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Managing peatlands in Indonesia: Challenges and opportunities for local and global communities

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Key messages

  • Indonesian peat swamp forests provide important local and global benefits. Their drainage and conversion into agricultural lands cause considerable and irreversible environmental, social and economic damage.
  • Carbon stocks in Indonesia’s peatlands and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions associated with conversion are known to be substantial. However, large variations in estimates hamper a proper evaluation of their role in GHG budgets at subnational, national and global levels.
  • Environmentally and financially sustainable livelihood options for smallholders in Indonesian peatlands remain limited and underdeveloped.
  • The catastrophic 2015 fires have reinforced the commitments of the Indonesian government both to reduce peatland deforestation and fires, and to rehabilitate and restore degraded peatlands.
  • Peatland restoration faces economy-environmental trade-offs. It generates intense disagreement between stakeholders holding divergent interests (company concessions, communities, local governments, etc.). The success of peatland restoration will depend on how diverse priorities are reconciled, but also on improved governance and technical capacity building.
  • Fire management interventions may struggle to achieve their remit of fire-free futures. Exploring areas of shared concern among diverse stakeholders might provide an entry point for dialogue toward change. However, appropriate mixes of sanctions and incentives will need to successfully engage these stakeholders, including smallholders, agri-business, small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), and absentee investors, among others.

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