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Honey industry enhances sustainable peatland management in Indonesia

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Bees are transforming the livelihoods of residents in the Indonesian province of Riau where honey production is on the rise.

Indonesia is intensifying efforts to ban the use of fire to clear land as part of broader efforts to conserve peatland areas through its Ministry of Environment and Forestry in collaboration with the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), which is the lead center of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA).

A project known as “Haze Free Sustainable Livelihoods” aims to empower local communities in nine villages across three districts in Riau province through retraining.

Researchers are exploring the potential for new livelihood options in the villages, providing capacity building to support local people. Information gathered will be funneled into the Sustainable Management of Peatland Ecosystem in Indonesia project, led by the ministry.

Read also: Peatlands: From marginal lands to essential ecosystem

Honey production already plays a significant role in the local economy, according to a study conducted between 2016 and 2018 in the districts of Pelalawan, Indragiri Hulu and Indragiri Hilir in Riau, where many people regularly gather wild honey from sialang trees (Koompassia excels).

“We can get 1.2 tons of honey from a hundred nests on one tree that we can sell at IDR 75,000 [$5] per kilogram,” said Fahrudin, head of Teluk Kabung village in Indragiri Hilir district.

A man creates smoke in order to harvest organic honey in Kalimantan, Indonesia. Photo by Lucy McHugh/CIFOR

Honey gatherers, who export most of their product to Malaysia, earn approximately IDR 90 million from each harvest.  However, potential is limited because only some people are willing and able to climb the 50-meter trees.

Experts from the Haze Free Sustainable Livelihoods project provide training on how to harvest safely and effectively. Those who are keen are also trained to develop honey-bee farms, using a stingless bee species, Trigona, which is native to the peatlands in Riau.

“A lot more people can benefit from it since they can develop honey bee farms in the backyard,” said Dede Rohadi, project leader and a scientist affiliated with Indonesia’s Forestry and Environmental Research Development and Innovation Agency (FOERDIA) and CIFOR.

Read also: Hanging in the balance: Preservation, restoration and sustainable management in Indonesian peatlands

The Haze Free Sustainable Livelihoods project is also training community members to generate income from several other local industries. In Teluk Meranti in Pelalawan district, fisheries and tourism industries are being developed.

The tidal bore in the Kampar River, as an attraction for the international surfing community, is helping to expand tourism jobs. Fish swept in on the tidal bore flood into the waterways in local villages, offering the potential to improve livelihoods through fish processing and sales.

In addition to the Haze-Free Sustainable Livelihoods project, CIFOR is leading a Community-based Fire Prevention and Peatland Restoration project with Riau University, which involves local governments, communities and the private sector.

“The residents are willing to switch gears if there are better options to support their livelihood,” said Herry Purnomo, the CIFOR scientist who is leading the project.

By Anggrita Cahyaningtyas, originally published at CIFOR’s Forests News.


This research forms part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry, which is supported by the CGIAR Trust Fund.

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  • Hanging in the balance: Preservation, restoration and sustainable management in Indonesian peatlands

Hanging in the balance: Preservation, restoration and sustainable management in Indonesian peatlands

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FTA COMMUNICATIONS TEAM

A boat travels along a river in Kalimantan during the 2015 fire and haze crisis. Photo by A. Erlangga/CIFOR

The protection of peatland ecosystems, which store “disproportionate” amounts of carbon, is vital to achieving Indonesia’s emission reduction targets and climate goals.

The need to protect remaining peatlands while restoring degraded lands resounded throughout the Tropical Peatlands Exchange, held at the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) headquarters on Aug. 8, 2018.

Peatland ecosystems are critical for biodiversity, ecosystem services, water regulation and pollution control, in addition to their “disproportionate importance in terms of carbon storage,” said CIFOR Director General Robert Nasi. Because of this, peat swamps, along with mangroves, have the greatest potentials of any ecosystems to affect greenhouse gas emissions if they are degraded or destroyed.

Though only 3% of the world’s land area is covered by peatlands, these areas hold 30 to 40% of global carbon, a density that underscores their importance and the vested interest in their preservation. With Indonesia being home to some of the world’s largest peatland areas, the country can significantly impact both regional and global environments, markets and livelihoods through its peatland management decisions.

A case in point concerns the 18th Asian Games ongoing this month, for which Indonesia appears to be going to great measures to ensure that host cities Jakarta and Palembang will not be marred by haze from the country’s perennial forest and land fires. With new and concerted efforts to avoid anything akin to a repeat of the country’s catastrophic fire period in 2015, the coming weeks will put fire prevention and mitigation strategies – many focused on peatlands – to the test.

Watch: Peatlands and ecosystem services

CIFOR Principal Scientist Daniel Murdiyarso speaks at the event. Photo by A. Erlangga/CIFOR

STAYING ON TARGET

The event aimed to provide recommendations and data to support Indonesia’s policies and goals related to its peatland ecosystems. The country’s nationally determined contribution (NDC) to the Paris Agreement targets a 29% reduction in carbon emissions by 2030, or 41% if provided with external assistance, which some have described as ambitious.

The Indonesian Ministry of Environment and Forestry’s Climate Change Mitigation Director Emma Rachmawaty said that Indonesia’s NDCs could be achieved by implementing mitigation actions across four areas – reducing deforestation; reducing degradation; rehabilitation of forest and land; and peatland restoration. If all stakeholders complied with existing government regulations, Rachmawaty posited, the country could be confident about achieving its targets by 2030.

Several speakers recalled the forest fires of 2015 – an El Niño year – which caused haze that blew across a number of Indonesian provinces as well as Singapore and Malaysia, prompting a global conversation on the effect of peatland fires on human health, economies and the environment. Because peatlands are not specifically accounted for in carbon budgets, CIFOR Principal Scientist Christopher Martius said, “climate change amplification” could also result from such peat destruction.

In a session on peatlands and climate change, Solichin Manuri, Senior Advisor at consulting firm Daemeter, said that the 2015 events pushed Indonesia to commit to reducing the impact of recurrent peat fires and restoring degraded peatlands, leading to numerous efforts including the release of a new government regulation in 2016. Nevertheless, this takes time, and Manuri stated that almost 40% of emissions from Indonesia’s forestry sector still come from peatlands. This figure excludes emissions from peat fires, which would make peatlands an even more significant emissions source.

Watch: Peatlands and climate change

DOLLAR VALUE

Panels throughout the day covered topics ranging from policymaking to ecosystem services. Photo by A. Erlangga/CIFOR

Siak district in Riau province, which is home to one of the last large peatland forests on the island of Sumatra, was identified in 2016 as a target area for establishing an exemplar green strategy.

Siak is “a district that encourages sustainability and sustainable principles in the utilization of natural resources and economic empowerment of the community,” said Arif Budiman of Winrock International, affirming a thread that ran throughout the Exchange of the need to balance preservation and restoration with sustainable management approaches.

This involves changing people’s behaviors, said Nyoman Iswarayoga of Restorasi Ekosistem Riau (RER), which initiates field schools to educate communities to move away from slash-and-burn techniques in areas where this has been the traditional mode of land-clearing.

Such efforts, of course, cost money, and there remains a need to synchronize national plans at regional levels, to help to attract investment. This was addressed in the second plenary of the day, which looked at subnational peatland initiatives, raising the gaps between national mandates and subnational implementation capacity. The speakers called for more ways for Indonesia to take advantage of global agreements that bring in resources that can help the country overcome these hurdles of jurisdiction, among others.

Watch: Peatlands and ecosystem services

COMMUNITY BUSINESS

Local communities need support to sustainably generate value from peatland resources – and capture this value – CIFOR Scientist Herry Purnomo emphasized during a session on community engagement in peatlands conservation and restoration. However, policies pertinent to this issue remain weak. Communities currently continue to use fire for agriculture in Riau, South Sumatra and Central Kalimantan, showing the need for business models that promote sustainable, peatland-based livelihoods.

“Humans are an integral part of peatland ecosystems, so community engagement in the process of peatland restoration is necessary,” concurred Hesti Lestari Tata, Senior Researcher at the Ministry of Environment and Forestry’s Research, Development and Innovation Agency, while raising the ‘3R approach’ of rewetting, revegetation and community revitalization.

To optimize benefits for locals, peatland restoration and livelihoods must ultimately be combined. In reference to this, Purnomo raised his research in Riau on common peatland commodities, including sweet corn, spinach, pineapple, betel nut, oil palm, coconut and rubber. The results indicated that certain alternative uses of peatlands – barring oil palm plantations – can create sustainable business opportunities for communities.

Concluding the event, CIFOR Principal Scientist Daniel Murdiyarso highlighted stakeholders’ common objectives for emissions reduction targets and peatlands’ role therein. He outlined opportunities for collaboration on peatlands work, highlighting the new global peatlands center expected to be established in Indonesia in the near future.

In the case of the Asian Games, it indeed appears that both governments and the private sector are concerned about the possible effects of peatland fires on the event – as well as about peatland destruction and degradation more broadly.

“We need to provide evidence – science-based evidence – to make proper policy on how to avoid and improve situations like degraded peat,” Murdiyarso said, expressing his hope that the Exchange had provided a platform to improve the communication of scientific progress, inform decision-making processes, and enhance public- and private-sector cooperation. Now, when looking at how Indonesia will meet its emissions reduction targets at a national level, the question is whether a dedicated peatland restoration agenda will be part of it.

Read also: Focus on peatlands and research results

By Hannah Maddison-Harris, originally published at CIFOR’s Forests News


This research forms part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry, which is supported by CGIAR Fund Donors.

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  • Hanging in the balance: Preservation, restoration and sustainable management in Indonesian peatlands

Hanging in the balance: Preservation, restoration and sustainable management in Indonesian peatlands

Posted by

FTA COMMUNICATIONS TEAM

A boat travels along a river in Kalimantan during the 2015 fire and haze crisis. Photo by A. Erlangga/CIFOR

The protection of peatland ecosystems, which store “disproportionate” amounts of carbon, is vital to achieving Indonesia’s emission reduction targets and climate goals.

The need to protect remaining peatlands while restoring degraded lands resounded throughout the Tropical Peatlands Exchange, held at the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) headquarters on Aug. 8, 2018.

Peatland ecosystems are critical for biodiversity, ecosystem services, water regulation and pollution control, in addition to their “disproportionate importance in terms of carbon storage,” said CIFOR Director General Robert Nasi. Because of this, peat swamps, along with mangroves, have the greatest potentials of any ecosystems to affect greenhouse gas emissions if they are degraded or destroyed.

Though only 3% of the world’s land area is covered by peatlands, these areas hold 30 to 40% of global carbon, a density that underscores their importance and the vested interest in their preservation. With Indonesia being home to some of the world’s largest peatland areas, the country can significantly impact both regional and global environments, markets and livelihoods through its peatland management decisions.

A case in point concerns the 18th Asian Games ongoing this month, for which Indonesia appears to be going to great measures to ensure that host cities Jakarta and Palembang will not be marred by haze from the country’s perennial forest and land fires. With new and concerted efforts to avoid anything akin to a repeat of the country’s catastrophic fire period in 2015, the coming weeks will put fire prevention and mitigation strategies – many focused on peatlands – to the test.

Watch: Peatlands and ecosystem services

CIFOR Principal Scientist Daniel Murdiyarso speaks at the event. Photo by A. Erlangga/CIFOR

STAYING ON TARGET

The event aimed to provide recommendations and data to support Indonesia’s policies and goals related to its peatland ecosystems. The country’s nationally determined contribution (NDC) to the Paris Agreement targets a 29% reduction in carbon emissions by 2030, or 41% if provided with external assistance, which some have described as ambitious.

The Indonesian Ministry of Environment and Forestry’s Climate Change Mitigation Director Emma Rachmawaty said that Indonesia’s NDCs could be achieved by implementing mitigation actions across four areas – reducing deforestation; reducing degradation; rehabilitation of forest and land; and peatland restoration. If all stakeholders complied with existing government regulations, Rachmawaty posited, the country could be confident about achieving its targets by 2030.

Several speakers recalled the forest fires of 2015 – an El Niño year – which caused haze that blew across a number of Indonesian provinces as well as Singapore and Malaysia, prompting a global conversation on the effect of peatland fires on human health, economies and the environment. Because peatlands are not specifically accounted for in carbon budgets, CIFOR Principal Scientist Christopher Martius said, “climate change amplification” could also result from such peat destruction.

In a session on peatlands and climate change, Solichin Manuri, Senior Advisor at consulting firm Daemeter, said that the 2015 events pushed Indonesia to commit to reducing the impact of recurrent peat fires and restoring degraded peatlands, leading to numerous efforts including the release of a new government regulation in 2016. Nevertheless, this takes time, and Manuri stated that almost 40% of emissions from Indonesia’s forestry sector still come from peatlands. This figure excludes emissions from peat fires, which would make peatlands an even more significant emissions source.

Watch: Peatlands and climate change

DOLLAR VALUE

Panels throughout the day covered topics ranging from policymaking to ecosystem services. Photo by A. Erlangga/CIFOR

Siak district in Riau province, which is home to one of the last large peatland forests on the island of Sumatra, was identified in 2016 as a target area for establishing an exemplar green strategy.

Siak is “a district that encourages sustainability and sustainable principles in the utilization of natural resources and economic empowerment of the community,” said Arif Budiman of Winrock International, affirming a thread that ran throughout the Exchange of the need to balance preservation and restoration with sustainable management approaches.

This involves changing people’s behaviors, said Nyoman Iswarayoga of Restorasi Ekosistem Riau (RER), which initiates field schools to educate communities to move away from slash-and-burn techniques in areas where this has been the traditional mode of land-clearing.

Such efforts, of course, cost money, and there remains a need to synchronize national plans at regional levels, to help to attract investment. This was addressed in the second plenary of the day, which looked at subnational peatland initiatives, raising the gaps between national mandates and subnational implementation capacity. The speakers called for more ways for Indonesia to take advantage of global agreements that bring in resources that can help the country overcome these hurdles of jurisdiction, among others.

Watch: Peatlands and ecosystem services

COMMUNITY BUSINESS

Local communities need support to sustainably generate value from peatland resources – and capture this value – CIFOR Scientist Herry Purnomo emphasized during a session on community engagement in peatlands conservation and restoration. However, policies pertinent to this issue remain weak. Communities currently continue to use fire for agriculture in Riau, South Sumatra and Central Kalimantan, showing the need for business models that promote sustainable, peatland-based livelihoods.

“Humans are an integral part of peatland ecosystems, so community engagement in the process of peatland restoration is necessary,” concurred Hesti Lestari Tata, Senior Researcher at the Ministry of Environment and Forestry’s Research, Development and Innovation Agency, while raising the ‘3R approach’ of rewetting, revegetation and community revitalization.

To optimize benefits for locals, peatland restoration and livelihoods must ultimately be combined. In reference to this, Purnomo raised his research in Riau on common peatland commodities, including sweet corn, spinach, pineapple, betel nut, oil palm, coconut and rubber. The results indicated that certain alternative uses of peatlands – barring oil palm plantations – can create sustainable business opportunities for communities.

Concluding the event, CIFOR Principal Scientist Daniel Murdiyarso highlighted stakeholders’ common objectives for emissions reduction targets and peatlands’ role therein. He outlined opportunities for collaboration on peatlands work, highlighting the new global peatlands center expected to be established in Indonesia in the near future.

In the case of the Asian Games, it indeed appears that both governments and the private sector are concerned about the possible effects of peatland fires on the event – as well as about peatland destruction and degradation more broadly.

“We need to provide evidence – science-based evidence – to make proper policy on how to avoid and improve situations like degraded peat,” Murdiyarso said, expressing his hope that the Exchange had provided a platform to improve the communication of scientific progress, inform decision-making processes, and enhance public- and private-sector cooperation. Now, when looking at how Indonesia will meet its emissions reduction targets at a national level, the question is whether a dedicated peatland restoration agenda will be part of it.

Read also: Focus on peatlands and research results

By Hannah Maddison-Harris, originally published at CIFOR’s Forests News


This research forms part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry, which is supported by CGIAR Fund Donors.

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  • Fire- and distance-dependent recruitment of the Brazil nut in the Peruvian Amazon

Fire- and distance-dependent recruitment of the Brazil nut in the Peruvian Amazon

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The low natural regeneration of the Brazil nut (Bertholletia excelsa) in the Madre de Dios region of Peru is a major concern for the conservation and sustainable use of this species which sustains one of the cornerstone non-timber forest product economies in Amazonia. The Brazil nut is a gap-dependent, long-lived pioneer species that has been shown to regenerate more effectively in fallows than in mature forests. Aside from light and nutrient availability, recruitment success of the species might also be influenced by conspecific negative distance-dependent (CNDD) processes as shown for a myriad of other tropical tree species, but to date has not been studied in the Brazil nut. We measured Brazil nut recruitment in forty 150×10 square meter transects (totaling 60 ha), proportionally laid out in mature forest and fallow land. We found a higher likelihood of regeneration in fallows than in mature forest, which was mainly due to more successful transitioning from seedlings to saplings in fallows. Recruitment rates in fallows increased with the number of fire events occurring over the past 12 years, largely owing to the accumulation of resprouting individuals, but this positive correlation was only observed up to three fire events. We observed CNDD recruitment of the Brazil nut in fallows but not in mature forest, suggesting that pests and diseases might also condition Brazil nut recruitment. Our findings suggest that a better management of fallow land and more controlled use of fire in neighboring land uses could be a cost-effective manner to create Brazil nut rich forests through natural regeneration. On the other hand, the absence of high density Brazil nut stands in mature forests in Madre de Dios might mean that the impact of ancient humans there has been more limited than in other Amazonian regions.

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  • Peat fires and toxic haze: The power of perception

Peat fires and toxic haze: The power of perception

Smoke in Central Kalimantan affects traffic. Photo by A. Erlangga/CIFOR
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CIFOR scientists and research partners observe an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) flying over burning peat outside Palangkaraya, Indonesia. Photo by A. Erlangga/CIFOR

With something as evident as fire, it would be easy to assume that what you see is what you get.

However, according to a new study, perceptions of peatland fires in Indonesia vary considerably among different actors, offering an explanation of behavior, action and environmental outcomes on the ground.

The study led by Rachel Carmenta, then at the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), in collaboration with the universities of Lancaster, Cambridge and Florida, used a novel approach to map out the perceptions of different stakeholders, from international policymakers to local farmers and absentee landlords, all of whom have a role to play in the use, management and future of peatlands.

Using Q methodology — more commonly used in psychology to identify stakeholder subjectivity on a particular issue of interest — the research team was able to gain insights into how various groups perceive the benefits and the burdens of peat fires and the resulting toxic smoke, or ‘haze’, as well as how they perceive the effectiveness of potential solutions.

“We were keen to understand more about how the peat fire situation is perceived by the diverse groups of stakeholders involved, because perceptions can tell us something about why we observe what we do in their current management, and indicate pathways to a more sustainable future,” Carmenta says.

Read more: Fire and haze in Indonesia: What’s being done on the ground to prevent future disasters?

BENEFITS AND BURDENS

An initial result of the work was that rather than the often simplistic framing of two main actors groups — smallholders and agro-industrial players — driving the fires, in fact, a suite of actors are involved, and their motivations for fire use extend beyond cheap land clearing.

“We focused our efforts on Riau because it is a contemporary peatland frontier, with lots of new actors, from international business interests, to town-based investors, to small-scale farmers migrating from other parts of Sumatra, radically transforming the landscape in a process that directly or indirectly  involves fire,” Carmenta explains.

Smoke in Central Kalimantan affects traffic. Photo by A. Erlangga/CIFOR

“Some of the leading environmental challenges today are complex problems that cross sectors and scales — the peatlands are one example — and fire makes it very visible,” she adds. “In these carbon-dense peatland frontiers, multiple interests come into play on a resource and accrue burdens and benefits that are experienced differently by particular actors at different scales.”

Twelve distinct stakeholder groups were identified via field-scoping in Dumai, Riau, over six weeks in early 2015, along with expert consultation and a literature review. Many of the stakeholder groups were found to maintain particular perceptions about peatland fires.

“The extent of peatland transformation is rapid, and radical land-use change has taken place in Riau over a relatively short period of time,” Carmenta says.

“Of course, for some this change is positive, in part because of the immediate revenue that has been generated, while others may lament the drastic change, for example, because of the associated ecosystem service degradation and public health impacts, much of which has not been quantified.”

“Understanding better the full costs of the fires, across sectors such as health, education and environment would enable an improved understanding of the real returns from crops such as oil palm and acacia and could inform future planning and management,” she adds.

Fire is pervasive in Riau both from intentional use and conditions that enable fire to spread accidentally. For example, reasons for intentional burning can include land preparation, or disputes over land and resources. Indirect drivers of fire include peatland drainage, necessary for many of the plantation crops grown on peat, which results in increasingly flammable conditions.

“Accidental fire [that is, fires spreading beyond intended limits] is influenced by the drained condition of the peat, which itself is a fuel for fire spread, and contested tenure, which means incentives for fire management are not ideal,” Carmenta says.

Read more: Fighting fires with academic narrative

CONFLICTING VIEWS, COMMON INTERESTS

The research shows significant distinctions among groups of perceptions, clear areas of agreement and controversy, and discusses the implications for future fire management intervention (FMI) design and the governance challenges of global environmental change.

An expanse of burned peat in Central Kalimantan. Photo by A. Erlangga/CIFOR

The researchers were able to identify which of the many possible benefits and burdens ranked the highest in importance among the different groups. The results show that the public health and biodiversity impacts of fires are areas of concern that unite otherwise diverse groups.

“The high priority given to the health impacts was expected, because the situation was so severe in 2015. However, we were surprised that both greenhouse gas and biodiversity burdens also rated overall as key concerns held by a diverse group of stakeholders,” Carmenta says.

When it came to identifying what these different groups thought about solutions to the peat fires, the research group analyzed the responses of participants to a set of contemporary FMIs, including leading policies designed in response to the 2015 fires. Results showed that the FMIs ranked overall as the most effective , but were also those that  generated the greatest controversy between groups.

“We show that most of the solution options perceived as most effective are also those which generate the most disagreement among stakeholders,” Carmenta says.

These interventions include increasing use of shallow canals to ensure access to water, provide fire breaks, and maintain higher water tables; forbidding new agricultural expansion  on peatland; and increasing enforcement measures against companies that have fire within their land.

“These are some of the very interventions that are front and center today. This result attests to the challenges ahead for policymakers and implementers, and raises questions over how to reconcile such competing interests and what policy instruments will do this most effectively,” Carmenta says.

The study suggests that a mix of targeted policy measures and dialogue between diverse groups will be essential in designing and implementing a sound, high-performing, FMI approach to overcome the existing policy-practice gap. This is one of the leading challenges to peatland fire management and, arguably, to the governance of many other manifestations of global environmental change.

By Nabiha Shahab, originally published at CIFOR’s Forests News

For more information on this topic, please contact Rachel Carmenta at [email protected].


This research forms part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry, which is supported by CGIAR Fund Donors.

This research was supported by the KNOWFOR program from the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID).

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  • Fire and haze: Community action

Fire and haze: Community action

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How volunteers, researchers and communities are making a difference.

Residents of Pekanbaru in Riau, Indonesia, have not forgotten the devastating fires and haze that darkened their skies for months over 2014-2015.

“We were surrounded by that suffocating smoke, it was hard for us to breathe,” says Zuli ‘Lulu’ Laili Isnaini, who joined volunteer relief efforts during the crisis.

“The greatest number of victims was found among pregnant women, children and the elderly. A number of schoolchildren died at that time.”

Watch also:

Lulu, who now works for the Disaster Studies Center at the University of Riau, and other community members on the frontline of efforts to prevent fire and haze shared their perspectives at a national policy dialogue in Pekanbaru last month, hosted by the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) in collaboration with the University of Riau, also supported by the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, News and Agroforestry (FTA).

While small communities are sometimes blamed by bigger players for their role in burning land and forests, they are also making an important difference in preventing future disaster. Volunteer fire patrols, communal canal-blocking initiatives to re-wet peatlands and campaigns to change mindsets through education are just some of the steps being taking at the local level to ensure a fire-free future.

Read more: 

By Catriona Croft-Cusworth, originally published at CIFOR’s Forests News

For more information on this topic, please contact Herry Purnomo at [email protected].


This research forms part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry, which is supported by CGIAR Fund Donors.

This research was supported by the KNOWFOR program from the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID).

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  • Fire and haze: Better business practices

Fire and haze: Better business practices

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Taking responsibility for sustainability in the private sector.

The damaging practice of clearing land by burning has spread across Indonesia since at least the 1990s, employed by large and small businesses alike. The devastating impact of this practice was brought to international attention when it sparked a regional environmental and public health crisis in 2014-2015.

Burning, especially on drained peatlands and peat forests, is a major source of greenhouse gas emissions, contributing to global climate change. The haze resulting from fires interrupts daily life, forcing school and business closures, and can even result in death. The damage done to biodiverse peat forests and carbon-rich peatlands is, in some cases, irreversible.

Watch also: Fire and haze: Laws and regulations

As Indonesia’s economy grows, and sectors such as oil palm and pulp and paper continue to boom, controlling fire and haze has become more important than ever. Tougher laws and regulations to ban agricultural burning have had a strong effect on stopping the practice.

In some cases, businesses have taken responsibility for their impact, either independently or under pressure from consumers, such as by pledging compliance to international sustainability standards, such as the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO). Others have reached out to communities to cooperate on changing practices both inside and outside their concession areas.

Representatives from the private sector joined community leaders, law enforcement officials, researchers and others at a national policy dialogue on preventing fire and haze held Pekanbaru last month, hosted by the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) in collaboration with the University of Riau, and also supported by the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry.

Read more: 

By Catriona Croft-Cusworth, originally published at CIFOR’s Forests News

For more information on this topic, please contact Herry Purnomo at [email protected].


This research forms part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry, which is supported by CGIAR Fund Donors.

This research was supported by the KNOWFOR program from the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID).

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  • Fire and haze in Indonesia: What’s being done on the ground to prevent future disasters?

Fire and haze in Indonesia: What’s being done on the ground to prevent future disasters?

Firefighters put out a fire spreading in Sebangau national park, Indonesia. Photo by A. Erlangga/CIFOR
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Haze from forest fires blankets the landscape in Riau, Indonesia. Photo by A. Erlangga/CIFOR

In Indonesia, few have forgotten the devastating peatland fires and suffocating haze that afflicted the greater region for several months over 2014-2015.

Agricultural fires across Sumatra, Kalimantan and Papua at that time claimed millions of hectares of land and tens of thousands of lives, as toxic smoke spread across the country, reaching as far as neighboring Singapore and Malaysia.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo responded by placing a total nationwide ban on the clearing or burning of peatlands, and formed the Peatland Restoration Agency (BRG) to replenish damaged land.

But for this complex issue involving multiple stakeholders — from government agencies to researchers, multinational companies to smallholder farmers and communities — work on the ground to prevent future disaster is still just beginning.

More than 300 representatives from various sectors came together to discuss ways to strengthen local laws and learn from ground-level experience at a national policy dialogue in Pekanbaru last month, hosted by the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) in collaboration with the University of Riau, and supported by the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA).

The dialogue on Laws and Best Practices for Reducing Fire and Haze invited participants to share both challenges and success stories in breaking the dangerous annual cycle.

Read more: Fighting fires with academic narrative

LAW OF THE LAND

Army officers and firefighters try to extinguish fires in peatland in Central Kalimantan, Indonesia. Photo by A. Erlangga/CIFOR

The president’s decree on peatlands set the tone nationally for a change in land management practices. But research has found that local laws — issued at the provincial, regency or city level — can have even greater impact in reducing the risk of disaster.

Yulwiriawati Moesa, Head of the Riau Forestry and Environment Agency, reminded participants in the dialogue of a provincial regulation issued last year on the protection and management of peatlands, and said work was ongoing to fully implement it on the ground.

Nonetheless, she praised efforts that have so far prevented another major disaster.

“The province of Riau has managed to overcome the threat of a fire and haze disaster these past two years, after 18 years in shackles,” she said in her opening remarks.

FTA scientist Herry Purnomo recommended that any new legislation in the province or elsewhere should be based on scientific evidence and support community-level action for fire prevention and land restoration.

“We are happy that our research outputs can be used by all stakeholders to inform public debate, policies, regulations and best practices,” he said.

Watch: Fire and haze: Laws and regulations

COMMUNITY ACTION

Effective work is being carried out at the ground level by local people, including farmers, landowners and volunteer fire fighters.

Rozi, head of the Fire Awareness Community (MPA) in Dompas village, Bengkalis regency, leads regular patrols to catch fires before they burn out of control, and works together with his community to re-green and re-wet degraded peatlands, including by blocking canals to allow water to return to the land.

He regularly catches small fires started by cigarette butts or mosquito coils, particularly in the dry season.

Firefighters put out a fire spreading in Sebangau national park, Indonesia. Photo by A. Erlangga/CIFOR

“When we go on patrol, we don’t get paid,” he said on the sidelines of the dialogue. “But in villages where there are no patrols, there’s sure to be fire.”

“It’s hard to convince others to join the patrols because it means they can’t take on other work that day, they don’t get paid, and then they can’t feed their families. Economic issues are our main obstacles,” he added.

Ongoing work in collaboration with CIFOR scientists is bringing water back to dry peatlands by blocking canals that were dug to drain them in the first place. The practice of draining and burning peatlands to clear land for agriculture is a major cause of deforestation, land degradation and fires in Riau.

THE BUSINESS OF BURNING

Recent decades have seen millions of hectares of peatlands converted to agricultural land, often for plantations of cash crops such as oil palm. The most cost-effective method to clear large areas of peatland is by burning, but as the 2014-2015 crisis shows, it cannot be considered a sustainable option.

Bambang Setiadi from Indonesia’s National Research Council said the damaging practice of peatland burning started in Kalimantan in the 1990s, and was transferred to other parts of the country like Riau and Palembang.

But as a peatland expert himself, Bambang warns that there is no sound scientific basis for draining and burning peatlands, and that the “bad science” of the 1990s must be stopped.

“Drying out peatlands is the first mistake, since about 95 percent of peat is water,” he said in an interview at the dialogue. “You can see the effects of this in places like Banjarmasin and Pontianak, which never had floods in the past, but now when it rains these cities are inundated.”

He said that businesses still using burning as a method to clear land must be held accountable to government regulations.

“These businesses say, ‘But I pay tax, I employ people’. These kinds of battles go on. But I say to them, ‘If you were conducting your business in the proper way, we wouldn’t have seen the kinds of fires we had in 2015’.”

Read more: Can communities and lawmakers stop Indonesian peat fires?

Tiur Rumondang, Director of Indonesia Operations for the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), said that burning is absolutely banned for companies aiming to comply with its standards and criteria.

“It’s what we call ‘major non-compliance’. If a company did this, we would consider it a major violation,” she said.

Iman Santoso from the Indonesian Forestry Business Association (APHI) said the responsibility of stopping fires extends from companies and smallholders to all stakeholders involved in and affected by forestry and land-use decisions.

“Forestry cannot be regarded as an issue for foresters alone. Just as security cannot be considered solely the responsibility of the army, but as a task for the entire nation,” he said.

“That’s why the Indonesian Forestry Business Association is happy to be finally implementing a landscape approach to optimize land use in landscapes that have multiple uses — not just for pulp and paper, not just for palm oil, but for all local crops that already exist there. As a consequence, we need to involve multiple actors, multiple disciplines and multiple sectors in finding solutions.”

By Catriona Croft-Cusworth, originally published at CIFOR’s Forests News

For more information on this topic, please contact Herry Purnomo at [email protected].


This research forms part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry, which is supported by CGIAR Fund Donors

This research was supported by the KNOWFOR program from the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID).

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Fire and haze: Laws and regulations

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FTA COMMUNICATIONS TEAM

Local laws and regulations banning the clearing and burning of peatlands have sprung up across Indonesia since President Joko Widodo issued a decree on the matter in late 2015.

The president’s order came in response to the annual practice of agricultural burning, particularly during the dry season, which reached crisis proportions in 2014-2015, sparking a regional environmental and public health disaster. Draining and burning peatlands and peat forests to make way for agriculture – including cash crops of oil palm, and pulp and paper – is now banned, with efforts being made to prevent future disasters, as well as restore degraded land.

Research has found that local laws – issued at the provincial, regency or city level – can have even greater impact that national laws in reducing the risk of disaster. A national policy dialogue hosted by the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) in collaboration with the University of Riau last month brought together more than 300 stakeholders from government, research, business, communities and more to discuss sustainable solutions for a fire-free future.

By Catriona Croft-Cusworth, originally published at CIFOR’s Forests News


This research forms part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry, which is supported by CGIAR Fund Donors. This research was supported by the KNOWFOR program from the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID).

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  • Fighting fires with academic narrative

Fighting fires with academic narrative

Canal blocking is seen from above in Dompas, Riau. Photo by M. Edliadi/CIFOR
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FTA COMMUNICATIONS TEAM

Land and buildings are burned after fires spread to Sebangau national park in Central Kalimantan, Indonesia. Photo by A. Erlangga/CIFOR

Fire and haze, a recurring problem in Indonesia, must be addressed not only within the country but also on a regional level, according to Centre for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) scientist Herry Purnomo. 

The issue, which often sparks a debate of environmental conservation versus livelihoods, needs to be resolved by taking into account the economic, environmental and social aspects of sustainability.

Purnomo and other scientists working in the field hope relevant research, leading to outputs that create an academic narrative to inform policymakers, will create the possibility of legal changes. This, in turn, could help to alleviate the annual blazes.

Recognizing the problems at hand in terms of communication and synergy, CIFOR and partners are coordinating a National Policy Dialogue on Laws and Best Practices for Reducing Fire and Haze, in collaboration with the University of Riau, set to be held in Pekanbaru, Riau, on Aug. 30. The event will come close to home for many participants, as the province has seen more than its fair share of fire and haze events.

Read more: Peatland fire policy: From past to present

The dialogue aims to maximize opportunities provided by the Indonesian legal system at national and subnational levels to reduce fires and share lessons learned from best practices, and is expected to develop ways to strengthen laws to reduce fires and haze, communicate strategies from communities and companies, and support common action among ASEAN member countries.

Purnomo sat down with FTA to discuss the value of the national dialogue and what he hoped would be achieved between stakeholders.

How does research inform the debate about fire and haze in Indonesia? 

Firefighters battle a blaze at night outside Palangka Raya in Central Kalimantan, Indonesia. Photo by A. Erlangga/CIFOR

This event is part of a UK Department for International Development (DFID) project called the Political Economy Study of Fire and Haze – carried out by CIFOR and partners, and also supported by FTA – mostly located in Riau province. For two years we have been working together with the parliament in Riau as well as district level government.

The research has led to outputs that have created an academic narrative, which has led to the possibility of changes in the law. Last year we provided research inputs for this year’s legislation program through a legal drafting workshop and consultative meetings with various stakeholders including governments, parliament members, private sectors, NGOs/CSOs and academics. We then developed the national dialogue to communicate and also to scale up and scale out the project, not only in Riau.

Peat fires are seen as a means to quickly and cheaply clear land for plantations. But what about the economic and social consequences that result from the haze, which also cost money?

CIFOR is working to find the right balance between conservation and economic development. If we stopped burning altogether, it would be difficult for local people to have a livelihood. Local authorities also need to help find the appropriate balance. To me there’s no magic formula unless you can understand the situation in a particular area and move forward.

We can incentivize other ways of clearing the land and ‘disincentivize’ the burning. In the local law we have put that local governments need to invest, working together with the national agency for technology application, to find the cheapest technology for preparing land without burning.

Canal blocking is seen from above in Dompas, Riau. Photo by M. Edliadi/CIFOR

There also needs to be a willingness  from the community. It’s not cheap at all. You need to learn; you need new technology. Communities need champions.

Why is CIFOR holding the event in Riau?

When fire starts in Riau, it causes haze problems not only in Indonesia but also in Malaysia. Meanwhile, fires in South Sumatra can cause problems in Singapore. Fires typically start in Riau, then Sumatra, Kalimantan and Papua. Whatever happens becomes not only a domestic problem but a regional problem.

Why are laws to protect against expanding plantations on peatland not always well enforced in Indonesia? 

Because of patronage. Who burns the land? On the ground you can see farmers. But who owns the land? Actually not those farmers. The land is owned or managed by what we call oknum or cukong, free riders and rent seekers in economic terms. Oknum want to obtain a lot of benefits without appropriate investment. Oknum can be investors, scientists, members of parliament, government officials, police, members of the army, corporate staff… They are linked with lawmakers, and linked with bad police. So it’s a bit complicated on the ground.

Corruption is often involved. But it’s getting better in Indonesia. We have been giving inputs to the law draft at the local level, to provide incentives, and provide more equipment for the police to better carry out law enforcement.

Currently it’s hard for the police to find evidence about who burns land, because to find it, they have to go to remote areas. I went there; I had to rent a 4WD car and it took four days just to reach the area. For example, if there is land burning in a national park, it’s difficult to get there.

You need to spend money if you want to understand the actors. But there is not much money available at the local level to prevent fire and haze. Can we give more support to the local police, to make it possible for them to find evidence? In court we need proof. Proof is important for laying blame.

What needs to be done to ensure that laws and regulations are upheld by the central governments, local administrations, smallholders, the private sector and other actors?

That’s something we included in our inputs to the local law drafts – that local governments have to provide support and money to the police, and also to improve the capacity of the judges. There’s a big difference between environmental charges and criminal charges.

We are working step by step. From the evidence on the ground, when we tried to develop canal blocking or improve farmer organizations, the districts said they didn’t have a budget for it. They said there was no legal umbrella, and asked why they had to put aside money for it.

So, we thought, why don’t we help make a legal basis for them to be able to provide money for this issue? That is the purpose behind the national dialogue.

Army officers and firefighters try to extinguish fires in peatland areas, outside Palangka Raya. Photo by A. Erlangga/CIFOR

What are some of the best practices that should be shared and implemented by these actors? 

We have several examples of community-based restoration. In the private sector, Asia Pulp and Paper (APP) has a program and APRIL has the Fire-Free Villages program. So I invited them to share lessons and challenges.

Restoration in nine villages, for example, costs a lot through this type of program. A hundred villages would cost a lot more. The companies would like the government to help by taking responsibility for giving incentives for preparing land without burning. It’s good but we need to out-scale.

APP, for example, has 500 villages to deal with inside and around its concession. It’s impossible without involving public money and public investment.

What needs to be done regionally – across ASEAN – to address this issue? 

A lot of high-level talks happen but there needs to be more done on the ground. I met with the second secretary of Singapore to discuss what Singapore could do to collaborate and invited them to the national dialogue. Government and private sector representatives from Malaysia and Singapore are expected to attend the national dialogue, as well as academics, and representatives from the ASEAN Secretariat. The Singapore, Thai and Malaysian embassies have been invited.

There is a vision, led by Thailand, for a “haze-free ASEAN by 2020.” It’s very ambitious. We also have a transboundary agreement on haze that has become law. But to me it seems like there is not much action on the ground. We want them to be more involved in the on-the-ground activities. If you have something on the ground, people will respect you. Why not have a district model – one or two hectares showing how fire prevention and livelihood improvement can work together?

It’s part of a huge debate between peat conservation and oil palm. Not only between government and private sectors, but actually among government representatives themselves – for example, with the minister of environment on the one hand and the minister of industry on the other hand. It’s about how to find synergy.

By Hannah Maddison-Harris, FTA Communications and Editorial Coordinator. 


This work forms part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA), which is supported by CGIAR Fund Donors.


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