Rus Alit was born in Sangketan village in Tabanan, the 11th child in a farming family. After graduating from high school he had the good fortune to study in New Zealand for three years. Pak Alit has three decades of experience teaching appropriate technology that benefited the poor and needy in more than 30 different countries around world. In 1987 he founded Bali Appropriate Technology Institute (BATI) in West Bali. Water management has been Pak Alit’s main focus, but he is also adept at road and bridge construction and sustainable agriculture. Pak Alit and his wife Made have a ten-year old son, Peter. The family divides their time between Perth in Western Australia and Bali to carry on the work of BATI where he serves as director.
What are your interests?
Swimming, playing music (organ, piano, accordion) and landscape painting.
What’s your educational background?
I studied at a sport college, a fisheries college, STM (Sekolah Teknik Menengah), teacher’s college (SMA level) but didn’t graduate from any. I also completed two years of study at a bible school in Wellington, New Zealand.
What jobs have you had in your life?
I was a rice farmer prior to traveling abroad. In New Zealand, I worked at a milk factory as a fork lift operator and laboratory assistance. Until 1996, I’ve traveled in many countries and across the whole of Indonesia installing appropriate technology systems. My main job in each place was to identify the grass root needs of people and to design appropriate technologies to answer those needs.
How did you first become interested in appropriate technology?
Seeing practical technologies that actually work has always captivated me. From the very first moment I struck a match to light a bio gas stove, I was hooked. Another exciting moment was when I pushed the valve on my first homemade Ram Pump and saw it jump into action. I still remember the tears of happiness in the eyes of the villagers when they saw water flow uphill into their village for the first time.
Have you done much international travel?
For 15 years from 1982 to 1996 I traveled the world working as a consultant for the humanitarian organization World Vision, covering all major countries in the Pacific, Asia and Africa. During those years, I helped rural communities build roads, bridges, irrigation canals, energy efficient stoves, water purification and food preservation systems.
What did you do after all those years of travel?
Traveling the world listening to people taught me to better understand what people needed. I was able to work with villagers in all sorts of fields and to broaden my expertise. Soon after I returned from New Zealand in 1972, I became directly involved with helping my own village. I first introduced a bio gas system, so housewives could cook with gas. I set up hydraulic ram pumps to bring water to hilltop villages. My team has also constructed dams in the area to divert water for irrigation.
What book has had a big influence on you?
A friend Thomas Fricke, who has worked with small farmers for more than 30 years, gave me Appropriate Technology Source Book (VITA) that contained many economical technologies that inspired me. But my very best training has been from farmers. I strive to simplify their methods to make them work even better. I admire their old ways of life. Until relatively recently, the Balinese had lived their lives in an appropriate manner for generations. Now modernization has brought greed to people as well as destruction of the environment.
What gave you the idea of starting BATI?
When I was working for World Vision, I saw how peoples’ lives could be so dramatically changed through technology. In 1987, I was finally able to realize my long held dream of establishing a center where students could come to study my innovations. The whole world has such a great need for down to earth technologies.
What are you trying to accomplish?
Life-changing skills are not only obtainable at university. Information on many technologies are available on the Internet and also available in books, though it takes hands on experience to make them really work. The short courses that BATI offers take just a few days and can be understood when taught intensively by seeing and participating. Now our graduates are spreading our technologies within Indonesia and all over the world. People are installing ram pumps in Timor Leste, Eastern Indonesia, Latin America, Africa, India and even in the Pacific.
Where do you get funding?
Initially I raised money for my yayasan myself working as an international consultant in various fields, but we need funds to expand. We welcome any donors who believe in my approach.
Is BATI engaged in commercial enterprise?
We have invested in a community development and job creation program through virgin coconut oil production that employs ten villagers who would otherwise be unemployed.
What is the cheapest and quickest technology that can be adapted to make lives easier?
Slow sand filters and energy efficient stoves are the simplest and fastest labor and time saving devices that can be put in a home. An expat told me that he uses our slow sand filter to purify city water before he stores it. He says that it not only eliminates impurities but also gets rid of the smell of chlorine. Our water purifier is the most popular with farmers. For hilltop communities, a ram pump coupled with a water purification system are almost necessities.
Of all BATI’s achievements, what are you the proudest of?
The 60 ram pumps that have now been in operation in Timor Leste since 2005 when I taught a group of students how to build them. Also our method of underground rain water catchment that we started in Rwanda is now spreading to more places in Africa.
What do you consider Bali’s most pressing environmental problems?
Chemicals and salt water in water and plastic waste and rubbish on land and in the sea, everywhere.
Where can readers learn more about BATI?
www.baliappropriatetechnology.org has a wealth of information, instructions, illustrations and videos on appropriate technology.
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Copyright © 2018 Bill Dalton