CIFOR desk review reveals many opportunities to develop community-based initiatives for fire prevention and peatland restoration

Two word clouds demonstrate the most frequently mentioned topics within published news articles on community-based fire prevention (left) and peatland restoration (right). Three community-based initiatives were frequently mentioned in fire prevention and peatland restoration practices across Sumatera and Kalimantan: MPA (Fire Care Community), KTPA (Fire Care Farmer’s Group) and DPG (Peat Care Village).

As a part of the reflection phase of the Participatory Action Research Community-Based Fire Prevention and Peatland Restoration (PAR CBFPR) project, funded by Temasek Foundation and Singapore Cooperation Enterprise, a CIFOR team conducted a desk review in September and October 2018, with a dual focus on community-based fire prevention and peatland restoration practices in the Indonesian islands of Sumatera and Kalimantan. Through content analysis of 36 news articles on community-based fire prevention, 11 on community-based peatland restoration, a thesis on Indonesia’s peatland restoration, and written material shared by Temasek Corporation, the team identified lessons learned from community-based practices in both regions.

A hierarchy chart, produced from content analysis on community-based fire prevention, highlighted many on-the-ground efforts to prevent and reduce fire, with efforts being initiated by private companies as well as governmental institutions. Many of these initiatives focused on facilitating, participation in training and campaigns/socialization, patrolling and collaborative activities.

A hierarchy chart, produced from content analysis on community-based peatland restoration, shows that, unlike with fire prevention, peatland restoration initiatives were mainly found in the form of Desa Peduli Gambut (DPG, Peat Care Villages) and Masyarakat Peduli Tabat (MPT, Canal Blocking Communities). Activities focused on participating in and hosting training, campaigns/socialization and livelihood development programs. Efforts were initiated by, for example, Badan Restorasi Gambut (BRG, the Peatland Restoration Agency).

Our desk review revealed that initiatives to prevent fire and restore peatland were initiated both by the government and private sector. Some are community-based initiatives, for examples MPA (Masyarakat Peduli Api or Fire Care Community), KTPA (Kelompok Tani Peduli Api or Fire Care Farmer’s Group), DMPA (Desa Makmur Peduli Api or Integrated Forestry and Farming System), DPA (Desa Peduli Api or Fire Care Village), and DPG (Desa Peduli Gambut or Peat Care Village). These initiatives have created opportunities to foster the empowerment and participation of both women and men, as well as networking, incorporating local wisdom, collaborative action, and conflict resolution. Outcomes of such initiatives were said to include a reduction in fire incidents, expanded networks, improved crop productivity and increased income for local communities.

However, insufficient coordination, equipment and infrastructure for fire suppression and public awareness on the impacts of fire emerged as constraints within these initiatives. A further challenge is that fire prevention and peatland restoration initiatives are carried out separately through different institutions, although there may be some overlap in practice. Likewise, there was no evidence of verified monitoring for initiative outcomes.

We recommend harmonizing fire prevention and peatland restoration efforts to reduce costs and improve coordination. Efforts that focus on encouraging behavioral changes, through participatory action and ‘action arenas’ (e.g. specific plots that function as on-the-ground examples), show greater potential to generate long-term impacts than the provision of rewards or incentives. Verified and evidence-based monitoring is key for other stakeholders to learn and scale-up these initiatives.