What do local people say about peatlands and peatland restoration?

During the planning phase of the PAR CBFPR project, we surveyed households at Dompas, the main village of study, and five other satellite villages. At Dompas, we surveyed 110 households on various topics including, but not limited to, peatlands and restoration. Our survey revealed 75–80% of the respondents understood and could differentiate between peat and mineral soils. They characterized peat soil by its wet and moist condition as well as the nutrient and organic content. A fairly large proportion of the respondents, however, did not know any differences between peat and mineral soils (20–25%). According to most respondents, peat played roles in supporting the local economy, reducing disaster risk, and providing goods and services, for example food, fresh water, and carbon stock.

Perception of the respondents of Dompas on peatland functions. Dompas Group 1 comprises those who are directly involved in Action Arenas 1 to 6. Dompas Group 2 is made up of the remaining households of Dompas.

Despite their understanding of peatland characteristics, about 48% of Group 2 and 56% of Group 1 respondents stated that peatland in their local landscape was in good condition. This contrasts with the actual condition in the field, where we found that fairly large areas of peatland have become dry, degraded and have undergone recurring fires. The drivers of peatland degradation vary. The respondents named some of the drivers, such as the land use conversion, peatland drainage, illegal logging, heavy machinery usage and oil palm company practices regarding drainage, leading to peatland degradation.

To assist in the recovery of degraded peatland, we asked the respondents about their perceptions and local knowledge related to peatland restoration. About 70% of the respondents of Group 1, who were directly involved in Action Arenas 1 to 6, stated that peatland restoration activities were very important. In contrast with Group 1, nearly 72% of those who belong to Group 2 stated that they did not know about peatland restoration. Both Groups 1 and 2 primarily identified revegetation as an example of an activity to restore degraded peatland. Interestingly, a large number of respondents of Group 1 also identified Fire Care Community to be important in peatland restoration, implying that they consider the role of Fire Care Community is to perform tasks and duties related to not only fire prevention and suppression, but also to peatland restoration.

These findings, however, are preliminary and will be updated and analyzed further throughout the process. We plan to have another survey in 2019 to observe any changes and provide deeper understanding about issues we are focusing on.