On 5 September 2018, CIFOR scientists Heru Komarudin, Pandam Nugroho Prasetyo and Beni Okarda hosted the first focus group discussion (FGD) with members of the Fire Care Community (MPA) and farmer’s group in Dompas village, Bengkalis district, Riau province, Indonesia. The intention of the FGD was to explore people’s perceptions of the various efforts to prevent fires and restore peat in the village, and reflect on the effectiveness of these efforts. Using a set of open-ended questions, a total of 16 people, including women involved in the MPA and farmers group, were invited to participate.
The FGD revealed that various actors had conducted short programs in Dompas related to fire prevention, peatland restoration and welfare improvement. These included a fire extinguisher/fire fighter program conducted by NGOs (WWF and WALHI), training and knowledge sharing undertaken by a government agency (Manggala Agni), blocking of drainage canals, undertaken by CSOs (WWF, UNDP, CIFOR, PSB-University of Riau), seedling production, undertaken by a group of community-based institutions (Bina Cinta Alam Siak MPA, Rawa Mekar Jaya village of Lingkar Pesisir, Siak district) and an NGO (WWF), and a welfare improvement program coordinated by the village leader. The community perceived current community-based fire prevention and restoration efforts to have been effective in increasing awareness and understanding of the issues, although the programs were yet to deliver any benefits in terms of livelihood improvement, which was considered a key element for program sustainability. Challenges such as a lack of budget to cover operational costs, as well as many others, remained.