Indonesia: Multi-Stakeholder Alliance Formed to Fight Fires

Muhamad Al Azhari Jakarta Globe 11 Mar 16;

Jakarta. A group of leading forestry and agriculture companies, NGOs and other partners announced on Friday (11/3) the formation of the Fire-Free Alliance, a voluntary, multi-stakeholder platform to aid in the resolution of land and forest fires in Indonesia.

Founding members include Asia Pacific Resources International (April), a producer of fiber, pulp and paper and its sister palm oil group of companies under the Asian Agri flag and two other group of palm oil companies under Musim Mas group and Wilmar group.

Sustainable trade initiatives include the International Trade and Development, People's Movement to Stop Haze, known as PM.Haze – a movement in Singapore by people who believe that everyone can help stop the haze – and non-government organization of Rumah Pohon.

"Forest and land fires have impacts to all aspects of life in Indonesia. FFA exists to help assure and to fight forest and land fires," said Chief Security Minister Luhut Pandjaitan, during a keynote speech on Friday at the second day of the meeting of the General Assembly of the Tropical Forest Alliance in Jakarta. The meeting runs on March 10-11.

"The president has instructed the Indonesian Military [TNI] and the police to stay on alert over potential threats of forest and land fires. This is hard to control, but with better preparation, things will be better handled than last year," said the retired general, who served in the military for more than 30 years.

Luhut said this year, the government will work as optimum as possible to prevent forest and land fires.

"The government will announce as quickly as possible, should there be a potential of fires. For example, the one in Dumai [Riau], we have instructed the governor to act and extinguish the fire," he said.

Luhut acknowledged that last year, the government came up with many policies, but the impact in the field were minimum.

FFA said in a statement on Friday that its members have jointly committed to collaborate and share knowledge, information and potentially resources to roll out fire prevention initiatives based on April Group’s Fire Free Village Program (FFVP). They will also help enhance fire monitoring, detection and suppression.

Launched in 2015, the community-focused FFVP is a fire prevention initiative that seeks to educate, enable and empower villagers nearby fire-prone areas to fight fire and campaign against the use of fire for agricultural purposes.

According to April Group's data, the program achieved a 90 percent decline in fire incidence among participating villages, during what is considered the worst possible El Nino episode in Indonesia, compared to 2014.

"FFA members will adopt and implement the FFVP, sharing lessons and best practices on how partnerships and engagement with the communities can protect forests from the high risk of fires," FFA said in a statement, adding that the alliance's commitment help supports the Indonesian Government’s commitment to a "Haze Free Asean" by 2020.

“The FFA demonstrates how the private sector in partnership with civil society groups can advance the fire-free cause through voluntary action,” said Lucita Jasmin, April's director for sustainability and external affairs.

“Collaboration under the FFA umbrella will help expand a successful fire prevention strategy to the broader landscape.”

Petra Meekers, director of sustainable development at Musim Ma,s said the group believes the FFA "will be a valuable platform to exchange good practices and enhance Musim Mas’s existing firefighting plans.”

Community Collaboration to Prevent Land and Forest Fire 11 Mar 16;

In an effort to stop forest fires and haze from becoming an annual problem during the dry season in Indonesia, a Riau-based initiative called the Fire Free Village Program (FFVP) is being scaled up to include more villages collaborating to prevent land and forest fires.

Designed and launch in 2015 by APRIL Group, the program consists of a five-pronged approach to preventing fires: community incentives to not clear land with fire, identifying community fire crew leaders, education in sustainable agricultural alternatives, air quality monitoring and community awareness campaigns.

The program is executed in collaboration with the provincial government, law enforcement authorities, local communities and non-governmental organizations with incentives program rewards villages that are successful in maintaining fire-free areas by not using fire as agricultural tool. Villages that participate in the project and remain fire-free are rewarded with infrastructure grants.

With the long term objective of influencing behavior change in relation to the use of fire in agricultural practice, part of the Fire Free Village Program is to support communities with alternative, sustainable agriculture with mechanized land preparation, agricultural machinery and training.

“This private-initiated program help our cause to make Riau free of forest fire and haze,” said Arsyadjuliandi Rachman, Riau’s interim governor at the program's launch in 2015.

Emphasizing on collaboration on fire prevention efforts in addition to the overall fire detection and suppression, the program reflects the view that fire prevention is the most effective long-term solution to the fire and haze issue.

“The program is about collaboration in forest fire prevention. Along with the government, civil society groups and the community, we will work together to address the root cause of land and forest fires,” said Tony Wenas, Managing Director of APRIL Group Indonesia Operations.

Partnering with APRIL to roll out the program in Riau are two local NGOs: Rumah Pohon and Blue Green. Building on a pilot fire-prevention program in 2014, nine villages from fire-prone areas were initially chosen to participate in this project have committed to a zero burn policy.

All nine villages are located in the periphery of the group’s plantation in the town of Kerinci in Pelalawan regency, where it operates a mill.

In anticipation of this year's dry season, the Fire Free Village Program is now expanded to 20 villages from the original nine and supported by a new complementary community awareness initiative called Fire Aware Community (FAC), rolled out across another 55 villages, further contributing to efforts to prevent forest fires in Riau Province.

The new FAC component is designed as an entry-level phase to engage with communities and provide a background on fire management and fire prevention. It will provide seasonal support for fire suppression, as well as a broader communication strategy with specific community groups.

APRIL also pledged an additional US$1 million on top of the company’s existing investment in fire suppression capability to support the program's expansion. This equates to an investment of approximately US$30,000 per Fire Free Village Programme participant and US$5,000 per Fire Aware Community village.

Root cause prevention

The extension acknowledges the success of the 2015 program, which effectively engaged with nine local communities to reduced burned areas by 90 percent from 2014 to 2015. Effective collaboration and coordination between community leaders, government, businesses and NGOs is key in the success of the program's execution.
In particular, the 2015 program contributed to a significant reduction in fires surrounding the Kampar Peninsula. This has been credited to a combination of factors — early detection, active suppression and a focus on root-cause prevention through the FFVP.

Commenting on APRIL Group's fire-prevention program, Kuala Panduk village chief Tomjon said the initiative also offered economic and environmental benefits. "Farmers can develop land without using fire and get information about better ways of farming," Tomjon said.

Meanwhile, Dede Kunaifi from Rumah Pohon said that the project encouraged greater awareness of the dangers of fire and haze, as well as their adverse impacts on health and livelihoods. "By collaborating with like-minded stakeholders, we hope to see a win-win and lasting solution on the ground," Dede said. (+)

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