if we really cared we could adopt a way of life that looks after both man and nature, a way of life that is consistent with what Islam teaches us.