Star Golden Hearts Award winner gives power to the people for a brighter future

Thanks to Tonibung's micro hydro project, rural communities in Sabah now have access to electricity. — Photos: Tonibung

SABAHAN farmer Marius Limat used to spend RM240 monthly to power his home with a petrol generator set. Four hours a day, this noisy contraption would hum away, providing electricity for the appliances in his humble abode in Kampung Buayan, Penampang.

“Those were tough times,” reminisced Marius, 45, in an email interview. “I remember having to charter a four-wheel drive just to purchase petrol from the nearest station. Paying between RM15 and RM20 for 3.7 litre of petrol was expensive, leaving us unable to afford fuel at times. We had to rely on candles and torchlights at night,”

In 2018, Marius and his community saw a new light. Tonibung, a Penampang-based social enterprise committed to developing sustainable alternatives for rural electrification, came to their aid. It installed a micro hydro turbine system, harnessing the power of flowing water to provide electricity to the villagers of Kampung Buayan.This was possible through the efforts of Tonibung, Sabah Shell Petroleum Company Ltd and Pacos Trust, a community-based organisation.

Tonibung members training the micro hydro operators at their Create Borneo Centre in Penampang, Sabah.Tonibung members training the micro hydro operators at their Create Borneo Centre in Penampang, Sabah.

With the installation of the micro hydro system, Marius and his fellow villagers now enjoy affordable and sustainable electricity.

The benefits extend beyond individual households, Marius said. “The micro hydro system also supplies electricity to the school in Kampung Bambang. Students now have reliable Internet connection and can study at night.”

Marius was appointed as the micro hydro operator of his village, and his responsibility’s perks include reduced electricity bills, between RM9 and RM50, a substantial reduction from before.

The savings have allowed him to invest in his children’s education, healthcare and overall quality of life.

With affordable and clean energy now within reach, Marius’ community has experienced a brighter future, marked by continuous progress and development.

Friends of villagers

Tonibung, short for Friends of Village Development, has helped 42 villages across Malaysia since its establishment in 1999. The success of its projects, valued at over RM1 million, is largely attributed to the support received from organisations committed to corporate social responsibility, such as CIMB, Yayasan Petronas, Siemens, and Permodalan Nasional Berhad (PNB).

In 2022, Tonibung won the Star Golden Hearts Award (SGHA) in the community empowerment category and its co-founder and technical adviser Adrian Lasimbang expressed gratitude for the recognition.

“Star Golden Hearts Award gives us immense joy, as it finally acknowledges the impact of our work. This victory motivates us to continue serving rural communities across the country. It validates Tonibung’s commitment to empower more communities in need,” he said.

With affordable and clean energy now within reach, the future has been much brighter for Marius and his community.With affordable and clean energy now within reach, the future has been much brighter for Marius and his community.

Tonibung remains dedicated to research and the development of appropriate technologies to improve the lives of villagers and empower women.

Among its initiatives is the introduction of solar dryers for food processing, specifically designed to cater to the aspirations and needs of people in the rural areas. These solar dryers have helped women in the communities, providing them with the confidence to create food products and generate income.

But its work, Lasimbang said, is far from over and the organisation is constantly seeking funding to support its projects.

“There are still over 200 villages in Sabah without electricity, and we hope to collaborate with other organisations to help these people,”

Through Tonibung’s unwavering dedication, the path towards a brighter future for rural communities is illuminated, one village at a time, by its vision and tireless efforts.

This story is part of a series of articles featuring past Star Golden Hearts Award winners. Nominations are now open for this year’s award. Uplift your heroes by nominating them at before July 31, 2023.

Nominations are open for this year’s award at are open for this year’s award at

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SGHA , Star Golden Hearts Award


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