Community-based group and experts are actively engaged in a planning process regarding fire prevention and peatland restoration efforts

The planning phase is a critical period in participatory action research. CIFOR teamed up with University of Riau to work with local government, community-based organizations and groups (land users/managers), land owners and villagers of Dompas to design action plans and set agreements. During this phase, we were successful in completing focus group discussions (FGDs) and surveys on household and institutional. Throughout the phase, we encouraged the community to participate in discussions and the decision-making process, while refining their ideas through experts’ feedback – which is an important process that influences changes in capacity and behavior. For example, the FGD on land preparation identified the existing practices of land preparation described by the community, which then intersected with experts’ views. This in turn allowed the community to process different types of land preparation methods and gradually learn about ideal and environmentally friendly methods. Another example involved developing business models, where we facilitated the community to thoroughly and systematically identify and think through ideas on this topic.

Going through the process, we analyzed stakeholders, problems and objectives, and discussed and agreed on specific roles of the respective community groups and individuals. We also thought about sharing responsibilities and mechanisms for cost-benefit sharing. We came up with a list of activities and those expected outputs and outcomes, which we would like to see come to fruition in the next phases.

In particular, we worked with the local community and local government to develop a map of peat depth specifically for Dompas and updated profiles of each action arena. One key finding from this phase was the difference in peat depth between our survey result and the official peat map. We came to realize the importance of using large-scale maps to strategize our work plan at the local level. Another important lesson from the two phases we have passed through is that we have built a rapport with the target local community groups, individuals and village head and with its official apparatuses.

Through the use of a business model canvas, we were able to develop different business models for different action arenas, and to set a timeline of activity and work on landscape engineering. Based on the FGDs organized during this phase, we received proposals from the village ahead and local community about two additional action arenas, which we decided to accommodate. This means the total number of action arenas under study is now 7, from originally 5 arenas in the previous phase.

We hosted a visit from representatives of EcoConsult for GIZ ForClime II wishing to learn from this PAR CBFPR project about preventing forest degradation and managing land fires and peat. During this knowledge sharing, we shared with them lessons learned on how we facilitate community involvement in this project and how we came up with target action arenas, and strategies for achieving the project’s objectives. This is part of our attempt to realize the project’s goals of communicating best practices and success with concerned parties as mentioned in the project contract.

We received insightful feedback from the local community and government on how to encourage villagers and those involved in this project to familiarize themselves with concepts and practices of fire prevention and peatland restoration. In the upcoming phases, we plan to further disseminate results and lessons from this project. The project’s local secretariat and local facilitator will also be fully involved. We expect that the local secretariat and facilitator could serve as a platform through which community groups and individuals could communicate their concerns, and ask questions and receive feedback and advice. Following the planning phase, there will be an action phase when we put results arising from the planning phase into a series of actions or activities in selected action arenas. We expect the series of activities will lead to meaningful impacts for the people and environment and generate some lessons for the global community.