Indonesia - 22 February, 2023
Fires have become concern for countries around the world with severe impacts to people, nature, and biodiversity. The situation becomes worse with climate change and anthropogenic factors in the forms of land-use change and non-environmentally friendly practices. The more intense the fires, the worse calamity they bring to human being and the environment, exacerbating climate change and contributing to green-house gas in the atmosphere.
Having the same goal to face the challenges over the impacts caused by fires across the tropics, representatives of the global network of Fires-smart Landscape Programme, a project led by Tropenbos International (TBI), gathered in Ketapang District, West Kalimantan, in mid-January 2023. The workshop was hosted by Tropenbos Indonesia and the participants came from Bolivia, Uganda, Ghana, Ethiopia and the Netherlands. It was also the chance for the participants to learn directly from fire prevention initiatives done by Tropenbos Indonesia in peatland areas of Pawan-Kepulu-Pesaguan Landscape, in Ketapang.
The Pawan-Kepulu-Pesaguan Landscape was severely hit by big fires during the long dry seasons in 2015 and 2019. In this landscape, Tropenbos Indonesia has introduced the adoption of landscape and jurisdictional approaches to reduce the risk of fires. With the degraded peatlands in the landscape, including areas with deep peat of > 3m, measures to prevent fires must include peatland restoration approaches, especially in improving the water management. Improving the entire landscape governance is also key for sustainability of the implementation and the long-term impacts. Tropenbos Indonesia promotes fire prevention by adopting integrated approaches, together with the district government and the various stakeholders in the landscape.
When the participants visited the peatland area, most of them admitted that they had no experience with peatlands, as peatland do not exist in their countries. Peatland is naturally a wetland ecosystem, with the special characteristics that makes it prone to fires when it is drained. When drained peats are lit, even only with a small drop of flame, fires will quickly spread and cannot be easily extinguished. During the big fire hazards in 2019, West Kalimantan was one of the provinces with massive fires and it caused tension with neighboring countries due to the haze. This demonstrates the importance of fire prevention efforts to protect peatlands from burning instead of suppressing fire once it occurs.
The participants also met with members of the multi-stakeholder forum (MSF) in the landscape, which was established as the major vehicle for negotiations and consultations in various processes. They also visited the landscape’s oil palm smallholders, had discussions with the community and met a women group that develops home industry from local produces, such as banana-stem crackers. “What a strange edible innovation,” said a participant. They also visited YIARI’s orangutan rehabilitation centre, where the participants could see firsthand YIARI’s approaches in rehabilitating orangutan before they are released to the wild.
The participants spent two days for reflection, learning, and planning. From the sessions, aside from recognizing some differences in the contexts of fire issues, participants also found similarities on approaches and models across countries. One example is the peatland monitoring approaches developed in a system called “Pemantauan Gambut” in Indonesia, which also exists in Ethiopia with its community-based fire brigade. Another similar approach is the collaboration of landscape stakeholders through multi-stakeholder working group (MSWG) in Indonesia and multi-stakeholder platform in Ethiopia. During the sessions they also discussed topics in relation to empowerment of communities, collective learning, good governance, and improved policies and practices.
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